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Survey of Situation of Jews in Balkans and Occupied Territory Made by JDC Director

January 10, 1945
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

An over-all report on the situation of the Jews in the Balkans, Hungary, Austria and Italy was given here by Dr. Joseph Schwartz, European director of the Joint Distribution Committee, who has just returned from Switzerland.

Revealing that JDC aid is even going to Jews in still-occupied territories and battle areas, Dr. Schwartz said in an interview that working directly or through the International Red Cross, his organization is bringing relief and assisting in the rescue of Jews in Bulgaria, Rumania, Yugoslavia and Italy, as well as Nazi-occupied Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and parts of Croatia.

He revealed the little-known fact that there are 17,000 Hungarian Jews still in Vienna who are being taken care of by 229 Austrian Jews under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Lowenherz. Most of these Austrian Jews were permitted to remain in Vienna either because they were married to non-Jews or were baptized. The JDC has been able to aid these people as well, Dr. Schwartz said, through the International Red Cross. The JDC also made a special grant of $100,000 to care for Hungarian Jewish refugees in Rumania who, Dr. Schwartz said, are in a very sad plight.

In Budapest, Dr. Schwartz reported, only 75,000 Jews remain after the mass deportations and the recent transportation to the Austrian frontier of all ablebodied Jews for compulsory labor. Those remaining are children under fifteen, women over 55, men over 60, those too infirm for labor and those protected by possession of neutral passports. All are concentrated in the ghetto except the holders of neutral passports who have to reside in certain designated houses. But even these latter, he said, are now being moved into the ghetto. Jews are not permitted to emerge from this area without special military passes and even their movements within its confines are restricted. The International Red Cross is permitted to work in the ghetto, Dr. Schwartz said, and to have representatives there. The inhabitants are being sustained by relief in kind and in money supplied by the JDC through the International Red Cross. From June until December 15, Dr. Schwartz stated, the JDC spent $2,300,000 for relief and rescue work in Hungary.


In Slovakia, he reported, only about three to four thousand Jews remain alive of the once populous community and most of these are in hiding in the Slovak countryside and forests, Practically all the Jews in Slovakia were wiped out in mass actions as punishment for the role Slovak Jews played in the recent Partisan uprising against the Nazis. Most of the 15,000 Jews remaining in Bratislava, the Slovak capital, were deported, though a small group remains in the concentration camp at Sered. Mme. Gise Fleischmann, for many years chairman of the JDC committee at Bratislava, has been deported and it has been impossible to ascertain her fate, Dr. Sohwartz said. Oscar Neumann, Slovak Zionist leader and member of the JDC committee, is still believed to be in the Sered camp. Through the services of the International Red Cross, the JDC chairman reported, assistance is being given the interned Slovak Jews. In addition, the JDC is expending about $50,000 monthly to maintain the Slovak Jews in hiding.

In the Nazi-held part of Croatia, Dr. Schwartz said, there are about 2,000 Jews in the Zagreb area, about 800 of whom are in a concentration camp. Yugoslav partisans are helping the JDC care for these people, Dr. Schwartz said, making it possible to send them regular monthly aid. Additional assistanse, in the form of badly-needed clothing, is being sent in from Italy.

In the liberated areas, Rumania presents the greatest relief task, according to Dr. Schwartz. No less than 216,000 Jews there require assistance in some form or other. Unlike other countries, he said, food can be obtained in Rumania provided the people have money with which to pay the constantly mounting prices. As an emergency grant for the last three months of 1944, the JDC provided $1,000,000 for relief requirements in Rumania through the International Red Cross. The budget now submitted by Dr. William Filderman, chairman of the JDC committee in Bucharest, calls for expenditure of $800,000 monthly for the first three months of this year, Dr. Schwartz said.

Turning to Bulgaria, Dr. Schwartz said that one-third of the Jewish population or about 18,000 are in need of relief. In addition, epidemics of malaria, diphtheria and typhus have broken out in some sections where the Jewish population is most numerous and the JDC has been asked urgently for quantities of medical supplies. In Bulgaria, Dr. Schwartz said, the JDC has been supplying aid at the rate of $50,000 monthly to the officially recognized Jewish community organizations in Sofia and some other cities.

Only an inconsiderable number of Jews has been found in liberated Yugoslav territory, the JDC official declared, but it is hoped that as time passes, more will come out of hiding. A JDC-OSE medical mission has been granted permission through the Yugoslav Red Cross to enter Yugoslav territory and work there, Dr. Schwartz announced. It will leave from Switzerland in the near future. One member of the mission will be designated as representative of the JDC for general relief and assistance work.

While in Switzerland. Dr. Schwartz said, he received reports on the situation in Italy which he described as "shocking to an unbelievable extent. Practically all of the concentration camps have been evacuated through the deportation of the interned Jews. There are now only seventy Jews left in northern Italy – forty of them in a camp and thirty in prison. Of the Italian Jewish population, it is estimated that not more than 4,000 remain and they are living in hiding. Up to now, Dr. Schwartz said, it has been possible to send them some aid.

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