SS Exodus

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Exodus 1947 after British takeover.jpg
Exodus 1947 after British takeover. Banner says: "Haganah Ship Exodus 1947".
Flag of the United States.svg United States
Name: SS Exodus
Owner: Baltimore Steam Packet Company
Route: Norfolk to Baltimore
Builder: Pusey and Jones
Completed: 1927
In service: 1928
Out of service: 1947
Fate: Sunk as a breakwater
General characteristics as USS President Warfield
Tonnage: 1,814 t
Length: 320 ft (98 m)
Beam: 56 ft 6 in (17.22 m)
Draught: 18 ft 6 in (5.64 m)
Speed: 15  kn (28 km/h)
Troops: 400
Complement: 70

Exodus 1947 was a ship that carried 4,500 Jewish immigrants from France to British Mandatory Palestine on July 11, 1947. Most were Holocaust survivors who had no legal immigration certificates for Palestine. The ship was boarded by the British in international waters, killing three of those on board and injuring some ten. The ship was taken to Haifa where ships were waiting to return the Jews to refugee camps in Europe. [1]

Aliyah immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel

Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel. Also defined as "the act of going up"—that is, towards Jerusalem—"making Aliyah" by moving to the Land of Israel is one of the most basic tenets of Zionism. The opposite action, emigration from the Land of Israel, is referred to in Hebrew as yerida ("descent"). The State of Israel's Law of Return gives Jews and their descendants automatic rights regarding residency and Israeli citizenship.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.0 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Mandatory Palestine A former geopolitical entity in Palestine occupied from the Ottoman Empire in WW1.

Mandatory Palestine was a geopolitical entity established between 1920 and 1923 in the Middle East roughly corresponding to the region of Palestine, as part of the Partition of the Ottoman Empire under the terms of the "Mandate for Palestine".


The ship was formerly the packet steamer SS President Warfield for the Baltimore Steam Packet Company. From the ship's launch in 1928 until 1942, it carried passengers and freight between Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland in the United States. During World War II, it served both the UK and the United States Navy; for the latter as USS President Warfield (IX-169).

Steamship Type of steam powered vessel

A steamship, often referred to as a steamer, is a type of steam-powered vessel, typically ocean-faring and seaworthy, that is propelled by one or more steam engines that typically move (turn) propellers or paddlewheels. The first steamships came into practical usage during the early 1800s; however, there were exceptions that came before. Steamships usually use the prefix designations of "PS" for paddle steamer or "SS" for screw steamer. As paddle steamers became less common, "SS" is assumed by many to stand for "steam ship". Ships powered by internal combustion engines use a prefix such as "MV" for motor vessel, so it is not correct to use "SS" for most modern vessels.

Baltimore Steam Packet Company company

The Baltimore Steam Packet Company, nicknamed the Old Bay Line, was an American steamship line from 1840 to 1962 that provided overnight steamboat service on the Chesapeake Bay, primarily between Baltimore, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia. Called a "packet" for the mail packets carried on government mail contracts, the term in the 19th century came to mean a steamer line operating on a regular, fixed daily schedule between two or more cities. When it closed in 1962 after 122 years of existence, it was the last surviving overnight steamship passenger service in the United States.

Norfolk, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 242,803; in 2017, the population was estimated to be 244,703 making it the second-most populous city in Virginia after neighboring Virginia Beach and the 91st largest city in the nation.


After World War II, some 250,000 European Jews were living in Displaced Persons camps within Germany and Austria, often under harsh conditions. Zionist organizations then began organizing an underground network known as the Brichah ("flight," in Hebrew), which moved thousands of Jews from the camps to ports on the Mediterranean Sea, so they could then be sent to Palestine by ship. This was part of what was known as Aliyah Bet or the "second immigration," which were a series of attempts by European Jews to immigrate illegally to Palestine before and after World War II. [2] Originally the European Jews arranged transport to Palestine themselves. Later, they requested and received financial and other support from sympathizers elsewhere in the world. The boats were largely staffed by volunteers from the United States, Canada and Latin America. [3] Over 100,000 people tried to illegally immigrate to Palestine, as part of Aliyah Bet. [4]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Displaced persons camps in post-World War II Europe Temporary refugee camps in Europe

