WASHINGTON (Jul. 22)
Refugee agencies in Geneva are expressing concern over the fate of the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Jews in Poland who were told by the Gomulka Communist regime more than a year ago they must emigrate and then were told subsequently they cannot leave after Sept. 1, the Washington Post reported today from Geneva.
The report noted that The Netherlands’ diplomatic mission in Warsaw, handling Israeli interests on a caretaker basis, had been empowered to grant visas to Israel to departing Polish Jews. The mission reportedly has issued about 10,000 such visas but only about 5,000 Polish Jews have left for Israel, raising the question of what will happen to the other 5.000 since most of them “cannot possibly complete the bureaucratic exit process” by Sept. I, the Post reported.
The Post said it was feared that many of the other 10,000 to 20,000 who have not applied for emigration will be state less in Poland, stripped of their citizenship. They will be in the critical position of being forbidden to leave while their presence is declared objectionable.
The remnant of the pre-war 3,000,000 Polish Jews remaining after the Nazi Holocaust coped as best they could with the Communist Government, many of them becoming ardent Communists and rising to high positions in the Wladyslaw Gomulka Government. After the Six-Day War. when Poland severed relations with Israel, Gomulka declared in a speech that “Zionists”–a euphemism for Polish Jews who had adhered to their Jewish ties–were no longer wanted in Poland and he said they could leave, if they went to Israel.
Jews who had. risen in the Communist hierarchy were immediately ousted from office, as were economists, university professors and other professionals. After a Polish Jew obtained the Dutch visa, he had to negotiate departure payment with Polish officials, “voluntarily” renouncing his Polish citizenship and submitting possessions he hoped to take with him to Government inspection and occasional confiscation, the Post said. When the process was completed–a procedure of three to four months–he was given a travel document with orders to leave within one month.
He then boarded a train leaving Warsaw, which became known as “the Chopin Express,” arriving the next day in Vienna where Jewish relief agency officials helped him on his way to Israel or elsewhere. The Post said that between 30 percent and 60 percent went to Israel and the rest joined relatives in Western Europe or in North and South America.
Since the recent Gomulka announcement which spoke of an end to the liberal visa policy as of Sept. 1, there has been no clarification from the Gomulka regime and no information on what is happening to the Jews. The Post said no one in Geneva knew why the cutoff had been ordered, whether no more travel permits will be issued after that date or whether all departures will end, even for the Jews who have gone through the separation process. Refugee officials were quoted as believing that conditions of life for the trapped Polish Jews “must be as dangerous as they are cruel.”
In another development, the Gomulka regime announced yesterday a pardon that could benefit student demonstrators who were convicted last year, some of whom were identified at the time as Jews. The pardon was announced at the start of the regime’s 25 anniversary celebration. It provides for full remission of prison sentences of up to two years and up to half of sentences of up to 15 years. Nine Warsaw university students and three teachers were given terms of 18 months to three and a half years for participation in the March, 1968 demonstrations.