Pilsen, Czechoslovakia (Oct. 1)
The forced return to Poland of 600 Jews who had fled into American-held territory in Czechoslovakia to escape anti-Semitic terror (which was reported exclusively by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency ten days ago) was ordered by General Geroge S. Patton’s headquarters, it was established today by a special JTA correspondent.
At least 3,000 Polish Jews who succeeded in escaping from the anti-Jewish reign of terror in Poland during the last few months have reached the safety of the American zone here, but what happened to the 600 who believed they had found refuge at Camp Karlov, the United Nations’ displaced persons center here, is another story. The tale of what happened to them when they were returned from Nazi concentration camps to their homes in Poland, the correspondent found.
Gen. Patton’s 22nd Corps, which is stationed in the American zone in Czechoslovakia, violated the oft-repeated policy of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower–that United Nations nationals and persecuted peoples who do not desire to return to their homelands, or whose lives would be endangered in so doing, shall not be returned by force. Furthermore, it is to be noted that Jews alone were singled out for rorcible return.
Jews, who were fleeing the terror in Poland, began crowding into Camp Karlov around the middle of August. Three trains, each carrying 175 Jews, arrived at Pilsen while others who had also fled Poland, but had done so afoot, sought refuge here after trudging through the Russian zone in Czechoslovakia and passing into the American lines. The top authorities of the 22nd corps requested permission to ship these Jews to Germany where special camps for Jews were being erected. But. Gen. Patton’s headquarters ordered them shipped back to Poland.
It is somewhat complicated to trace the exact responsibility for this order since the officers then in charge of Camp Karlov have been redeployed. However, the officers now in charge say that Gen. Patton’s Third Army Headquarters ordered the Jews returned because “there wasn’t room for any more Jews in Germany where the camps are already over-crowded,” and “the trains that brought those Jews entered our zone without proper authority.”
ENLISTED MEN DESCRIBE PITIFUL SCENS; TROOPS WITH MACHINE-GUNS CALLED IN
Enlisted men at Camp Karlov described to the JTA correspondent the pitiful scenes that ensued when the 600 Jews were loaded aboard trucks, on Aug. 24, and taken to the Pilsen railroad station. The women among them fought bitterly, screaming and kicking. The military detachment at the camp found itself unable to cope with the situation. Assistance was asked. The Eighth Armored Division sent troops with rifles, machine-guns and armored vehicles.
Pvt. Edward Heilbrun, of Chicago, who is Jewish himself, and who helped to load the hapless, protesting Jews aboard the trucks, told the correspondent: “My job was sickening to me. Men threw themselves on their knees in front of me, tore-open their shirts, and screamed, ‘Kill me now!’ They would say, ‘You might just as well kill me now. I am dead anyway if I go back to Poland.’ They kept jumping off the trucks and we had to use force.”
There was more trouble at the railroad station where the troops were forced to jam the 600 Jews aboard a train. After the train started, the trouble continued, according to witnesses. Men threw themselves from the moving train. Troops fired in the air attempting to frighten them into remaining on the train. Where the train was routed, after leaving the American zone, is still a mystery.
TWO JEWISH WOMEN DESCRIBE THE ANTI-JEWISH TERROR IN POLAND
One woman who was scheduled to return to Poland did not have to go. She is Luba Zindel, of Cracow, and she was having a baby at the hospital here when the train departed. The correspondent talked to her at Camp Karlov. This is her story: With her husband and an earlier child, she spent three years in the Nazis’ concentration camp at Lublin. After the Russians captured that city, the family was released. They returned to their home in Cracow on June 20 last.
On the first Saturday in August, while the family was attending synagogue services, their synagogue was attacked and stormed by an anti-Semitic mob. “They began firing at us and beating us up,” she related. “My husband was sitting beside me. He fell down, his face full of bullets.”
The widow was among those selected by the Jewish Committee in Cracow to be given a chance to escape to Czechoslovakia. She arrived here aboard the first of the three trains. Another woman who escaped, Saba Szkop, of Lodz, told the correspondent that there had been pogroms in that city, Warsaw and Radom, as well as Cracow. She said that the ancient anti-Semitism in Poland, encouraged and kept alive by the Nazis, was now being inflamed and exploited by the so-called AK organization, which is opposing the present Polish regime. The anti-Soviet and anti-Semitic ranks of this organization number many old army officers, she stated.