Displaced persons camps in post-World War II Europe were established in Germany, Austria, and Italy, primarily for refugees from Eastern Europe and for the former inmates of the Nazi German concentration camps. A "displaced persons camp" is a temporary facility for displaced persons, whether refugees or internally displaced persons. Two years after the end of World War II in Europe, some 850,000 people lived in displaced persons camps across Europe, among them Armenians, Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Yugoslavs, Jews, Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians and Czechoslovaks.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

The British, who were then responsible for administering Palestine, vehemently opposed this kind of large-scale immigration. Displaced person camps run by American, French and Italian officials often turned a blind eye to the situation, with only British officials restricting movement in and out of their camps. In 1945, the British reaffirmed the pre-war policy restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine which had been put in place following the influx of a quarter of a million Jews fleeing the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and had been a major cause of the Arab revolt of 1936–1939. The British then prepared a massive naval and military force to turn back the refugees. Over half of 142 voyages were stopped by British patrols, and most intercepted immigrants were sent to internment camps in Cyprus, the Atlit detention camp in Palestine, and to Mauritius. About 50,000 people ended up in camps, more than 1,600 drowned at sea, and only a few thousand actually entered Palestine.

1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine Nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs in Mandatory Palestine

The 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, later came to be known as "The Great Revolt", was a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs in Mandatory Palestine against the British administration of the Palestine Mandate, demanding Arab independence and the end of the policy of open-ended Jewish immigration and land purchases with the stated goal of establishing a "Jewish National Home". The dissent was directly influenced by the Qassamite rebellion, following the killing of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam in 1935, as well as the declaration by Hajj Amin al-Husseini of 16 May 1936 as 'Palestine Day' and calling for a General Strike. The revolt was branded by many in the Jewish Yishuv as "immoral and terroristic", often comparing it to fascism and nazism. Ben Gurion however described Arab causes as fear of growing Jewish economic power, opposition to mass Jewish immigration and fear of the English identification with Zionism.

Cyprus internment camps

Cyprus internment camps were camps run by the British government for internment of Jews who had immigrated or attempted to immigrate to Mandatory Palestine in violation of British policy. There were a total of 12 camps, which operated from August 1946 to January 1949, and in total held 53,510 people.

Atlit detainee camp

The Atlit detainee camp was a detention camp established by the authorities of the British Mandate for Palestine at the end of the 1930s on the Israeli coastal plain, 20 kilometers (12 mi) south of Haifa. The camp was established to prevent Jewish refugees from entering Mandatory Palestine. Tens of thousands of Jewish refugees were interned at the camp, which was surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers.

Of the 64 vessels that sailed in the Aliya Bet, Exodus 1947 was the largest, carrying 4,515 passengers [5] – the largest-ever number of illegal immigrants to Palestine. Its name and story received a lot of international attention, thanks in no small part to dispatches from American journalist Ruth Gruber. The incident took place near the end of Aliyah Bet and towards the end of the British mandate, after which Britain withdrew its forces and the state of Israel was established. Historians say Exodus 1947 helped unify the Jewish community of Palestine and the Holocaust-survivor refugees in Europe as well as significantly deepening international sympathy for the plight of Holocaust survivors and rallying support for the idea of a Jewish state. [6] [7] One called the story of the Exodus 1947 a "spectacular publicity coup for the Zionists." [8]

Ruth Gruber American journalist

Ruth Gruber was an American journalist, photographer, writer, humanitarian, and a United States government official. She was a recipient of the Norman Mailer Prize.

Early history

The 98 m (320-ft) ship was built in 1927 by Pusey and Jones Corp., Wilmington, Delaware, for the Baltimore Steam Packet Company. Initially named President Warfield, for Baltimore Steam Packet Company president S. Davies Warfield (the uncle of the Duchess of Windsor), it carried passengers and freight on the Chesapeake Bay between Baltimore, Maryland and Norfolk, Virginia from 1928 until July 12, 1942, when the ship was acquired by the War Shipping Administration (WSA) and converted to a transport craft for the British Ministry of War Transport. [9] [10] [11]

The Pusey and Jones Corporation was a major shipbuilder and industrial-equipment manufacturer from 1848 to 1959.

Wilmington, Delaware Largest city in Delaware

Wilmington is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Delaware. The city was built on the site of Fort Christina, the first Swedish settlement in North America. It is at the confluence of the Christina River and Brandywine River, near where the Christina flows into the Delaware River. It is the county seat of New Castle County and one of the major cities in the Delaware Valley metropolitan area. Wilmington was named by Proprietor Thomas Penn after his friend Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, who was prime minister in the reign of George II of Great Britain.

