The Burgenland Jews on the Danube tug-boat. An eyewitness report




  1. Englisch
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Dear Sir –

The revolting fate of 68 BURGENLAND Jews, driven from their home, received into no neighbouring country, nor allowed to return, has been commented upon troughout the international Press.

Now we receive the report, which we enclose, of distress still encompassing the persecuted, our authority being Mrs. M. SCHMOLKA, director of the Hicem Prague.

You are free to make such use of the report as you think fit. Mrs. SCHMOLKA, however, does not wish her name to be mentioned, nor, as usual, must we be named as your source.

Yours faithfully,


Public Service Institute

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An Eye Witness Report

On April 16, 1938, the Jewish inhabitants of Kittsee and Pama, Burgenland, Austria, were ejected from their homes, robbed of what money and identity papers they had and, during the night, marooned on some small island in the Czech section of the Danube. On April 17, they were found by the Czech frontier guard and taken to Bratislava. That very same day they were expelled from Czecho-Slovakia and once again taken to the German border. On a narrow streak, “No-man’s-land”, somewhere between the borders of Czecho-Slovakia, Hungaria and Austria, they spent three days and nights, in the bitter cold, half starved, and without a roof over their heads, between the fixed bayonets of the sentries of all 3 countries which they were not allowed to enter. Some of them, 17 in all, managed to get back to Kittsee, where the old men and children were locked up in a cellar, and the grown ups, men and women, were made do hard scrubbing work. Exhausted from 3 days’ starving, the poor people’s strength threatened to fail, but ruthless beating put them to work again. During the night, after a 30 miles walk, they were taken back to the Czech frontier.

At long last the Jews of Bratislava found a temporary way-out. They hired a tug-boat, which landed on the Hungarian side of the Danube, near Royka, and received the people, 68 altogether, agricultural workers and merchants, infants and 80 years old men. No country along the Danube being prepared to grant the refugees leave on land, the Hungarian authorities extend the permit from week to week, hoping that the Jewish organisations will secure their emigration overseas. It is now three months that these people, smitten with despair, refused by every country, and even grudged the stay aboard the ship – it is now three months that they are thus kept in the vague hope of salvation.

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Efforts were made to induce various countries overseas to receive these unfortunates. Though some of the inmates of the boat managed to emigrate to the United States, the majority could not be emigrated, being unable to comply with the requirements set up by the countries overseas. It was in full realisation of this plight of theirs that we went to see the refugees on the boat, on July 10.

We have seen their unspeakable mental distress, even increased by physical torture, as they either must stay in the narrow rooms downstairs which are infested with rats and vermin, or on the upper deck where they are left to the weather’s mood.

There must be an end to this awful tragedy. It is not enough that Jewry must suffer all the humiliation that is being heaped upon it? Are we going to proclaim no, before the whole world, our utter helplessness, deliver up these poorest of the poor to the Gestapo, and allow a mass suicide? We have taken down all particulars of every one of these unfortunates, and in addition, worked out a plan to lead this problem towards its solution, it being in the last resort nothing more than a question of finance: 4.000 Pounds.


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The United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939, after the German invasion of Poland. After the defeat of France in the spring of 1940, the British Expeditionary Force withdrew from the European Continent. Although the Channel Islands near the French coast did fall into German hands, from the summer of 1940 until 1945, mainland Britain resisted German invasion and became a refuge for many governments-in-exile and refugees of the occupied countries in Europe. At the outbrea...

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