WASHINGTON (Jan. 5)
The Rumanian Government has developed a scheme to extort ransom fees from Jews now working at forced labor on the Russian front, it was reported by the Office of War Information today, quoting a report published yesterday in the Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter. The fees range from 150,000 to 800,000 lei, which is about $1,050 to $5,000 at pre-war exchange rates.
According to the Swedish newspaper, Premier-Marshal Ion Antonescu’s Government decided to let the Jews ransom themselves after adopting a plan to withdrew some of the Jewish labor companies from forced work in Transnistria to camps in Rumania. Release of the workers will take place in Rumania on a strictly cash basis, the Dagens Myheter said.
This method of extracting loot from the Jews is not a new development in Rumania. Last year the Antonescu Government fixed a special collective tax of 4,000,000,000 lei on the Rumanian Jews, a sum equivalent to $28,000,000 on the basis of the pre-war exchange rate for the Rumanian lei. The Dagens Nyheter reported that the Jewish Central Committee in Rumania had assumed the responsibility of paying this tax.
Since Rumania’s entry into the war with Russia, the Dagens Nyheter dispatch said, about 50,000 Jews have been sent from Rumanian labor camps to work on the Russian front. Of this number, the paper estimated, 50 percent have died “owing to lack of medical care and the food and clothes shortage.”
The Stockholm newspaper Tidningen, in another dispatch reported to the CWI, declared that epidemics were also ravaging Jewish labor camps in the Rumanian section of Transnistria. This situation, as well as the fact that the Rumanian troops are retreating with the Nazis on the Russian front, was suggested as a possible motive for the Antonescu Government’s decision to let Jewish forced laborers ransom themselves.
The Tidningen dispatch said that “the Rumanian Government, which hitherto denied that Jews were treated inhumanly, now admits the conditions in the Transnistrian camps” and “is willing to release the Jews if the Jewish congregation is willing to defray the expenses entailed by the release.”