BY DANNY SEAL MAZKIR BAUK
The Yishuv - During The Shoah
This Chapter and You...
With the rise and growth of Nazism in Germany during the 1930's, with its virulent spread of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and the world, the attention of the Yishuv (the Jewish community of Palestine) turned to the defeat of Hitler and his Axis partners and the rescue of the imperiled Jews of Europe.
From 1933 to 1943, approximately 120,000 German and other refugee Jews immigrated to Palestine. In 1939, the British issued the infamous White Paper, which imposed strict quotas on further Jewish immigration and an absolute ban on land sales to Jews. With the rest of the world closing its doors to Jewish immigration, the White Paper was the final blow which sealed the tragic fate of the Jews of Europe.
As we visit the death camps of Poland during the March of the Living, you will readily understand the terrible consequences of that decision.
The Yishuv desperately attempted to illegally smuggle refugees into Palestine. Many boats were not allowed to land in Palestine by the British and were forced out to sea where they sank with their human cargo, or were shipped back to Hitler's Europe to face their inevitable fate. The lucky few were interned in Palestinian concentration camps such as Atlit. Some Palestinian Jews, many who were refugees themselves, volunteered to parachute into Europe to help organize Jewish resistance and rescue. Most of these efforts were to no avail.
When World War II broke out, the vast majority of the Yishuv supported the British, eventually joining the British Army, despite the White Paper, feeling that their most important task was to defeat Hitler as quickly as possible as a way to save as many Jews as possible.
"Min Hameitzar Karatee Yah"
"Out of distress I called upon the Lord"
1. You will begin to understand the difficult position the Yishuv faced during the Hitlerian period.
2. You will learn about the efforts made by the Yishuv to save the Jews of Europe.
This excerpt deals with the decade of the 1930's which witnessed the rise of Hitler. This had a profound impact on world Jewry, especially in Europe and Palestine.
Excerpts from: The Return to Zion. Edited by Aryeh Rubinstein, Keter Books, Jerusalem
The Fifth Aliyah
By the end of 1929 the number of Jews in Eretz Israel had reached 160,000, or about three times the number at the beginning of the decade. In the `thirties immigration was accelerated by the plight of German Jewry. This Fifth Aliyah began with a small trickle in 1929, but in 1933, when Hitler rose to power, the trickle became a flood. A total of 164,267 Jews entered the country legally in the period 1933-36, while thousands of refugees came as "illegal" immigrants (the "yishuv" regarded British restrictions on "aliyah" as arbitrary and a violation of the Mandate). By the spring of 1936 the Jewish population was close to 400,000 and by 1939 it rose to half a million.
The Arab Revolt reached its climax in the summer of 1938 when terrorist bands captured British police stations and broke into Arab towns. The British concentrated large forces, about 16,000 troops, to combat the terrorist bands, and in the spring of 1939 the revolt came to an end. Militarily it ended in defeat, but it brought Palestinian Arabs a political reward - the MacDonald (Malcolm MacDonald was the colonial secretary) White Paper of 1939 - which in effect limited Jewish immigration to a final 75,000 and abrogated the policy formulated in the Balfour Declaration. This meant that the Jews of Europe were being left to their fate, and that the Jews of Palestine were to be a permanent minority. This change in policy was rooted in the realization that war with Nazi Germany had become unavoidable and that it was therefore necessary for Britain to secure friendship, or at least passive neutrality, from the Arabs. No concessions had to be made to the Jews, whose support in the struggle with the Nazis was not in the slightest doubt. The Jewish world was practically unanimous in its opposition to the White Paper, declaring it to be not only wrong but utterly devoid of moral or legal validity. In Palestine, a general strike was called on May 17, 1939 - the date on which the White Paper was published - and mass demonstrations took place in all Jewish towns and villages. The Haganah began to attack telephone lines, railroads, and other government property.