S. Davies Warfield American businessman

Solomon Davies Warfield was an American railroad executive and banker. He is primarily remembered for extending the Seaboard Air Line Railway into South Florida in the 1920s and for connecting the east and west coasts of Florida by rail. To this day, Amtrak trains travel from Central Florida to South Florida on the route built by Warfield.

Manned by a British merchant crew led by Capt. J. R. Williams, it departed St. John’s, Newfoundland on September 21, 1942, along with other small passenger steamers bound for the United Kingdom. Attacked by a German submarine 800 nautical miles (1,500 km) west of Ireland on September 25, the ship evaded one torpedo and reached Belfast, Northern Ireland after the scattering of its convoy. In Britain, it served as a barracks and training ship on the River Torridge at Instow. [10]

President Warfield en route to Europe in 1947, where she would be renamed Exodus 1947 President Warfield 1947.png
President Warfield en route to Europe in 1947, where she would be renamed Exodus 1947

Returned by Britain, it joined the U.S. Navy as President Warfield on May 21, 1944. In July it served as a station and accommodations ship at Omaha Beach at Normandy. Following duty in England and on the Seine River, it arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, July 25, 1945, and left active Navy service September 13. President Warfield was struck from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register on October 11 and returned to the War Shipping Administration on November 14. [10]

Voyage preparations

On November 9, 1946, using the Potomac Shipwrecking Co. of Washington, D.C. as its agent, the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah bought President Warfield from the WSA [10] and transferred control of it to Hamossad Le'aliyah Bet, the branch of the Haganah that organized Aliyah Bet activities.

The British had recently announced that they would begin deporting illegal immigrants to Cyprus rather than Atlit, whereupon Aliyah Bet organizers decided immigrants should begin resisting capture. The President Warfield was well-suited for that, because it was fast, sturdy enough to not easily overturn, made of steel which would help it withstand ramming, and was taller than the British destroyers which would be trying to board it. [12]

The ship was also chosen because of its derelict condition. It was risky to put passengers on it and it was felt this would compel the British to let it pass blockade because of this danger or put the British in a bad light internationally.

All "illegal immigration" ships were renamed with Hebrew names designed to inspire and rally the Jews of Palestine and Hamossad Le'aliyah Bet renamed President Warfield to Exodus 1947 (and, in Hebrew, Yetz'iat (sic) Tasbaz, or Yetzi'at Eiropa Tashaz, "Flight from Europe 5707") after the biblical Jewish exodus from Egypt to Canaan. The name was proposed by Israeli politician and military figure Moshe Sneh, who at the time headed illegal immigration for the Jewish Agency, and was later described by Israel's second Prime Minister Moshe Sharett (then Shertok) as "a stroke of genius, a name which by itself, says more than anything which has ever been written about it." [13]

For months, teams of Palestinians and Americans worked on the Exodus 1947 with the goal of making it harder for the British to take over the ship. Metal pipes, designed to spray out steam and boiling oil, were installed around the ship's perimeter. Lower decks were covered in nets and barbed wire. The machine room, steam room, wheel house and radio room were covered in wire and reinforced to prevent entry by British soldiers. [14]

The President Warfield left Baltimore February 25, 1947, and headed for the Mediterranean. [10]

Voyage to Palestine

According to Israeli historian Aviva Halamish, the Exodus 1947 was never meant to "sneak out toward the shores of Palestine," but rather "to burst openly through the blockade, by dodging and swiftly nipping through, beaching herself on a sand bank and letting off her cargo of immigrants at the beach." The ship was too large and unusual to go unnoticed.

Indeed, even as people began boarding the ship at the port of Sète near Montpellier, a British RAF plane was circling overhead and a British Royal Navy warship was waiting a short distance out at sea. [12]

The Exodus 1947 left Sète sometime between two and four in the morning of July 11, 1947 [15] flying a Honduran flag and claiming to be headed for Istanbul. [16] It was carrying 4,515 passengers including 1,600 men, 1,282 women, and 1,672 children and teenagers. [17] Palmach (Haganah's military wing) skipper Ike Aronowicz was its captain [18] and Haganah commissioner Yossi Harel was commander. [19] The ship was manned by a crew of some 35 volunteers, mostly American Jews. [20]

As she left the port, the Exodus was shadowed by the sloop HMS Mermaid and by RAF aircraft. Later, the Mermaid was relieved by the destroyer HMS Cheviot. [15]

