Two months after the defeat of Hitler, thousands of “liberated” Jews in Europe are still living under miserable conditions, and their urgent needs are not being met, a month-long survey by a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent reveals. The correspondent spoke to hundreds of Nazi victims in and out of camps in Austria, Italy, Germany and Czechoslovakia.
In camps for displaced persons in Austria, he found that the inmates were getting smaller rations than German prisoners. Local officials excused themselves on the ground that they did not have sufficient supplies. In Czechoslovakia, the correspondent spoke to gaunt young Polish Jews whom the Nazis tried to starve to death, and who, even now, are not getting a minimum subsistance diet. Many complained about the monotony and the poor quality of the food.
Lack of beds and bedding is so common as to be taken for granted by many of the hapless people who are shunted from one barracks to another. In one camp the correspondent saw 300 people sleeping on the floor of a large shed, which comprised part of the living quarters. They had been there for more than a month. The camp commandent said that he had beds for only 1,000 and more than double that number of persons are in the camp.
WEAR STRIPED PRISON CLOTHING ISSUED THEM BY NAZIS
A third common complaint is lack of clothing. In the streets of Munich, Saleburg, Prague, Rome, men walk the streets in the ragged striped pants issued to them by the Nazis while they were confined in concentration camps. All those questioned said that they had been unable to get anything better.
In addition to the scarcity of these essential items, there is almost a total lack of little things like cigarettes, candy and toothpowder which help to lift morale. Two cartons of cigarettes the correspondent gave the Jewish committee in one camp caused a sensation. The members of the committee spent fifteen minutes discussing the fairest way of distributing them, and they, finally, decided to give one cigarette a piece to 400 inmates.
In a few camps casual efforts have been made to encourage recreational activity, with open air dances and an occasional movie, but most have absolutely no such provisions to relieve the deadening monotony. Moreover, the camp residents do not have money to obtain such recreation where it is available in neighboring towns. In fact, in one camp in Italy there is a 7 p.m. curfew. All those not in by then must sleep in the fields or shift for themselves.
Many of the refugees say they would like to work, if paid almost anything, and any number of young men asked how they could join the American army. Some have started little garden patches between barracks, while others are doing carpentry and carving, but, again, almost nobody among the Allied officials responsible is bothering to provide help along these directions.
The division of Allied-occupied territory into British, American, French and Russian zones has, of course, complicated the problem of these deportees and refugees, leading to long delays and indescribable confusion. All seem to feel that a single unifisd international agency, adequately staffed, and with sufficient supplies and money, must take over the problem.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.