Havlagah and Aliyah Bet
During the three-year Arab Revolt the Haganah developed into a military force that bore the responsibility for the "yishuv's" safety, and a general staff was set up. From the beginning of the riots, the Jewish Agency had called for self-restraint (havlagah), as well as self-defense (haganah): no blind revenge or indiscriminate killing but appropriate defensive measures, including active operations against terrorist bands.
With the rise of Hitler, the pressure for immigration increased, and gave rise to the first organized efforts at illegal immigration by sea on the part of He-Halutz and the Revisionist movement. In 1938 the Mosad le-Aliyah Bet (the institution for clandestine immigration; "the Mosad" for short) was set up by the Haganah. The Mandatory government did everything in its power to stop the stream of illegal immigrants, exerting pressure on other governments to prevent their leaving and dispatching patrol boats to track the ships from the moment of their departure till their arrival off the Palestinian coast.
1. What was the Fifth Aliya?
2. What was the White Paper? What was its impact on European Jewry?
3. What is the difference between "Haganah" and "Havlagah"?
These dates correspond to the previous narrative and set the background for the eventual tragedy about to befall European Jewry.
A State In The Making
IN PALESTINE = 1931 Etzel (Irgun Zvi Leumi), underground organization linked with Revisionist movement, founded.
IN EUROPE = 1933 Fifth Aliyah begins from Germany in wake of Nazi rise to power.
IN PALESTINE = 1935 Revisionist movement, headed by Ze'ev Jabotinsky, secedes from WZO and establishes New Zionist Organization.
IN PALESTINE = 1936 Palestine Symphony Orchestra founded.Anti-Jewish riots begin, lasting three years.
IN PALESTINE = 1937 Britain's Peel Commission Report indicates that Palestine, traditionally country of Arab emigration, became country of Arab immigration as result of rapid Jewish economic development.Commission recommends partition of western Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab; plan is rejected by Arabs.
IN PALESTINE = 1938 Britain discards Peel Plan and invites Jewish and Arab leaders to negotiate Palestine problem; Arabs refuse invitation.
IN EUROPE = 1938Evian Conference on refugees fails to find solution for thousands fleeing Nazi persecution.
IN PALESTINE = 1939 British White Paper limits Jewish immigration to 75,000 over five-year period, after which it is to cease altogether (It also severely limited Jewish land purchases, as well).
IN PALESTINE = in Palestine
IN EUROPE = in Europe
This reading describes Palestinian Jewry's efforts to save some of the Jews of Europe by attempting to illegally smuggle them into the country. Some of these efforts were successful, but most of these illegal boats were caught by the British and sent back to Europe to face a terrible fate. Some of these boats sunk at sea, ending in the death of all those aboard.
Source: Fulfillment - Chapters XIV and XV, pages 328-329- Rufus Lears, 1972, Herzl Press, N.Y.
By 1939, Palestine became the only source of possible refuge for European Jewry. The British government clung to its 1939 White Paper setting a maximum of 75,000 immigrants into Palestine over the next five years. For those who had managed to escape Eastern Europe, most found themselves refused permission to enter the land of their hopes.
Battle of Immigration
In the struggle against the British White Paper, David Ben Gurion remarked, "Our plan is to drown the White Paper in a flood of immigration." Nothing less would secure a place of refuge for our people.