On the first evening of its voyage, the Exodus reported that a destroyer had tried to communicate with it but that it had not replied. Through its journey, the ship was followed by between one and five British destroyers as well as an airplane and a cruiser. [21]

During the journey, the people on the Exodus prepared to be intercepted. The ship was divided into sections staffed by different groups and each went through practice resistance sessions. [22]

The ship was loaded with enough supplies to last two weeks. Passengers were given cooked meals, hot drinks, soup, and one liter of drinking water daily. They did their washing in salt water. The ship had only 13 lavatories. A British military doctor, inspecting the ship after the battle, said that it was badly over-crowded, but that hygiene was satisfactory and the ship appeared well prepared to cope with casualties. Several babies were born during the week-long journey. One woman, Paula Abramowitz, died in childbirth. Her infant son died a few weeks later, in Haifa. [23]

The British finally boarded the ship on 18 July, some 20 nautical mile s (40 km) from the Palestinian shore. Boarding it was difficult, and was challenged by the passengers and Haganah members on board. [24] One crew member, the second officer, an American Mahal volunteer, Bill Bernstein, [25] died after being clubbed to death in the wheelhouse. Two passengers died of gunshot wounds. Two British sailors were treated afterwards for fractured scapula, and one for a head injury and lacerated ear. About ten Exodus passengers and crew were treated for mild injuries resulting from the boarding, and about 200 were treated for illnesses and maladies unrelated to it. [26]

Due to the high profile of the Exodus 1947 emigration ship it was decided by the British government that the emigrants were to be deported back to France. Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin suggested this and the request was relayed to General Sir Alan Cunningham, High Commissioner for Palestine, [27] who agreed with the plan after consulting the Navy. [28] Before then, intercepted would-be immigrants were placed in internment camps on Cyprus, which was at the time a British colony. This new policy was meant to be a signal to both the Jewish community and the European countries which assisted immigration that whatever they sent to Palestine would be sent back to them.

Not only should it clearly establish the principle of refoulement as applies to a complete shipload of immigrants, but it will be most discouraging to the organisers of this traffic if the immigrants ... end up by returning whence they came. [27]

The Exodus, formerly President Warfield, arriving at Haifa (British Admiralty photo) Exodus 1947 ship.jpg
The Exodus, formerly President Warfield, arriving at Haifa (British Admiralty photo)

Return to France

The British sailed the commandeered ship into Haifa port, where its passengers were transferred to three more seaworthy deportation ships, Runnymede Park, Ocean Vigour and Empire Rival. The event was witnessed by members of UNSCOP. These ships left Haifa harbour on July 19 for Port-de-Bouc near Marseilles. Foreign Secretary Bevin insisted that the French get their ship back as well as its passengers. [27]

When the ships arrived at Port-de-Bouc on August 2, the French Government said it would allow disembarkation of the passengers only if it was voluntary on their part. Haganah agents, both on board the ships and using launches with loudspeakers, encouraged the passengers not to disembark. [24] Thus the emigrants refused to disembark and the French refused to cooperate with British attempts at forced disembarkation. This left the British with the best option of returning the passengers to Germany. Realizing that they were not bound for Cyprus, the emigrants conducted a 24-hour hunger strike and refused to cooperate with the British authorities. During this time, Jewish representatives encouraged the passengers to resist the British and accuse them of perceived insults.[ citation needed ]

But the British government had no intention of backing down or relaxing its policy. Media coverage of the contest of wills put pressure on the British to find a solution. The matter also came to the attention of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) members who had been deliberating in Geneva. After three weeks, during which time the prisoners on the ships held steady in difficult conditions, rejecting offers of alternative destinations, the ships were sailed to Hamburg in Germany, which was then in the British occupation zone.

