Jews in Germany Seek Reunion of Families Divided by Iron Curtain

The Central Welfare Agency of Jews in Germany has entered into promising negotiations to reunite some Jewish families now divided by the Iron Curtain. The project is restricted to cases where part of the family is in Germany, and the next-of-kin residing in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria or the Soviet Union have been unable to obtain exit permits to join them. The family relationship must be a close one. The Central Welfare Agency will also negotiate on behalf of Jews currently held in prisons and labor camps.

In initiating this scheme, the Central Welfare Agency is taking advantage of the somewhat greater readiness recently shown by the Soviet satellite states to facilitate the reunion of families. Because the negotiations are being conducted specifically along these lines, the project applies primarily to Jews now in Eastern Europe who formerly lived in Germany, but intervention will also be attempted on behalf of former DP’s from Eastern Europe now resident in West Germany.

Parallel to this reunion project, the welfare agency will this month negotiate with the German Red Cross in an effort to secure the release of Jewish prisoners held in East German jails, or sentenced in East Germany and then taken to the Soviet Union. Among these are a number of prominent Jews including Fritz Katten, former vice-president of the Berlin community and head of the Berlin Mizrachi, who was arrested in 1948 and is now in Saxony penitentiary, and the first postwar president of the Berlin community, Erich Nelhans, who disappeared into a Siberian labor camp almost ten years ago.

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