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3,000 Refugees Battle Hunger, Disease on 2 Old Danube Ships

September 23, 1940
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Another Jewish tragedy is unfolding at Tulcea, Rumanian port in the Danube delta, where 3,000 refugees are held on two small steamers awaiting transshipment to Palestine–a hope which may never be realized.

The two old Greek ships on which they are herded between the decks like cattle were recently renamed the Pacific and Atlantic and now fly the Panama flag. Both ships were long ago condemned and one is reported to be wholly unseaworthy.

It is not known when the ships will sail for Palestine, if at all. The captains, understood to be Greeks, are presently searching for crews and attempting to buy coal. It is understood no coal is available and that seamen in Tulcea, Sulina, Galatz and other ports are unwilling to sign on such unseaworthy ships.

Meanwhile, the cargo of Jews are reported to be undergoing great suffering. The food supply is running low and the water is already exhausted. Diseases is said to have broken out and the physicians among the passengers lack medicine to treat them. Despite the misery, the passengers are not allowed by the Rumanian authorities to put foot on shore and visitors are not allowed aboard.

This correspondent’s informant, a Rumanian Jew who has a sister among the passengers, approached the Pacific in a small boat and talked to her and other passengers by means of an improvised megaphone.

Among the 3,000 Jews, who arrived at Tulcea from Vienna and Bratislava on Sept. 12 aboard four river boats of the German Danube Steamship Company, are 500 refugees who left Vienna last December and were held prisoners in Bratislava until Aug. 29.

A representative of this group of refugees told this correspondent’s informant that they had left Vienna last December with the knowledge and consent of the Jewish

community, in the belief that they would be transported down the Danube to the Black Sea and sent to Palestine. Like other clandestine refugee groups who have been going down the Danube over the past year, none of the 3,000 Jews possesses passport or visa.

The illegal emigration was assertedly organized by two Vienna Jews, Berthold Storser and his brother-in-law, Josef Goldner, who have allegedly been operating a racket in conjunction with the Gestapo.

The Bratislava group said they had paid a thousand marks each on the promises of Storser and Goldner that this would get them as far as Palestine. The Slovak authorities detained them in the abandoned Patrluka munitions factory, however, until the new flotilla set out last month. The authorities taxed the group eight crowns daily per person for upkeep during the internment. It is understood the money was paid by a relief organization.

The group only managed to leave Bratislava and start down the river again after they had denounced Storser and Goldner to the Gestapo, which reportedly forced them to make good their contract in order to avoid a scandal. Even so, the Danube boats constantly ran short of food and the refugees were forced to take up collections frequently to buy fresh supplies.

The passengers on the Pacific were found in an unventilated hold where they must sleep in makeshift three-tiered bunks. There are no sanitary facilities whatsoever and no mattresses or cushions. No water is available on board and they must buy fresh water daily, brought from shore by fishermen. Several suicides have already occurred and conditions on board are such that anything might start a panic among the passengers. The healthy passengers are convinced they will never live to see Palestine and the sick ones are convinced they will die unless they get adequate medical attention.

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