Operation Oasis

Documents released from the British archives show that after much soul-searching the British concluded that the only place they could send the Jews was to the British-controlled zone of post-war Germany, where they would be held in camps and screened for extremists; they realized that returning the Exodus 1947 passengers to camps in Germany would elicit a public outcry, but concluded that Germany was the only territory under their control that could immediately accommodate so many people. [29]

Britain's position was summed up by John Coulson, a diplomat at the British Embassy in Paris, in a message to the Foreign Office in London in August 1947: "You will realize that an announcement of decision to send immigrants back to Germany will produce violent hostile outburst in the press. ... Our opponents in France, and I dare say in other countries, have made great play with the fact that these immigrants were being kept behind barbed wire, in concentration camps and guarded by Germans." [30] Coulson advised that Britain apply as best they could a counter-spin to the story: "If we decide it is convenient not to keep them in camps any longer, I suggest that we should make some play that we are releasing them from all restraint of this kind in accordance with their wishes and that they were only put in such accommodation for the preliminary necessities of screening and maintenance." [31] The mission of bringing the Jewish refugees of the Exodus 1947 back to Germany was known in diplomatic and military circles as "Operation Oasis." [29]


On August 22 a Foreign Office cable warned diplomats that they should be ready to emphatically deny that the Jews were to be housed in former concentration camps after they were offloaded in Germany and that German guards will not be used to keep the Jews in the refugee camps. It further added that British guards would be withdrawn once the Jews have been screened.

The Exodus 1947 passengers were successfully taken off the vessels in Germany. Relations between the British personnel on the ships and the passengers were afterwards said by the passengers to have been mostly amicable. [32] Everyone realized there was going to be trouble at the forced disembarkation beforehand and some of the Jewish passengers even apologized in advance for this. A number were injured in confrontations with British troops that involved the use of batons and fire hoses. The would-be immigrants were sent back to DP camps in Am Stau near Lübeck and Pöppendorf. Although most of the women and children disembarked voluntarily, the men had to be carried off by force.

By the time they had docked at Hamburg, many of the refugees were in a defiant mood. When they first set out on their historic quest, they had believed they were days away from arriving at a Jewish homeland. The prospect of being sent to camps in Germany represented a pitiful failure of their original mission and for many of the Holocaust survivors, it was almost impossible to bear. The British had identified one of the ships, the Runnymede Park, as the vessel most likely to cause them trouble. A confidential report of the time noted:

It was known that the Jews on the Runnymede Park were under the leadership of a young, capable and energetic fanatic, Morenci Miry Rosman, and throughout the operation it had been realised that this ship might give trouble.

One hundred military police and 200 soldiers of the Sherwood Foresters were ordered to board the ship and eject the Jewish immigrants.

The officer in charge of the operation, Lt. Col Gregson, later gave a very frank assessment of the success of the storming of the ship, which, according to a secret minute, left up to 33 Jews, including four women, injured in the fighting. Sixty-eight Jews were held in custody to be put on trial for unruly behaviour. Only three soldiers were hurt. Gregson later admitted that he had considered using tear gas against the immigrants. He concluded:

The Jew is liable to panic and 800-900 Jews fighting to get up a stairway to escape tear smoke could have produced a deplorable business. ... It is a very frightening thing to go into the hold full of yelling maniacs when outnumbered six or eight to one.

Describing the assault, the officer wrote to his superiors:

After a very short pause, with a lot of yelling and female screams, every available weapon up to a biscuit and bulks of timber was hurled at the soldiers. They withstood it admirably and very stoically till the Jews assaulted and in the first rush several soldiers were downed with half a dozen Jews on top kicking and tearing ... No other troops could have done it as well and as humanely as these British ones did.

He concluded:

It should be borne in mind that the guiding factor in most of the actions of the Jews is to gain the sympathy of the world press.

One of the official observers who witnessed the violence was Dr Noah Barou, secretary of the British section of the World Jewish Congress, who had 35 years experience of reporting. He gave the Jewish side of the fighting. He described young soldiers beating Holocaust survivors as a "terrible mental picture".

They went into the operation as a football match ... and it seemed evident that they had not had it explained to them that they were dealing with people who had suffered a lot and who are resisting in accordance with their convictions. ... People were usually hit in the stomach and this in my opinion explains that many people who did not show any signs of injury were staggering and moving very slowly along the staircase giving the impression that they were half-starved and beaten up.

When the people walked off the ship, many of them, especially younger people, were shouting to the troops 'Hitler commandos', 'gentleman fascists', 'sadists'.

Dr Barou was "especially impressed" by one young girl who "came to the top of the stairs and shouted to the soldiers, 'I am from Dachau.' And when they did not react she shouted 'Hitler commandos'."

While the British could find no evidence of excessive force, they conceded that in one case a Jew "was dragged down the gangway by the feet with his head bumping on the wooden slats".

