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Irving Howe

World Politics

The Jews of Europe

(26 August 1946)


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 34, 26 August 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


A new migration of hunted Jews, reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt many centuries ago, is taking place in Europe today. Thousands of Jews are fleeing westward – fleeing from the anti-Semitic terror which has swept Poland and fleeing too from the reign of Stalinism for which they seem to feel little affection.

It is one of the dramatic and tragic treks of history – the starved, poverty-stricken remnant of a destroyed people which has had its hopes of finding peace dashed to the ground by still another wave of anti-Semitism. And so they are leaving Poland, the Stalinist-dominated government of which seems unable to stamp out anti-Semitism. Of the estimated 160,000 Jews in Poland (all that remains of the 3,000,000 of pre-war days!) only about 50,000 are expected to remain there. The rest are fleeing for their lives; they see no hope in Stalinist-dominated Poland, nor in that section of Poland which Stalin has annexed directly.

The homeless, still-persecuted Jews (Hitler is gone; his ideas and precepts live!) form the core of the general problem of Displaced Persons in Europe. There are over 1,000,000 of them: 850,000 in Germany, 100,000 in Austria and 50,000 in Italy, according to UNRRA figures – which means that there are probably many more. These pathetic people are the flotsam and jetsam of a decayed, brutalized continent; they are citizens of countries which hardly exist any more or which have fallen under the domination of one or another imperialist victor; they are political refugees who can find no home in the lands of their birth; they are former inmates of the concentration camps who have travelled through so many political prisons that they have become homeless and without nationality.

And these weary souls, their hearts ripe with desperation, have nowhere to go; they depend for their daily piece of bread upon foreign charity. In Germany today there are 94,000 Jews of whom 74,000 are DPs and the rest “natives.” None of them want to remain there; they all wish to find a new home and most of them yearn for Palestine. In Italy there are thousands of Poles who refuse to return to Stalin-dominated Poland. There are Hungarians, Czechs, Germans, Austrians, Italians – stranded in miserable DP camps and always on the verge of starvation.

But the most desperate of all are the Jews. Their Underground Railway, a remarkably skillful and heroic organization, has succeeded in bringing many from the east to ports of embarkation in Italy from where they hoped to go to Palestine. Now they see that their brothers are being shunted from Haifa to the barren isle of Cyprus.

Is it any wonder that reports from Europe tell of moods of desperation in the DP camps, of waves of suicide? For here, in crystal form is still another result of the imperialist war: the most persecuted and murdered people of Europe, the former slave laborers, the political prisoners from the concentration camps and the Jews are today stranded on the Continent without hope or salvation. Here it is – the bright wonderful future which Churchill and Roosevelt promised, the fruit of imperialist war and capitalist society, the toll exacted by a society decadent to the point of barbarism.

Will the last pathetic remnant of European Jewry expire in the DP camps? Are the doors of the world to be closed to them in their last agony? No one who still, functions on the level of humanity, no one who still responds as a human being rather than a robot can fail to urge, with the Workers Party, that the doors of the United States, Palestine and whichever other country they wish to go to, be opened to the Jews of Europe.


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