Rome (May. 10)
Allied military authorities today promised to initiate a detailed inquiry into the circumstances under which two displaced Jews were killed and thirteen injured last week in anti-Jewish riots by Ukrainian fascists in the Reggio Emilia camp for displaced persons.
The Ukrainians, a number of whom served as Gestapo guards in Nazi extermination camps in Poland, and therefore fear to return to the Ukraine, were permitted by the Allied authorities to live side by side with the displaced Jews at the camp, which is located about 45 miles from Bologna, Representatives of the Joint Distribution Committee and of the Central Committee of Jewish Refugees in Italy are seeking permission to participate in the promised inquiry.
A special correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency who visited the camp today was refused information by Major Lewis, the British commandant, and Lt. Eyston, his assistant, However, the correspondent learned the following details from the Italian police and the Jewish refugees:
Nearly a thousand Jews arrived at the camp the last week of April. The camp already held 25 national groups, including Finns, Czechs, Hungarian members of the fascist Arrow Cross; White Russians and 130 Ukrainians from Glasgow who were said to be fascists. The Hungarian fascists were promptly removed, but the others were not.
Mordecai Lowenberg of Poland, leader of the Jewish Camp Committee, and sole survivor of his family of a father and mother, five brothers and three sisters, a wife and three children, said that the Ukrainians threw water at the Jews from second story windows of the building as they were arriving. Some Ukrainians were identified by the arriving Jews as guards from the notorious Oswiscim extermination camp and had the SS stamp on their arms.
KNIVES THROWN AT UNARMED JEWS; COMMANDANT JUSTIFIES MURDER
Preparing for a May Day rally in the recreation hall, the Jews decorated the walls with the Zionist flag and the red flag with hammer and sickle, and the portraits of five Jewish poets. A verbal permit was believed to have been granted by the camp authorities, and 400 Jews gathered in the hall. The Ukrainians began to congregate outside.
According to the refugees, Lieut. Eyston strode into the hall, with five Ukrainians, and demanded that all the flags and "pictures of Communists" be removed and the meeting dissolved. The refugees refused because they thought they had permission to meet. Eysten personally tore down the red flag. The Jews agreed to disperse if the Ukrainians were sent away from the door. However, as they left the Ukrainians threw knives at the unarmed refugees and large-scale fighting broke out. Eyston vanished, saying he would get the police, but was not seen again.
When the Italian police restored order, nine Jews were found to be wounded. Israel Kaplan, 19, died later of knife wounds.
The Jewish leaders demanded that Major Lewis allow them to see the Ukrainians paraded by them in single file so they could pick out the men suspected of the May Day violence. Major Lewish said: "I consider that the death of your comrade was caused by your own tactlessness in flaunting the red flag before the Ukrainians."
Nevertheless he held the line-up of the Ukrainians the morning of May 4 before the camp gates. Tea Jews identified 18 Ukrainians, but Lewis refused their request to hold the men as suspected rioters and killers for trial at the camp. He said that the whole group was going to a camp at nearby Modena.
FIGHT FLARES ANEW WHEN UKRAINIANS ARE IDENTIFIED BY JEWS
Jews inside the camp surged against the Ukrainians and another free-for-all ensued. One Jew said later in an affidavit that he and his companions did not want to injure the Ukrainians, but to hold them for a trial before competent authorities, feeling that if they went to Modena they would evade justice. A uniformed guard at the gate shot into the crowd through the gate.
Other Jews stormed after the Ukrainians, yelling "fascist," attacking them and UNRRA officials with stones. Lewis, Eyston, and Supply Officer Melitsanos were thrown to the ground. Melitsanos grabbed a tommy-gun from an Italian policeman but Major Lewis kept him from using it. Major Lewis ordered the Italians to fire at the crowd but they refused. Italian infantry then arrived with two light tanks. In the ensuing gunfire, Major Kipot, a Polish Jew, was killed and five others were wounded.
The rooms of the Jews were searched. One man was arrested as the owner of a revolver, another because he had a camera, a third because he was alleged to have written a telegram to the Soviet Military Mission at Rome asking that troops be sent to the camp. Two are still held by the British Field Security Service.
Major Lewis has refused to comment, saying that he is under military orders of the British Army not to talk about the riots. The 18 Ukrainians are said to be free at Modena.