Security fears seemed justified after the Jews were removed when a homemade bomb with a timed fuse was found on the Empire Rival. [33] It was apparently rigged to detonate after the Jews had been removed."Bomb Found On Jewish Ship "Battle" Leaders Sent To Jail". Glasgow Herald. September 10, 1947. p. 5.

Camp conditions

The treatment of the refugees at the camps caused an international outcry after it was claimed that the conditions could be likened to German concentration camps.[ citation needed ]

Dr Barou was once again on hand to witness events. He reported that conditions at Camp Poppendorf were poor and claimed that it was being run by a German camp commandant. That was denied by the British.

It turned out that Barou's reports had been untrue. There was no German commandant or guards but there were German staff carrying out duties inside the camp, in accordance with the standard British military practice of using locally employed civilians for non-security related duties.

But the Jewish allegations of cruel and insensitive treatment would not go away and on 6 October 1947 the Foreign Office sent a telegram to the British commanders in the region demanding to know whether the camps really were surrounded with barbed wire and guarded by German staff.

Final destination

A telegram written by Jewish leaders of the camps on 20 October 1947 makes clear the wishes and determination of the refugees to find a home in Palestine:

Nothing will deter us from Palestine. Which jail we go to is up to you [the British]. We did not ask you to reduce our rations; we did not ask you to put us in Poppendorf and Am Stau.

The would-be immigrants to Palestine were housed in Nissen huts and tents at Poppendorf and Am Stau but inclement weather made the tents unsuitable. The DPs were then moved in November 1947 to Sengwarden near Wilhelmshaven and Emden. For many of the illegal immigrants this was only a transit point as the Brichah managed to smuggle most of them into the U.S. zone, from where they again attempted to enter Palestine. Most had successfully reached Palestine by the time of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Of the 4,500 would-be immigrants to Palestine there were only 1,800 remaining in the two Exodus camps by April 1948.

Within a year, over half of the original Exodus 1947 passengers had made other attempts at emigrating to Palestine, which ended in detention in Cyprus. Britain continued to hold the detainees of the Cyprus internment camps until it formally recognized the State of Israel in January 1949, when they were transferred to Israel.

Jewish retaliation

On September 29, 1947, the militant Zionist groups Irgun and Lehi blew up Central Police HQ in Haifa in retaliation for British deportations of Jews who arrived illegally on the Exodus 1947. [34] [35] [36] 10 people were killed and 54 injured, of which 33 were British. [34] Four British policemen, four Arab policemen, an Arab woman and a 16-year-old were killed. [34] The 10-story building was so heavily damaged that it was later demolished. [34] The bomb type was a barrel bomb, described by police as a "brand new method" and the first use of a barrel bomb by Jewish forces. [37] Irgun would make many more barrel bomb attacks during 1947/48.

Historical importance

The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine also covered the events. Some of its members were even present at Haifa port when the emigrants were removed from their ship onto the deportation ships and later commented that this strong image helped them press for an immediate solution for Jewish immigration and the question of Palestine.

The ship's ordeals were widely covered by international media, and caused the British government much public embarrassment, especially after the refugees were forced to disembark in Germany.

The resting place of the Exodus

Commemorative plaque at Exodus 1947 launch site in Sete, France Sete memorial Exodus 47.JPG
Commemorative plaque at Exodus 1947 launch site in Sète, France

After the historic voyage in 1947, the damaged former President Warfield aka Exodus, like many other Aliyah Bet ships, was moored to a breakwater in Haifa port as a derelict and forgotten. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 brought massive immigration of European Jewish refugees from displaced persons camps to Israel. Almost simultaneously, Arab countries expelled 600,000 Jews, who arrived in the new state. There was little time or money to focus on the meaning of the Exodus. Abba Koushi, the Mayor of Haifa, proposed in 1950 that the "Ship that Launched a Nation" should be restored and converted into a floating museum of the Aliyah Bet — the story of the clandestine or the illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine. During the process of restoring the ship that had been left decaying in the port, an unexplained accident occurred and the Exodus burned to the waterline August 26, 1952. [38] Her hulk was towed and scuttled north of the Kishon River near Shemen Beach. In 1964 a salvage effort was made to raise her steel hull for scrap. The effort failed and she sank again. In 1974 another effort was made to raise her wreck for salvage. She was refloated and was being towed toward the Kishon River when she sank again. Parts of the Exodus' hull remained visible as a home for fish and destination for fishermen until the mid-2000s. The Port of Haifa may have built its modern container ship quay extensions on top of the wreck. The quay where the wreck may be buried is a security zone and is not accessible today. [39] An unsuccessful dive effort was made to locate the remains of the Exodus in October, 2016. [40]

