REFUGEES: The Strangers

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Only one-third of Europe's Jews survived, but Europe still had a Jewish Question; anti-Semitism was stronger now than before the war.

Europe's governments had repealed anti-Jewish legislation. Hungary, Bulgaria and Rumania had been forced to it by armistice terms. Austria's Chancellor Leopold Figl sweepingly promised Jews full civil rights. But all over Europe, Jews who returned to their old homes were received as unwelcome strangers. The Nazi-seized property they claimed had frequently been taken over by other war victims. There was no shelter, no clothing, no food, and little sympathy to spare:

¶ In Rumania, half of the Jews had to depend on charity.

¶ In Hungary, only 11 % were able to earn their living.

¶ In Vienna, where 180,000 Jews had lived before the war, only 500 now had regular jobs.

¶ In Paris, landlords' associations had been formed to fight Jews who wanted their old apartments back.

Everywhere, the Jews were strangers, and everywhere they were haunted by the past. Europe was a burial ground that held six million Jewish corpses; the survivors found life among the dead unbearable. They knew that the massacre had not been the work of a handful of Nazis alone, and they had acquired a bitter, all-inclusive suspicion.

Some Jews tried to escape by ceasing to be Jews altogether—daily, France's Journal Officiel carried columns of announcements that Levys and Cohens had changed their names to Dumont and Beautemps. But the bulk of Europe's younger Jews sought a more complete escape. After centuries of striving toward a secure place in European society, they were ready to get out.

Thousands who had been perhaps mildly Zionist in the past, but had never dreamed of going to Palestine themselves, suddenly looked on it as their personal refuge, and as the only community of which they could be full-fledged members. The Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry on Jewish problems, which arrived in Cairo last week, had found that 600,000 out of 750,000 Jews in European D.P. camps were, in Judge Simon H. Rifkind's phrase, "unrepentant Zionists," despite the struggle and the hardship awaiting them in Palestine.

European nationalism in the mid-20th Century had reached a pitch which forced Jews to react with a desperate nationalism of their own. But between them and a Palestine refuge stood another offshoot of European chauvinism, the awakened nationalism of the Arab states and their new instrument, the Arab League. Only superficially was the current Zionist issue the same as before the war. On both sides the pressures had become many times as intense and explosive.