The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine

By Aviva Halamish; Ora Cummings | Go to book overview

10. A Floating Concentration Camp

For more than three weeks the deportation ships had been anchored opposite Port de Bouc -- three "Liberty" ships, each about 440 feet long and 57 feet wide at their center. The Ocean Vigour carried 1,494 immigrants; Runnymede Park carried 1,409; and there were 1,526 immigrants on Empire Rival.1

Britain rejected criticism over the harsh conditions aboard the deportation ships, pointing out in return that together, the three ships were larger than the Exodus, on which the immigrants had sailed to Palestine.2 Not only was this cynical, it was also mathematically inaccurate, since only a small part of each deportation ship had been allotted to living quarters for the immigrants, while the remainder was used for various purposes and by the crew. Overcrowding was terrible in the ships' holds and their only advantage over the Exodus was that here people were concentrated on one level and not stuffed into layer upon layer of shelves. And this made day to day life somewhat easier, as far as distribution of food, announcements, cultural and educational activity, etc. were concerned.

The truth is that the British were well aware that the ships were unsuitable for transporting such a large number of people over such a distance, and that they were especially unequipped for a long sea journey. About six months before, it had been determined by the Mediterranean High Command that 800 was the maximum number of passengers each of the "Liberty" ships (which had been adjusted to transfer illegal immigrants from Haifa to Cyprus) could bear at one time. The Commanderin-Chief Mediterranean had warned that additional passengers would cause unbearable overcrowding which would endanger the life and health of the passengers, and that safety equipment on these ships was insufficient for so large a mass of people.3

Nevertheless, it was not unusual to load up to 1,500 immigrants on each of these ships. In January 1947, the civilian crew aboard the Ocean

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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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