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300 Jews Trapped in Memel, Refugees Report; Many Aged Beaten in Raids by Nazis

March 26, 1939
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Refugees from Memelland today refuted an official statement that no Jews were left in the territory just taken over by Germany, declaring that some 300 still remained in the smaller towns of the province. A majority of these, the refugees said, were aged and poor Jewish artisans and small tradesmen who learned too late of Memel’s surrender to escape in time.

These unfortunates had their first taste of Nazi brutality today when Storm Troopers raided and wrecked Jewish homes, beating up many aged Jews. Nazi frontier guards were reported to have stopped several cars, arresting Jewish occupants who were bound for Lithuania. In most cases, the Nazis confiscated the Luggage of Jewish refugees. At the Memel railway station, no departing Jew was permitted to take with him more than one suitcase. Yesterday morning, the station was occupied by Storm Troopers and Hitler Youths who shouted farewell insults and oaths at Jewish refugees.

The older generation of Memel Germans for the most part received the news of the surrender of Memelland without enthusiasm. Many of them helped Jews escape from the city, in some instances even transporting them out of the district in their own cars and in others providing poor Jews with railway fare to Lithuania and promising to forward their belongings at the first opportunity.

Nazi mobs in Memel yesterday tore up the holy Scrolls of the Law in synagogues that had earlier been demolished. Several synagogues have been converted into barracks for Storm Troopers. All Jewish businesses and factories in the district were occupied by Storm Troopers, who saw to it that Jews did not try to damage their equipment or remove merchandise before leaving.

Meanwhile, heart-rending scenes were being enacted at the frontier when poorer Jewish refugees arrived without any luggage, having left everything in Memel. A large number of refugees, many of them ill, arrived at Polangen, Kretyngen, Grosz and Shavli after spending the night under the open sky. Steps were taken during the day to provide them with food and shelter. Relief work has been initiated by the Government, which sent special officials to all frontier points, and by the local Jewish communities. A Committee for Memel Refugees has been formed by representatives of Jewish communities with the participation of rabbis.

Anxiety prevailing among the refugees, who have lost their means of existence, was increased today by a rumor that the Nazi authorities had requested the Lithuanian Government to turn over to Germany all former Memel citizens. The rumor was denied in official circles.

The fate of a number of Jews imprisoned by the Nazis prior to the surrender of Memel remained unknown today. They are believed to number not more than several score, including Jewish merchants held on tax evasion charges and doctors accused of performing illegal operations. Three Jewish lawyers and four Jewish judges were reported to be among persons arrested in Memel.

Kaunas police today arrested one suspect following stoning of all synagogues and the Jewish Hospital here last night.

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