Budapest (Aug. 13)
The first direct contact between the Jews of Hungary and the United United States was established today when a correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, accredited to the U.S. Armed Forces, was permitted to enter Budapest and make a survey of the Jewish situation.
“Budapest is now the largest Jewish city of Europe,” the correspondent was told by Louis Stockler, president of the local Jewish community. “There are almost 120,000 Jews now in the city, which is about half the number here before the war. Elsewhere in Hungary there are another 40,000 to 50,000 Jews. Roughly speaking, one-fifth of the nearly million Jews who lived in Hungary before the German occupation survive.
“That any of us are here at all,” he continued, “is a miracle that few would have believed possible seven months ago. At that time, this place where we are now talking – the narrow ghetto of Budapest – was used by the Nazis to crowd in 68,000 Jews in a space normally filled by 5,000. From here, as was true elsewhere, transports regularly went off to the extermination camps. But it was our good fortune that the Germans were late in starting their systematic extermination, and that the Red Army came early.
“When the Russians arrived,” Dr. Stockler related,” we were a starving people, dying from hunger daily. We are still filled with gratitude that we have food and that we are free again.” He expressed great appreciation on behalf of the Jewish Community for the aid sent by the Joint Distribution Committee to the Jews in Hungary. The J.D.C. relief, he said, arrived in considerable quantity through the International Red Cross. Nevertheless this need continues for food, clothing and medicine.
Religious freedom has been restored under the provisional government, and Jewish services are attended by large numbers. The synagogue in Dchany street escaped with miner damages, and adjoining buildings of the Jewish Community are in use. Decrees for the restoration of confiscated Jewish property have been issued by the government.
Since the lack of transportation facilities makes it difficult to get around the country, it is virtually impossible to estimate how many Hungarian Jews want to emigrate. But Max Domonkos, secretary of the Budapest Jewish Community, told the J.T.A. correspondent that most of the older people appear to want to remain, while the younger Jews hope eventually to go elsewhere. Statistics are being compiled, but are not yet completed for the reasons stated.