The most persistent and spectacular battle of this war was the Battle of Immigration. Its lines embraced the frontiers and ports of many lands and the lanes of many seas. It was the crucial battle: on its outcome depended the lives of thousands of hapless men, women and children as well as the fate of the Zionist enterprise. By the time the war was over a far-flung apparatus for assembling, maintaining and transporting immigrants by land and sea had been built up by soldiers and emissaries of the Yishuv, and the adversary, the British Empire, had thrown into the Battle its naval and air forces in the Mediterranean, its military establishment in Palestine and its diplomatic resources in the capitals of the countries through which the wanderers sought passage. Never did the Empire wage a more inglorious war and never did a tiny community, fighting for its future and for the remnants of its kith and kin, display more daring and resourcefulness. By roads devious and hazardous the fugitives converged on Mediterranean and Black Sea ports, where they embarked at night on ships, most of them small, derelict freighters, a few of them revamped river and coastal vessels from America, to brave the perils of the sea and the greater perils of interception by the British Navy. Many of the ships were captured, their human cargo interned and deported, first to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and later to Cyprus. Others defeated the vigilance of the British planes, warships and radar-equipped stations, and reached the shore of Palestine, where detachments of the Haganah brought them to land, sometimes wading out to the ship and carrying them on their shoulders, and dispersed them swiftly among the settlements. Most of the ships that set out must have come through in this manner; their names were not of course published, but from the middle of 1945 to the end of the following year alone some 25,000 maapilim ("illegal" immigrants) landed in Palestine.
A vivid illustration of the perils involved in landing the refugees is provided by the ship Hannah Senesch which in December 1945 managed to get near the coast at Nahariya. A storm prevented the Haganah detachment that waited for her from rowing her passengers to shore, but they were all landed safely by means of a "human chain" or on the backs of swimmers. They were promptly taken to different settlements, and the next morning the British found the vessel capsized with the blue-and-white flag floating defiantly from her keel.
But often enough the Battle of Immigration did not end with their happy landing and dispersal. The British Army in Palestine went into action, raiding settlements suspected of harboring "illegals," whom they sometimes detected and apprehended. But more often they found themselves foiled. What could any army officer do when,after assembling all the inhabitants of a colony in order to pick out "illegals," he found that not one of the assembled possessed identity papers?
Such, in bare outline, was the strategy of the Battle of Immigration, an outline that conveys but little of the anguished hopes, the tragedies and the triumphs that were of its essence.
1. Why did the community of Jews risk the perils of the high seas and British interception in order to try to reach the shores of Palestine?
2. For a survivor of the Holocaust in 1946 and 1947, what might be the emotional significance of a "human chain" formed to help them reach Palestine's shores?
Atlit was a British "concentration camp" in Palestine for the "Illegals".
Atlit was originally established as an ancient port on the Mediterranean coast, 19 miles south of Cape Carmel. It survived many civilizations including the Phoenecians, Greeks, Crusaders and Baybars.
In 1903, Baron Edmond de Rothschild established a moshava on the site. One of the primary industries was extracting table salt from sea salt. In 1911 Aaron Aaronsohn created an agricultural station there. During the British Mandate, a prison was set up there, which later, in 1939, became a detention camp for illegal immigrants. On December 8, 1940, 1,645 Jews were shipped from Atlit to the island of Mauritius.
A Haganah raid on the camp on October 10, 1945 freed 208 inmates. It was conducted by the commando unit, called the Palmach. Shalom Hablin, a member of the Palmach, was sent into the camp as a Hebrew teacher, to organize for the break-out. The next day, six more "teachers" were smuggled in to the camp. They were actually judo instructors. After midnight, the guards were disabled, the bolts on their guns having been removed by a friendly guard, and the refugees started off towards Bet Oren. When British armored cars surrounded the village, thousands of citizens of Haifa walked all the way to Bet Oren, and forced the military to leave.
After August, 1946, the British began deporting the clandestine immigrants to detention camps in Cyprus. By 1948, some 51,500 were kept under detention, with over 2,000 babies born there.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, the camp was used as a large immigration reception and transit center.
Today, Atlit has been recreated to resemble the camp as it was in the 1940's.
1. How do you think the refugees felt when they arrived in Palestine, only to find themselves thrown into another "concentration camp"? How would you have felt, reacted?
2. Would you have walked to Bet Oren, as did the citizens of Haifa? Why or why not?
This article describes the connection between the Zionist movements in Europe that resisted the Nazis and its effect on the Yishuv in Palestine.
Fulfillment, Rufus Lears, 1972, Herzl Press, N.Y
Martyrs And Heroes
Only those who were familiar with the inner life of East European Jewry can realize that an ancient culture and noble way of life was murdered as well as a people.
