London (Aug. 21)
The Colonial Office today communicated to the Jewish Agency office here the decision of the British Government to send the Exodus refugees to Germany if they refuse to land in France by tomorrow night.
Berl Locker, member of the Agency executive, who received the notification and who was urged by the Colonial Office to go to Port de Bouc, France, to advise the visaless Jews to disembark from their three prison ships, immediately rejected the invitation verbally. Later, in a letter to the Colonial Office, he wrote:
“The Jewish Agency indignantly rejects the suggestion that it should try to persuade the refugees to land in France. The Agency has a duty to cooperate with the Mandatory in facilitating Jewish immigration. It will never lend itself to an attempt to prevent Jews entering their national home.”
Emphasizing in his letter that the government’s statement “adds injury to insult by alleging that the refusal of the refugees to land is the result of persistent Zionist threats and propaganda,” Locker pointed out that the British ultimatum to the Exodus refugees makes more difficult the position of the Jewish forces fighting violence in Palestine. He appealed to the government to “think twice” since it will have to “bear the responsibility for the consequences and repercussions” of its action.
At a press conference where he released his letter, Locker described the deportation as “an act of vengeance and persecution against people who committed no crime.” He revealed that the British Consul General at Paris and several members of his staff read the ultimatum to the refugees on the three prison ships and that the visaless immigrants had rejected it.
Warning against using force at the disembarkation in Germany, he declared: “I dread to imagine what will happen. The position is fraught with danger for us, but is not without danger for the government.”
BRITAIN “EXPLAINS” WHY EXODUS JEWS ARE BEING SENT TO GERMANY
The announcement, issued by the Foreign Office, “explained” that the Exodus immigrants were being sent to Germany because it was the only territory under British jurisdiction where a large number of refugees could be fed and housed adequately.
The statement stressed that the British Government is still responsible for the maintenance of law and order in Palestine until the United Nations renders a decision. It declared that “no action which might prejudice a U.N. verdict will be permitted.” Asserting that the “illegal immigration traffic” is trying to upset the balance of population in Palestine, it pointed to recent clashes between Arabs and Jews and claimed that they resulted from such attempts. It also charged that thousands of legal immigrants could have reached Palestine from Germany, but for the stream of visaless refugees.
An official spokesman of the Foreign Office refused to reveal the arrangements which were being made in Germany to receive the Jews, but denied that they would be interned. He insisted that they would be treated the same as other DP’s, although they “will not be at the head of the queue of legal immigrants going to Palestine.” Asked whether the immigrants would be disembarked forcibly at Hamburg, the spokesman said: “They will not be allowed to remain on board.” He also expressed doubts that newspaper correspondents would be permitted to witness the debarkation.
REFUGEES WIRE APPEAL; DETERMINED TO LAND IN PALESTINE
Authoritative British sources today declared that the British Government had no intention of backing down” on the ultimatum to the Exodus refugees. A Foreign Office spokesman stated in the evening that the ultimatum still stands and that the Jewish Agency “has taken on itself a grave responsibility.”
An appeal from the refugees aboard the three British transports was received today by the Jewish Agency in which the immigrants reiterated their determination to land only in Palestine. The telegram reads:
“Forty-five hundred of us left the graveyard of Europe, our families and our hopes and tried to reach our homeland–Palestine. We were carried back to Europe on three hell ships but we cannot and will not land on European soil again.
“For more than three weeks we have been kept here in Port-de-Bouc in the heat and rain, confined to dark crowded holds without beds and with insufficient floor space to lie on, inadequate washing and sanitary facilities and under constant intimidation by British guards. We do not know how much longer we can restrain ourselves but our determination to land in Palestine only cannot be broken.”