Refugees in Rome Reluctant to Accept Italian Citizenship; Insist on Going to Palestine

A meeting of Jewish refugees in Rome convened last night by the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees to announce the offer of the Italian Government to grant citizenship to stateless persons was converted by the majority of the 150 refugees present into a pro-Palestine demonstration and concluded with fervent singing of the Hatikvah.

Speaking in Italian, Sir Cliffort Heathcote-Smith, the representative of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees urged the Jewish refugees to accept the offer of the Italian Government. He pointed out that overseas countries are reluctant to admit immigrants and might continue the same policy even after the war is over.

Many refugees, he continued, are anxious to go to Palestine, But Palestine is “very limited” and could not receive all those who desire to enter it, he added. He illustrated his remark with a handkerchief, declaring that Palestine is not larger than a handkerchief and presents a very special problem.

In suggesting the Jewish refugees accept the offered Italian citizenship, the representative of the Intergovernmental Committee assured the meeting that his office will handle all the formalities and that material assistance would be forthcoming to enable those accepting Italian citizenship to get a new start.

Three refugees from Belgium announced that they intend to return to their native land. Ten indicated preparedness to accept Italian citizenship. Others insisted that they want to proceed to Palestine. One of the refugees, Abraham Paperman, who himself organized and financed the flight of 800 Jews from France to northern Italy last September, told the representative of the Intergovernmental Committee that the Jewish refugees are deeply grateful for the Italian offer, but while they have complete confidence in the intentions of the present government, they fear that conditions in Italy are unstable and the succeeding government might cancel the rights previously accorded, as has happened in other countries.

The consensus of opinion among the refugees at the meeting was that the offer of the Italian Government should be accepted by those having roots in Italy who could be absorbed socially and economically, but that this offer was no solution for the majority of the Jewish refugees who happen to be in Italy only by chance.

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