La Spezia, Italy (Apr. 11)
The more than 1,000 Jewish refugees who are being held here aboard the Italian ship “Fede,” and prevented from proceeding to Palestine, last night ended their hunger strike, which lasted 75 hours.
The strike was suspended until April 19 following a two-hour meeting with Harold Laski, chairman of the British Labor Party, who promised to take up the case of the detained refugees with Ernest Bevin, British Foreign Secretary, and report his decision by that time. Pending Bevin’s ruling, the refugees were promised a “different status” by British Captain Hills of Allied General Headquarters.
The leaders of the refugees presented the British officer with the following four demands: 1. The Italian guards should be removed from the ship; 2. The refugees should be allowed free access to the city of La Spezia; 3. Newspapermen should be permitted to visit the ship freely; 4. The four Italian officials who were arrested for displaying sympathy with the detained Jews should be released.
While not committing himself on all points, Hills indicated that these demands will probably be accepted by higher authorities. The presence of an official from the British embassy who came from Rome to attend the conference with the refugees gave the agreement an official character.
OVER 80 FAINT DURING HUNGER STRIKE; TWO MEN ATTEMPT SUICIDE
The suspension of the hunger strike climaxed a grim day during which over eighty men and women fainted. Two men tried to hang themselves on the gate of the pier. Dr. Boris Schwartzman, one of the passengers, said that the continuation of the strike might have resulted in an epidemic, possibly typhus, because of the weakened physical condition of the strikers.
The refugees agreed to accept food provided by the Joint Distribution Committee, so that their own food supplies can be saved for the Palestine trip, which they are now confident they will be able to make. The food which the J.D.C. will supply to the refugees will include matzohs and other Passover necessities.
Meanwhile, the refugees today received messages of encouragement from Jewish organizations in the United States and Palestine stating that everything possible is being done to secure the release of the “Fede.”
The Jewish National Council of Palestine cabled to the refugees that the “Yishuw will not relax in its efforts to bring you to the Homeland.” The World Jewish Congress told the refugees in a cable that it is intervening with the British and American governments.