ROME (Aug. 29)
Jewish refugees in southern Italy are helping to coordinate the work of furnishing relief and assisting in the rehabilitation of 2,500 of their residing in refugee centers.
The early part of each month, two refugees from each center in Bari, the province of Potenza and the camps at Feramonte and Santa Maria di Bagni meet in an informal “parliament” which discusses the current problems affecting the refugees. The “parliament” is the brain-child of the Joint Distribution Committee.
Max Perlman, the JDC representative in southern Italy, says that the set-up is not only providing a highly satisfactory channel of distributing relief provided by American Jewry, but is also making available a great store of personal experiences and knowledge on which to draw in organizing rehabilitation schemes.
Behind the refugee council is the organization on democratic lines of the Jewish refugees into communities with their own elected representatives and committees handling such common interests as schools, training farms, wood and metal-working shops, and other enterprises. One purpose of this, and one result, is to maintain the morale of these people most of whom have been prisoners for so long and to give them the feeling that they are not helpless chattels but men and women able to decide and do things for themselves.
“Another valuable aspect of the council scheme, in addition to providing an instrument with which to work,” Perlman declares, “is that its meetings provide a common meeting ground for the different groups where they can exchange ideas. Frequently problems will arise at one center that have already been overcome at another. Here, in the council meetings, these questions can be discussed and the delegates from Santa Maria, for instance, may be able to go back and tell their local committee how the same problem was successfully handled at Feramonte.”
The refugees in southern Italy are not “interned” in the camps but are free to leave if they desire. More than a thousand of them have already settled in Bari and have found employment with the Allied military authorities as interpreters, clerks and in other capacities. Over half of them are from Yugoslavia.