Report by Mrs. Marie Schmolka, manageress of "HICEM" Prague on her visit to the camp at Mischdorf near Bratislava on November 27th, 1938, and other reports from No-Man's Land.
Between October 30th and November 10th, the Jews of Bratislava and other places (estimated at about 2,000) Czech citizens who lived in these places for decades, whose native congregation (Heimatsgemeinde) lay in Slovakian districts and now become Hungarian, Stateless people, one-time Poles, Russians, and German-Austrian refugees, were taken from their beds at night, scantily dressed, through the Hlinka Guard, and were brought in motor-buses to the district which went to Hungary.
At first, the refugees were received in Kaschau and in other villages, and the Jews resident there cared for them.
When the Hungarians occupied the district, they drove the deported Jews to the frontier to the No-Man's Land which thus arose - a space of about two kilometres - and which both armies of occupation left free until the final line of demarcation was agreed to.
As retaliation for the action of the Slovakians, the Hungarians also drove out those Jews from Hungarian districts whose native congregation finds itself in Slovakian territory, and also those who are Stateless. The greatest number of these Stateless people came into being because the poor Jews did not know the complicated citizenship laws, and especially because of the anti-Semitic practice of the authorities.
More than 300 refugees found themselves in an open field for one week, in a temperature which went as low as 2 degrees below zero during the daytime and till 5 degrees below zero at night. They built scanty huts and roofs from maize stalks and dug pits in which they placed their children (some of these children are only a few moths old). It is only because of the self-sacrificing assistance of the Jews of Bratislava which saved them from certain death through starvation and freezing.
The Slovakian population which, with the assistance of the German propaganda from the Vienna-Slovakian Wireless Station, is instigated the inhuman forms of German anti-Semitism, would have mercilessly allowed them to perish.
It is reported that the officials declared during an intervention with the police authorities "What do you want? There are enough mice there." The only help which the Jews of Bratislava got for the difficult relief work was through the Czech military (the camp is about 20 kilometres from Bratislava).
It is to the great credit of one military commander that he allowed a woman, who the whole night long underwent the final pains in giving birth to a child, and through her agonised screams nearly drove the desperate refugees insane, to be brought to hospital on his own responsibility.
During the last week (the refugees now find themselves 14 days near Mischdorf), the Jews were able to provide four furniture vans in which those who are very ill could be bedded on straw and, for the others, low tents were erected, each tent accommodating 20 people, while others are still in the shelters formed of maize stalks. Until now they had to fetch water from a distance of about one kilometre, and only now a pump has been erected.
There is not one chair or table in the whole camp, most of the refugees pass the time by lying in the vans or in the tents in order to protect themselves from the cold.
Although the Jews of Bratislava brought clothing and blankets in large quantities, there are many cases of frostbite. The condition of health is obivously becoming worse daily; there is a doctor from Vienna in the camp who, although he has the possibility to cross the frontier, refuses to comply with the wishes of his family, because he will not desert his patients. Without his help the misery would be unimaginable.
The scene of the sick in the furniture vans is terrible. Lying side by side are cripples who are quite unable to move, a blind woman, one who is seriously ill with haemhorrage of the stomach, war invalids, people with high fever, tuberculous, sufferes from serious womens' complaints, etc.
When the doctor was asked as to where the people wash themselves, he replied that they have not yet washed themselves, and that he is the only one who does so.
Near the tents and in the open field, the ovens on which the food is prepared, and baskets of coal are to be found.
Among the refugees there are families with 5, 7 and 9 children. One comes to the visitor with the request to intervene on his behalf, so that the furniture van, which has been placed at his disposal by relatives to accommodate his family of 9 children and which he can see in the distance on the road, should be allowed to be brought to him, which till now, has been refused by the authorities. One widow, who has 9 children, of whom only 3 are in the camp, begs that the other 6 children, who remained behind in Bratislava, should also be brought to this camp because she fears that a still worse fate may await them. Another mother appeals to visitors to take her six weeks old child with them to save it from perishing; it is impossible to accede to her request because the frontier guards do not allow this. An old married couple, aged 60 and 65, who have lived in Bratislava 41 years and kept a small restaurant in the Judengasse, weep before visitors and say that they do not wish to emigrate but to return to their home.
The doctor has to fight, not only against the severe bodily illnesses, but also against cases of mass psychosis.
The greatest fear of the Jews of Bratislava is, that once the frontiers are finally decided, they will not be allowed to bring food to the refugees. It is forbidden to the Hungarian Jews to render any support. It is expected that Slovakia and Hungary will come to an agreement whereby each country should take its citizens, by which the fate of the Stateless people appears to be quite hopeless.
Those assisting in Bratislava complain that several articles which they have brought to the refugees have disappeared from the camp because the refugees exchanged these articles with the neighbouring population for services, such as the forwarding of letters, which is forbidden.
We received a report that such a camp accommodating 470 people has been set up near Nitra.
The Mährisch-Austrian frontier.
From Lundenburg and the surrounding villages, about 200 Jews who still lived there before the German occupation and before the assassination by Grünspan, which gave the excuse for further expulsions, were driven out. After weeks of wandering about in the forests and camping in the open air, permission was granted by the Czech Government to accommodate the persecuted people in a camp which was set up in a factory in Ivancice near Brunn by the Jews of that town. In order to set up this camp, money was placed at its disposal from the Lord Mayor's Fund.
Refugees from the Western part, Karlsbad and Marienbad.
See enclosed report from Pilsen.
From Leipa, Komotau, Leitmeritz, etc.
A group of 16 deportees, who live in ditches along the roads, find themselves near Louny, some of whom have already been brought into hospital. Every intervention on their behalf is unsuccessful. By the action of the Red Cross the refugees finally obtained tents and straw. We receive despairing enquiries from children whose parents are missing and are wandering about in the forests.
The first No-Man's-Land for Jews was the tug on the River Donau; on which 68 Jews from Burgenland were accommodated from April till September this year, and whom no State would permit to land. At that time, we pointed out in the report of that No-Man's Land that it is intolerable to admit the defamation of Jewry by German anti-Semitism that there should be another No-Man's-Land for the Jews, and that a solution must be found. The appeal and the plan, which was submitted and acted upon, resulted that these people have already found homes, principally in Palestine. Alas, it has proved itself a fact that things which are incomprehensible to the human imagination, i.e. that the Jewish question will be solved by a No-Man's Land, has not only penetrated into the decisions of Governments, but that also among the non-Jewish population, serves to satisfy their anti-Semitic feelings.
Plan for a solution
1. Intervention to be undertaken to both Governments in order that the Documents of Citizenship of the refugees should be examined, and that both States accept their own citizens.
2. Intervention to be undertaken to the Hungarian Government that barracks should be built on the territory now occupied by them so that the reminder of the refugees can be accommodated there.
3. The speedy carrying out of the emigration of those capable, especially the children.
4. Financial help for the erection of barracks and maintenance, which up to the present moment the Bratislava Jewish Congregation and others as Louny itself has had to bear.
In Mähr. Ostrau there are about seventeen hundred families of Polish origin now stateless expelled.