Prague (Jul. 2)
Expressing sympathy with the Zionist movement, President Benes of Czechoslovakia told a Jewish delegation that he will do everything possible to facilitate emigration of Jews from Czechoslovakia to Palestine. At the sams time, he indicated that Jews who intend to remain in Czechoslovakia will not be treated as a national minority, but will be considered full-fledged Czechoslovak citizens.
Zionist leaders here interpret President Bene’s statement to mean that the approximately 15,000 Jews who remain of pre-war Czechoslovakian Jewry will be “assimilated” if they do not emigrate to Palestine. As the Zionist movement is not functioning now in Czechoslovakia, they are inclined to believe that Jewish youth may prefer “assimilation” to emigration should they succeed in finding employment soon.
For the time being, Jewish survivors, including those who returned from German concentration camps, are finding it very difficult to rehabilitate themselves economically. This is due partly to the fact that economic life in the country is still not normal, but chiefly to the political situation. Although the anti-Jewish laws have been revoked, Jews are encountering difficulties in dealing with officials of the old regime who are still holding down their positions in most of the government and municipal institutions.
Jews are still returning from hideouts in the woods and mountains, but it is not expected that the Jewish population of Czechoslovakia will exceed 15,000 as compared with the 350,000 who lived here before the war. The largest number of Jews are in Bratislava where the.Jewish community numbers about 1,500 registered Jews. Bratislava had 15,000 Jewish residents before the war. In Kosice, there are now only about 500 Jews. All the other large Jewish communities in Slovakia are practically non-existent.
SITUATION OF THE JEWISH SURVIVORS IS DEPLORABLE; ANTI-SEMITISM PREVAILS
The situation of the returning Jews in Slovakia is catastrophic. Many of them are ill as a result of living many months in hiding, with little food. They return home only to discover that their belongings, which they left with ” good friends” prior to going into hiding in the woods, are not being returned to them. They find their homes destroyed, in most cases, as a result of battles. They are homeless, clothed in rags and without sufficient food. Their nerves are shattered and their spirits broken. This situation is often aggravated by the not too friendly reception given them by a population which is still poisoned with Nazi propagand.
The department established by the Czechoslovak Government for the repatriation of deported citizens, makes no distinction between Jews and non-Jews when bringing them back home from the labor camps in Poland and in Germany. Each of the repatriated Jews receives 1,000 Czech crowns – about $30,00 at the pre-war rate of exchange- in cash, and in most cases, also clothing. This amount, however, is not sufficient to resume a normal existence. Public Kitchens have been established, therefore, in the large cities for needy survivors.