Exodus Memorial, International Cruise Ship Terminal, Haifa, Israel Exodus Memorial, Haifa, Israel.jpg
Exodus Memorial, International Cruise Ship Terminal, Haifa, Israel

In historic recognition of the Exodus, the first Israeli memorial to the Exodus [41] was conceived, funded and dedicated in a major ceremony July 18, 2017 [42] by the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation. The dedication was attended by over 700 guests, the U.S. and British Ambassadors, Minister Yoav Galant of the Government of Israel, Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Mayors, Members of the Knesset, survivors of the Exodus and Holocaust, Israeli soldiers and naval personnel, Christians, Jews and international representatives. The memorial is located outside the International Cruise Ship Terminal in the Haifa Port. Historic interpretive signage is placed adjacent to the memorial in Hebrew, English and Arabic. An estimated 500,000 - 1,000,000 people a year will see the memorial.

A special exhibition and informational booklet was provided by The Israel Forever Foundation to advance awareness and understanding of the significance of the plight of the Exodus for those in attendance, as well as others around the world.

Cultural impact

See also

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The Jewish Infantry Brigade Group, more commonly known as the Jewish Brigade Group or Jewish Brigade, was a military formation of the British Army in World War II. It was formed in late 1944 and was recruited among Yishuv Jews from Mandatory Palestine and commanded by Anglo-Jewish officers. It served in the latter stages of the Italian Campaign, and was disbanded in 1946.

Aliyah Bet Illegal immigration by Jews to Mandatory Palestine in the Thirties and the Forties

Aliyah Bet was the code name given to illegal immigration by Jews, most of whom were Holocaust survivors and refugees from Nazi Germany, to Mandatory Palestine between 1934–48, in violation of the restrictions laid out in the British White Paper of 1939.

Bricha Underground organized effort that helped Jewish Holocaust survivors illegally escape post–World War II Europe to the British Mandate for Palestine

Bricha, also called the Bericha Movement, was the underground organized effort that helped Jewish Holocaust survivors escape post–World War II Europe to the British Mandate for Palestine in violation of the White Paper of 1939. It ended when Israel declared independence and annulled the White Paper.

<i>Patria</i> disaster

The Patria disaster was the sinking on 25 November 1940 by the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah of a French-built ocean liner, the 11,885-ton SS Patria, in the port of Haifa, killing 267 people and injuring 172.

Mossad LeAliyah Bet branch of the Haganah

The Mossad LeAliyah Bet was a branch of the Haganah in the British Mandate of Palestine, and later the State of Israel that operated to facilitate Jewish immigration to British Palestine. During the Mandate period, it was facilitating illegal immigration in violation of governmental British restrictions. It operated from 1938 until four years after the founding of the State of Israel in 1952. It was funded directly by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and was not subject to the control of the Jewish Agency who operated their own Aliyah department headed by Yitzhak Rafael.

Murray S. Greenfield is an American-born Israeli writer and publisher.

Palyam former miltary organisation

Palyam was the sea force of the Palmach.

Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine

The Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine was a paramilitary campaign carried out by Zionist underground groups against British rule in Mandatory Palestine. The tensions between the Zionist underground and the British mandatory authorities rose from 1938 and intensified with the publication of the White Paper of 1939. The Paper outlined new government policies to place further restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchases, and declared the intention of giving independence to Palestine, with an Arab majority, within ten years. Though World War II brought relative calm, the tensions again escalated into an armed struggle towards the end of the war, when it became clear that the Axis powers were close to defeat.

Samuel Brand was a German Jew who became officially the first immigrant to enter the State of Israel after its creation on 14 May 1948. He was also a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Brand carried with him the first visa ever issued by the Government of Israel.

John Stanley Grauel American minister, American Christian Zionist leader. He was a crew member of the famed refugee ship the SS Exodus-1947 and a secret "Haganah" operative.

John Stanley Grauel was a Methodist minister and American Christian Zionist leader. He was a crew member of the famed refugee ship the SS Exodus-1947 and a secret "Haganah" operative. Grauel is credited with being the key individual who persuaded the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine to recommend for the Partition Resolution of November 1947, creating the State of Israel. In a speech to the Jewish Agency, Golda Meir, referred to his testimony as the first appeal by a “priest, a perfectly worthy gentile, a priori, no Jewish witness was to be believed.”

