Reflections on a Historic Landmark Event

Article excerpt

On the eve of the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, I reflect on what had preceded this historic landmark event.

After the Liberation in 1945, the entire world, Europe and the Jewish refugees in particular, were undergoing dramatic upheaval and changes unprecedented in modern history. The 180,000 Jewish survivors of the concentration camps were on the march from all comers of Europe and relocated in DP camps in Germany. They were driven by a strong force, a force that was pulling them in one direction only, in the direction of their old homeland, then called Palestine and today's the State of Israel. They rejected any suggestion to return to their countries of origin and their homes from where they were expelled by the Germans.

The tragic uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust survivors manifested itself in the measure of autonomy granted to them in the DP camps. President Truman instructed General Eisenhower to recognize the Jewish refugees as a separate ethnic group and to place them in separate DP camps in Germany. In 1946, this decision was officially announced over the Armed Forces Network in Frankfurt. The broadcaster was overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment and uttered the following:

   This act of General McNarney's writes a new page in
   history. He has recognized the existence of a little
   democracy of 180,000 people liberated in the heart of
   Germany. The Central Committee of Liberated Jews is
   now a government without a flag.

A Central Committee of Liberated Jews, representing the she'erit ha-pleitah (the saved remnant of Jewry), was elected by the refugees in the DP camps and charged with the administration and representation of the survivors. This committee was accepted and recognized by the United States authorities in Germany, by the Zionist leaders, and the Jewish Agency.

At that time a delegation of three elected representatives from the Central Committee of Liberated Jews, representing the she'erit ha-pleitah, was invited to meet in Zurich with David Ben-Gurion. Our delegation included Trager, Chairman of the Central Committee, Blumowich and myself. The meeting was impressive and Ben-Gurion's words dramatic. He said:

   I came officially to participate in the meetings of the
   General Zionist Council, but I am here to meet with
   you primarily to instruct you to go back to Germany
   and to organize the she'erit ha-pleitah en masse and proceed
   to Lubeck in Germany, where you will board the
   Exodus and fill up the boat to its maximum capacity.
   Destination--Palestine!

He went on to say:

   Nothing in the world can stop our people from going
   forward by the thousands, by sea and by air, both above
   and under the ground, to reach their goal--to return
   to their homeland in Israel. I want you, the leaders of
   she'erit ha-pleitah, to make sure that when the United
   Nations sends a delegation to the DP camps in
   Germany to investigate the wishes of the refugees, it is
   of vital importance an overwhelming majority express
   their unequivocal determination to go to Israel.
   Furthermore, once the United Nations deliberates
   about partition, our people shall proceed by the hundreds
   of thousands towards their destination--to Israel.
   We will see the creation of a reborn Jewish State.

In the meantime, Zionist and Jewish leaders in Palestine and throughout the world, and especially those in the United States, focused their efforts on easing the plight of the 180,000 Holocaust survivors in the DP Camps in Germany, to shorten their stay in Germany, and to expedite their departure for Palestine. …