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Refugee Ship Navemar Sails from Lisbon En Route to Cuba and New York

August 18, 1941
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The refugee steamer, Navemar, held here for eight days until the American consulate could reissue the expired visas of 250 of the refugees on board, sailed for Cuba and New York today with 1,180 refugees. Eighty of these boarded the Navemar at Lisbon, after its arrival, from Seville, fearing to remain here any longer. Just prior to its departure several expectant mothers were taken off and transferred to the Lisbon Jewish hospital.

Despite frantic efforts on the part of Jewish relief organizations here, little improvement was made in the miserable conditions aboard the Navemar, which were described by this correspondent last week. Sufficient water was taken on, but the already limited deck space was reduced further by the erection of a stall on the afterdeck for four huge oxen, who will furnish the meat supply, as the vessel has no refrigeration facilities.

While some of the conditions have been slightly alleviated the voyage is bound to be one of acute suffering for the majority of the passengers due to the overcrowding, the insufficient crew and the complete inadequacy of the ship’s sanitary, cooking, sleeping and health facilities. Many passengers were already suffering from the poor quality of the food and water, and all were affected by the lack of sufficient sanitary facilities.

Dr. Joseph Schwartz, European vice-chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, who visited the Navemar just before she sailed, described the ship as a “floating concentration camp.”

The sympathetic attitude of the United States consular authorities here aroused deep appreciation among the refugees. Several consuls who were here awaiting new assignments volunteered to aid the Lisbon staff in the task of reissuing the visas. They worked incessantly at all hours to rush through completion of the job and thus enable the Navemar to sail as soon as possible.

Refugee aid officials here also paid tribute to the efficient organization of the consulate in its efforts to expedite the job of reissuing so many visas. A task of this size usually requires several weeks to complete. An interesting sidelight on the work was the fact that many of the cases were handled by the same consuls who had originally issued the visa in Germany.

For the eight days that the Navemar was moored here the Portuguese police refused to permit any of the passengers to land except those who were required to go to the consulate. These were brought to the consulate, daily, in a bus which was under police guard from the time it left the pier until it arrived at the consulate. The refugees were not permitted to leave the bus except to enter the consulate. Each noon it was necessary for the busses to drive to a nearby restaurant where the JDC had arranged to have lap lunches served to the refugees while they remained in the bus.

Simultaneously with the departure of the Navemar a group of forty-five children removed from institutions in unoccupied France arrived here en route to America. The children will sail aboard the Mouzinho for the United States where they will be placed in private homes until the end of the war.

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