Port De Bouc, France (Aug. 5)
Charges by the commander of the British convoy which transported the refugees from the Exodus to this port that many Jews ##oard the ships would disembark but were afraid of “reprisals” were denied today by ##e refugees speaking to the first group of Jewish correspondents permitted aboard.
Col. M.I.Gregson, the convoy commander, told the newsmen: “There is a lot of ##ercion on this boat, just like the Nazis used. A lot of people would be willing to ##t off but, afraid of reprisals, they are not allowed to.” Asked for examples to support his allegation, Gregson said there was a Jewish girl who was sick in the ship’s hospital who was told by a Jewish doctor: “As a doctor, I say you should get off the ###ip, but as a Jew I say you must not.”Gregson said another girl wanted to disembark but was told she should not. He added: “It terrifies me. It is the most appalling totalitarianism I have ever seen.” The British commander accused Jewish doctors who came aboard to treat the sick with passing on orders and propaganda.” He said he would not permit Jewish doctors to board his ship, the Runnymede Park, adding, “I’ve had enough.”
Asserting that 16 Jews planned to disembark today, of whom only two were ill, Gregson called one of them to speak with the newspapermen. A 50-year-old short man ?aned Mandelbaum, who had lived in the Warsaw ghetto and whom the Russians liberated, the refugee said he was going to leave the ship with his wife and two children because he was “tired and sick and wants to get well.” He denied emphatically that pressure was used to prevent him from getting off. He said he had a brother and a sister in Los Angeles, but wanted to go only to Palestine.
The second refugee called to speak with the correspondents was a 29-year-old ## named Blatt who comes from Wolen, Poland. She said she was “tired and weak and sick” and had spent the entire trip in the hospital, worried about her 17-month-old child. She also said she wanted to go to Palestine eventually and denied that any pressure not to get off had been directed at her.
CONDITIONS ON SHIP IMPROVED; REFUGEES FEEL BETTER
The correspondents’ visit took place aboard the Runnymede Park where conditions are believed to be worse than on the other two ships. Coming on deck, the reporters saw refugees peering at them pitifully through wired cages, although women and children were strolling and playing on the rest deck. Led by Gregson and several other British officers, the party was taken to the upper deck where it could peer through the cages and see the refugees below. Permission to visit them was denied, however.
Primitive conditions prevailed in the cages, where the women were seen scantily-clad, many without shoes, and the men were dressed only in shorts. They all looked very dirty. There was a row of basins for washing and the latrines directly behind were separated by a curtain.
The reporters could barely see through the grill but it seemed as though refugees lined the floor solidly. Gregson said that although women and children were given the run of the deck, men were barred, because “we have to restrain the men as there are certain ones we don’t trust. They can start trouble.”
Touring the ship, the correspondents passed a grimy kitchen where they spoke to the “EP’s” who supported Gregson’s statement that the refugees were receiving lots of ## which was being sent from shore.
The over-all impression is that conditions are considerably better than when ## arrived a week ago. Obviously, food, drink and medical attention are ## the refugees, making them feel and look better.