Ike Aronowicz Israeli sailorת  captain of the immigrant ship [[SS Exodus]]

Yitzhak "Ike" Aronowicz was an Israeli sailor, best known as the captain of the immigrant ship SS Exodus, which unsuccessfully tried to dock in British-era Palestine with Holocaust survivors on July 11, 1947, after the end of World War II. His surname was later spelled as Ahronovitch.

Central Committee of Polish Jews

The Central Committee of Polish Jews also referred to as the Central Committee of Jews in Poland and abbreviated CKŻP, was a state-sponsored political representation of Jews in Poland at the end of World War II. It was established on November 12, 1944, as the successor of the Provisional Central Committee of Polish Jews formed a month earlier under the umbrella of the communist Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN). The CKŻP provided care and assistance to Jews who survived the Holocaust. It legally represented all CKŻP-registered Polish Jews in their dealings with the new government and its agencies. It existed until 1950 when, together with the Jewish Cultural Society, representatives of CKŻP founded the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland.

Immigrant camps (Israel)

The Immigrant camps in Israel were temporary refugee absorption camps, meant to provide accommodation for the large influx of Jewish refugees and new Olim arriving to Mandatory Palestine and later the independent State of Israel, since early 1947. The tent camps first accommodated Holocaust survivors from Europe, and later largely Jewish refugees from Middle East and North Africa. By early 1950, immigrant camps were converted into Transition Camps, where living conditions became better and tin dwellings replaced tents.

Ulrich Schnaft was a German Waffen-SS man and World War II veteran, who immigrated to Israel in 1949 by posing as a Jew, served in the Israeli Army, and was later convicted of spying for Egypt.


  1. Hebrews on the High Seas, Baltimore Jewish Times
  2. Hochstein, Murray S. Greenfield, Joseph M. (2010). The Jews' secret fleet: the untold story of North American volunteers who smashed the British blockade of Palestine (Rev. ed.). Jerusalem: Gefen Pub. House. pp. 128–130. ISBN   9652295175.
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  15. 1 2 Stewart, Ninian (2002). The Royal Navy and the Palestine Patrol. London: Frank Cass. p. 116. ISBN   0714682543.
  16. Halamish, Aviva (1998). The Exodus affair: Holocaust survivors and the struggle for Palestine (1. ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ. Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN   0815605161.
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  27. 1 2 3 "Secretary of State to High Commissioner for Palestine 14.7.47" in Alan Cunningham Collection, box 2 folder 1, Middle East Centre Archives, St. Antony's College, Oxford.
  28. "High Commissioner for Palestine to Secretary of State 15.7.47" in Alan Cunningham Collection, box 2 folder 1, Middle East Centre Archives, St. Antony's College, Oxford.
  29. 1 2 Katz, Gregory. "Documents Show UK Post-WWII Dilemma over Jewish Refugees." USA Associated Press, 4 May 2008.
  30. As cited in: Stern, Paula. "The Flotilla and the Exodus" [blog post]. Arutz Sheva, 6 June 2010.
  31. "As cited in: "Documents: British worried about Exodus flak." Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 8 May 2008.
  32. Wilson, R. Dare. Cordon and Secure: With the 6th Airborne Division in Palestine. The Battery Press, Nashville, 1984.
  33. "Bomb Found On Jewish Ship ."Battle" Leaders Sent To Jail". Glasgow Herald. September 10, 1947. p. 5.
  34. 1 2 3 4 "'Barrel Bomb' in Haifa Kills 10, Injures 54". Los Angeles Times . September 30, 1947.Missing or empty |url= (help). Database: ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (last accessed June 29, 2015)
  35. John Bowyer Bell (1976). Terror Out of Zion. Transaction Publishers. p. 245. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  36. Henry E. Mattox (2004). Chronology of World Terrorism, 1901-2001. McFarland. p. 54. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  37. "'Barrel Bomb' in Haifa Kills 10, Injures 54". Los Angeles Times . September 30, 1947.Missing or empty |url= (help). Database: ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (last accessed June 29, 2015). Police described it as "a brand new method".
  38. Brown, pp. 123124.
  39. Klinger, Jerry. "In Search of the Exodus". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  43. Exodus 1947 on IMDb

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Coordinates: 32°49′12″N35°00′16″E / 32.8201°N 35.0045°E / 32.8201; 35.0045