LONDON (Apr. 25)
A demand that Jews in the polish Army be transferred to British units was officially presented today to the British Foreign Office by prof. Selig Brodetsky, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, during a conference with Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs George Hall.
At the same time, it was learned that Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden will be asked in the House of Commons tomorrow to intervene with the Polish authorities to secure commutation of the sentences of one to three years imprisonment imposed upon a group of Jewish soldiers by a polish court-martial sitting in Scotland. The Jews had left the Polish forces and sought admission into the British Army because they had been mistreated by anti-Semitic officers and non-coms.
The Polish Government today issued a five-point statement “explaining” the sentences meted out to the Jewish soldiers by the court-martial. The statement says that a minimum sentence of one year’s imprisonment was imposed upon ten of the twenty-one defendants. The others were sentenced to from one to two years. Two of the soldiers who declared their readiness to rejoin the polish Army were not tried at all, the statement declares. One of them was sentenced to seven days detention for “absence without permission.”
COURT-MARTIAL VERDICT CAN BE DEFERRED UNTIL AFTER THE WAR
The statement of the Polish Government reveals that the verdicts issued by the court-martial have been transmitted to the polish military command, which is empowered to defer execution of the sentences until after the war, providing the men show “good will.”
The statement also discloses that the trial of the Jewish soldiers was ordered by the Polish War Minister. Gen, Marjan kukiel, after 207 Jews were transferred by British authorities from the Polish Army to the British forces. Six cases of alleged offenses against Jewish soldiers are new being investigated by the Polish military authorities, the statement said. Other cases reported during the trial will be investigated and guilty persons will be punished, the statement pledged.
Pointing out that usually a court-martial is held in camera, the government statement says that three Polish-Jewish leaders were admitted to the proceedings. The three were Dr. Ignacy Schwarzbart and Dr. Emanuel Sserer, members of the Polish National Council, and Anselm Reiss, a member of the Representation of polish Jews.
The majority of the Jewish soldiers in the polish Army have voiced no complaints and continue to serve there, the statement declared. It asserted that during the last six months 37 Jews have received commissions in the Polish Army. Also that during the war two Jews have been awarded the highest Polish military decoration, the “Virtuti Militari,” 26 Jews have been given the “Cross of Valor,” and three Jews received the “cross of Merit,” “General Sosnkowski, Commender-in-Chief of the Polish Army, recently personally decorated two Jews of the Polish Commando unit in Italy,” the statement pointed out.
BRITISH PUBLIC UNEASY ABOUT MISTREATMENT OF JEWS IN POLISH ARMY, PRESS SAYS
The British press today strongly condemns the conduct of the Polish authorities. The News-Chronicle says that “a thoroughly disagreeable impression has been created among all parties and classes as a result of the heavy sentence imposed on the Jewish soldiers, “Legally,” the News-Chronicle continues, “responsibility for ending the anti-Semitism rests with the Polish authorities but a moral obligation rests on the British Government.” The peoples of America, Russia and of all the United Nations will “watch closely to see how we handle the affair, which contains all the elements of the vile spirit of oppression which millions are giving their life to destroy,” the paper concludes.
An editorial in the Daily Express says that the court-martial has created a spirit of uneasiness among the people of Britain. The Poles’ right to try and sentence their own nationals, it adds, is unquestioned, but Britain has a right to know what is going on within its territory. The British people, the editorial continues, will be glad to learn that the reassurances of the Polish Government are not merely formal instructions, but indicate a determination to stamp out anti-Semitism in its armed forces.
It was learned today that Gen. Kukiel issued a circular to all polish troops on March 13, warning that desertion would be punished by loss of citizenship of the offending soldier and his entire family. It added that “guilty persons will feel the effect of his action after his return to Poland.” Dr. Ignaoy Schwarzbart, Jewish member of the polish National Council, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that upon being informed of the circular he had pointed out to the Defense Ministry that the law providing for denationalization of all members of a deserter’s family had been repealed in 1942.
The Federation of polish Jews announced today that it will hold a mass-meeting on May 3 to protest the conviction of the Jewish soldiers. Daniel Frankel, Labor M.P. who is vice-president of the organization, will preside. The Federation at the same time adopted a resolution pointing out that anti-Semitism in the Polish forces harms both Polish Jews and non-Jews.