The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine

By Aviva Halamish; Ora Cummings | Go to book overview

3. Crescendo

"Palestine-Bound Mystery Ship, Battered by Sea, Is Back in Port" was the title of an item run by The New York Times on 7 March 1947. Using a dramatic style, veiled in cloak-and-dagger-like allusions to conspiracy, it recounted the way in which the ship President Warfield was supposed to cross the Atlantic Ocean with the ultimate aim of reaching the Middle East and charging the British blockade of Palestine. The item -- which contained several gross inaccuracies -- was relayed by the British Embassy in Washington to the Foreign Office in London,1 where it ignited yet another fuse in the "war room" against illegal immigration into Palestine.

Only two weeks before, the ship Chaim Arlozoroff (Ulua) with 1,348 illegal immigrants on board, had managed to evade the ships of the British Navy and to land near Haifa, where she deliberately hit a sand bank, and her passengers started jumping into the water. They were caught immediately, and British soldiers took control of the ship. This was the third illegal immigration ship that month ( February 1947) to get close to the shores of Palestine and it seemed the illegal immigration operation was in full swing again. Not a single ship had approached shore during the previous two months, December 1946 and January 1947, but the British had succeeded in capturing some 2,800 illegal immigrants during February alone. On the day The New York Times item reached London, the ship Shabtai Lojinsky (Suzannah) landed on a beach near Nitzanim, south of Tel Aviv, where many of her passengers were picked up by Haganah activists and taken to the nearby Jewish settlements, before the British security forces had a chance to arrive on the scene.

With the approach of spring, the British anticipated an even larger wave of illegal immigration. According to their reckoning, 14 ships with a capacity to take aboard some 15,000 illegal immigrants, were waiting to set sail within a short time for Palestine.2 This fleet would be joined by the President Warfield, which was larger than all her predecessors.

Palestine's narrow strip of territorial waters, which at the time was

-26-

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The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • List of Abbreviations xi
  • Key to Coded Names xii
  • Foreword xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Introduction xix
  • 1: Crisis 1
  • 2: "The Yanks Are Coming" 15
  • 3: Crescendo 26
  • 4: A Ship for All Jews 43
  • 5: The Bird Flew the Coop 52
  • 6: Seven Days on the Seven Seas 66
  • 7: The Battle 75
  • 8: Where Now? 103
  • 9: We Shall Not Land! 112
  • 10: A Floating Concentration Camp 122
  • 11: Not by Bread Alone 132
  • 12: In the Shadow of Unscop and Terror 140
  • 13: From Catharsis to Apathy 160
  • 14: The Last Weapon 171
  • 15: A Change of Scene 185
  • 16: Each and Every One of You is Dear to Us" 202
  • 17: They'Ve Done It Again 218
  • 18: All Jews Are Comrades 226
  • 19: The Second Aliyah 241
  • 20: Who, Then, Was the Victor? 252
  • Notes 275
  • Glossary 293
  • Works Cited 296
  • Index 303
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