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Nazis Curb Red Cross Operations in Poland; Soviet Ignores Queries on Relief Action

November 3, 1939
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The German Government has restricted the activities of the Red Cross in Nazi-occupied Poland, and the Soviet Government has ignored requests of the Red Cross to be permitted to bring relief to the Soviet-held area, it was learned here today.

Tens and thousands of letters addressed from the United States and other countries some in Yiddish and Hebrew — to the International Red Cross seeking contact with relatives in Poland are piling up in Geneva and have not yet been admitted by the German authorities.

The Berlin Government has definitely decided not to permit the Red Cross to conduct feeding and clothing of the suffering population in Poland on the ground that the Red Cross is an organization dealing only with aid to war prisoners, not civilians.

The American Red Cross has had great difficulty in being admitted into the German occupied zone and if admitted will have to restrict itself to medical and sanitary assistance to the sick and wounded, but under no circumstances will be permitted to conduct any other kind of relief.

The Soviet Government has so far completely ignored the request of the American Red Cross, made a few weeks ago, to be admitted into the Soviet-occupied territory for relief work.

Conversations with Malcolm Davis and James Nicholson, representatives of the American Red Cross, dispel the impression prevailing in America that relief work for the starving Jewish population of Poland could be conducted through the American Red Cross. Two delegates of the American Red Cross, Ernest J. Swift and Wayne C. Taylor, are now in Berlin and have for two weeks been seeking admission into Poland, so far without success.

An official of the International Red Cross, Dr. Junod, has proceeded to Berlin and may obtain admission to Warsaw on the clear understanding that the Red Cross will care for the sick and wounded but not undertake feeding or clothing of the needy population. The Nazi authorities contend that feeding in the occupied territory is carried out by the Welfare Department of the National Socialist Party and hence no foreign body can be permitted to compete with the official Nazi organization’s activities.

It is apparent that, with the food shortage existing in Germany, the Nazi organization is not in a position to provide adequate food supplies and that cetti8naly the Jews will be excluded from whatever relief is extended by this organization, particularly since the welfare department does not claim to feed more than 200,000 persons, only a fraction of those requiring food.

The problem of how to reach the suffering Jews in Poland with much-needed food is therefore urgent and cannot be handled by the Red Cross. It is known that an official of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Warsaw, who was wounded during the bombardment but remained in the city, has opened five free kitchens with J.D.C. funds. This, however, covers only a small portion of the Jews’ needs and it is questionable whether food can be obtained locally for any length of time since rationing is likely to be introduced. On the other hand, Red Cross officials doubt greatly whether food from America could be shipped to Poland in large quantities since this would be considered by the Allies as a violation of the blockade.

The Red Cross, meanwhile, is busy acquiring commodities to bring into Poland when permission is received. According to Red Cross information, there are tens of thousands of wounded civilians in German-occupied Poland. The difficulty faced by the Red Cross is that the required goods, especially cotton; linen and blankets, cannot be purchased in any European country because of the shortage of such articles. These will have to be shipped from America.

The American Red Cross is also interested in organizing relief in Wilno. Malcolm Davis, a Red Cross official, has returned from Kaunas and informed this correspondent that the problem of feeding refugees in Wilno is not as acute as in Poland because Lithuania has plenty of agricultural and dairy products. American funds will, however, be required to carry out the necessary relief program, he said.

Information from Wilno reveals that Isaac Giterman, J.D.C. director in Poland until the war, has been feeding needy refugees in 10 free kitchens which he organized while the city was under the Polish and later the Soviet regimes.

According to the American Red Cross, the problem of the refugees from Poland in Hungary and Rumania is less acute than was originally anticipated. The major problem is how to send food and clothing to those who remained under the German occupation, and this question, according to the Red Cross, requires urgent measures for solution since the Red Cross has not received permission to tackle it.

It is thought here that perhaps an organization similar to the Hoover relief commission which operated during the last war could undertake the task, but it is pointed out that this is a matter which can only be decided in America.

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