The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine

The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine

The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine

The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine

Excerpt

It was sheer chance that led me on board Exodus, many years after the wrecked ship had sunk to the bottom of the sea, but her name was known world wide. I had been asked, to my great surprise, to write a monograph on the Exodus Affair, as part of a research project on the illegal immigration of Jews into Palestine (Ha'apalah). "But surely," I said, "everything that needs to be known about that legendary ship, which was one of the symbols of the struggle for a Jewish state, has already been told. What else is there to tell about the affair?" It was not long before I found out how wrong I was.

Indeed, I found that most of what had been written on Exodus before was either lacking or inaccurate. Early writings had been based on the personal accounts of people who had taken part in the operation, and these are by nature problematic, because of the limitations of human memory and the partial observation of those who participated in certain aspects of the events only. Moreover, most of these accounts were recorded when Exodus had already become a symbol and even a myth, and there was a tendency to combine facts, on the one hand, with commentary, analysis, evaluation, polemic and even wishful thinking, on the other. Another weakness lay in the use of archival sources. For the first thirty years following the affair, the writers were aided, if at all, by documents available from the Jewish side only. But even books written after British documents became available to the researchers contained ingrained errors, which require amendment and revision in order to present things in as accurate a way as possible. And, as in any other affair which took place many years before and which has had layer upon layer of stories told about it, so too in the case of Exodus it was necessary to examine what had been written, to ratify the various versions and details and to review the existing historiography against the "new" primary sources -- those which were revealed only years afterwards.

I was soon bewitched by the Exodus Affair. I found myself carried . . .

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