It was the culture and way of life in which most of the men and women of the Yishuv (Hebrew term for return, used in place of the Jewish community of Palestine prior to the State of Israel) had been reared and nurtured, for the millions who died were their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. The news of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in the spring of 1943 brought them a mite of consolation in their grief, and they took somber pride in the fact that the initiative for the revolt came from Hechalutz ("Pioneer", a youth movement devoted to training and encouraging young adults to make their home in the Yishuv), that of the twenty-two combat units eighteen were Zionist, and that Mordecai Anielewicz, who was in general command of the uprising, was a leader of Hashomer Hatzair (Zionist-Socialist pioneering youth movement...). And by the end of the year they learned that there had been uprisings also in the ghettos of many other cities, among them Vilna, Bialystok, Bendin, Cracow, Tarnopol, Czestochowa and Stryj, and that outbreaks had even occurred in Treblinka, Sobibor and other charnel houses. In time survivors of those desperate ventures made their way to the Homeland: Tzivya Lubetkin, "the Mother of the Warsaw Ghetto," Chaya Grossman, who fought in the Bialystok revolt, Isaac Zuckerman, a leader in the Warsaw uprising and others. And after the liberation, large numbers whom various hazards had saved from the gas chambers arrived in Palestine, with camp numerals branded on their forearms and stories of horror on their lips, survivors from whom the Yishuv learned the glory of resistance and the shame of submission. And the Yishuv learned also that, notwithstanding instances of help extended by Christian neighbors, especially in western Europe, the Jews were alone, utterly alone, and that many of their neighbors - Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Ukrainians - even welcomed the murderers and made common cause with them. Finally the Yishuv saw the criminals aided and abetted by the indifference and futile gestures of the democracies, and above all by the British, who shut the doors of Palestine against thousands upon thousands who could have been saved from death.
1. What did the members of the Yishuv learn from the Holocaust?
2. What does Mordecai Anielewicz represent to you?
A number of Palestinian Jews parachuted into Hitler's Europe to help rescue Jews and to organize resistance. Many died in this effort. This is the story of one of these brave souls, Hanna Szenes.
Hannah Szenes: The Resurrection of Israel, by Anny Latour
Hanna Szenes was a Hungarian who left her country in 1939 at the age of seventeen. She entered a kibbutz in Palestine as a worker. At her own request, she enlisted as a parachutist in January 1944 to come to the assistance of Hungarian partisans. She was parachuted into Yugoslavia and reached Hungary in May, her mission to help in the escape of Allied military personnel imprisoned by the enemy. She was arrested by the Nazis, along with some others, and was condemned to death some months later.
Here is how she expressed herself to the Hungarian court:
"I deny the accusation of treason to Hungary, the land of my birth. I have come here to serve my Fatherland, Eretz Israel, my only Fatherland. It is true, I was born here in Budapest. It was here I began life, here I learned to love what is beautiful in life, to do good and to have regard for my neighbor '... I dreamed of a world more just, which would give Hungarians relief from their misery. In return, I thought, we could give the world some of the richness our suffering had brought us, the capacity for understanding, the desire to help the helpless.... I wakened from my dream, which had also been the dream of my people; I realized I had no Fatherland. It was people like you who stifled my patriotism with your hatred. I left; I went elsewhere to build a Fatherland of my own. A Jewish Fatherland, a real homeland....
Because you have united with our mortal enemies, you have become my enemies. But you have not been content with waging war. You have, at last, lifted a hand against my people and this is when I decided to come. I came to save my brothers - and with them, to save you too."
Hanna Szenes refused to sign an appeal for mercy and was shot in the courtyard of the prison in Budapest on November 7, 1944.
On the March, we will visit her grave in the Military Cemetery on Mount Herzl on Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day).
1. Why would someone who had left eastern Europe risk parachuting back into that dangerous area?
2. Is there anything important enough to you that would make you take such a risk?