Reflections on a Historic Landmark Event
Sultanik, Kalman, Midstream
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. …