8 June 2010

Exodus 1947

In July 1947, 4,500 Jewish refugees left displaced persons camps in Germany and boarded the "Exodus 1947" in France. They attempted to sail to Palestine without, however, having British permission to land. The British intercepted the ship and forcibly returned the refugees to Germany.

Americans protest against the actions of the British Navy in boarding and taking over the Exodus 1947, a ship carrying Jewish emigrants to Palestine, July 1947. 20.000 demonstranten in New York.

The Battle Fought Aboard the "Exodus 1947"

The commander of the British warships shadowing the President Warfield repeatedly demanded that the ship discontinue its journey. However, captain Ike Aronowicz, unaffected by the threats, steered the President Warfield towards the coast of Palestine. The goal was Bat Yam beach.

On 17th July 1947, the President Warfield was renamed "Exodus 1947", in a ceremony on the open sea, and the Zionist blue-white flag with the Star of David, later to become the flag of the State of Israel, was hoisted. The Hatikwa, later to become the Israeli national anthem, was sung repeatedly. Thereby, the Haganah stated their goal: the founding of the State of Israel.
On the following night the unforeseen occured: the British destroyers attacked the Exodus 1947.

Noah Klieger, a refugee, relates the situation:
The British fleet attacked on the night of 17th/18th July, as we were on the high seas, and over 20 sea miles from Palestinian territorial waters. Six destroyers and two minesweepers, under the command of the light cruiser, "Ajax" [...] made an assault on the "Exodus". An assault on this old, scrap, pleasure steamer whose belly held over 4,500 Jewish survivors of the holocaust it was taking to the promised land of Palestine.

British soldiers guard Jewish refugees, forcibly removed from the ship "Exodus 1947," on trucks leaving for Poppendorf displaced persons camp. Photograph taken by Henry Ries. Kuecknitz, Germany, September 8, 1947.

The refugees were determined not to surrender the ship to the British without a fight.

Tin cans, screws, potatoes, bottles, wooden boards and metal bars - these were the weapons with which we "Exodus" refugees fought. Only after the British assault-group had opened fire, and we suffered the first of our dead and seriously injured, did the combat-tried marines succeed in bringing the "Exodus" under their control. The unequal fight - in the course of which the destroyers rammed our ship several times causing heavy damage - lasted 7 hours. We suffered four dead, among them being the first officer, William Bernstein, and the 15 year old Zvi Jakubowitz, and over 150 seriously injured.

Press Reaction

Over the following days newspapers, from practically all over the world, reported in detail on the events in Hamburg, and on the arrival of the Exodus passenges in L├╝beck.

While the French, and a section of the American press, criticized the violence used against the Jews by the British, the British press mostly accentuated the violent resistance of the Jews in Hamburg.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) implied in its reportage that some journalists had travelled to Hamburg merely to write anti-British articles.

Reporting in the German press was more varied in respect to the Exodus passengers. Besides sympathy and consternation there was also latent antisemitism and envy.

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