Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ships of Jews Headed For Palestine

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                      

One thing we never hear about is what it was like for Jews who lived through Aushwitz to be freed from there at the end of World War II in 1945.  After all, Israel wasn't created until May 14, 1948-the day the British Mandate was finished.

Jew were taken to DP camps and then finally were sent to places to live.  The Jews were now in linbo without a country, flag, votes and their family roots had all been uprooted and killed.

Jon Cleary, an Australian Catholic, wrote about such experiences in his 1975 published novel, The Safe House.  He shows the what the Jews had to put up with there and their desperate attempts to get to Palestine.
Exodus 1947
I was again very disappointed with Great Britain as he wrote about how the English patrolled ships coming from Italy where Jews had to escape out of the DP camps to get to and then to board rickety ships that were making a run for it for Palestine.  It had been their job to help Jews create a Jewish Homeland, and instead they did their darndest to keep Jews out to prevent them from their creation of Israel once again. There was no heart or understanding in what the British did to the Jews after the war when they needed to get to Palestine.
During the selection at Aushwitz-who will live-who will die
His main character is an opera singer who had survived Aushwitz but had seen her mother not make the cut and was sent immediately to the showers full of gas.  Fraulein Luise Graz is a beautiful Viennese Jewish lady who becomes a leader of her compatriots in leaving the camp and head to Italy.  There was an underground group making the arrangements.  At the same time, the Americans were in the same vicinity looking for Eichmann.
Jon Cleary (1917-2010) Cleary enlisted in the Australian army on 27 May 1940 and served in the Middle East before being transferred to the Military History Unit.
I could tell right away that the author was not an American because of some of the vocabulary.  Also, I could tell he was not Jewish since he had the characters think in typical stereotyping that many Gentiles might think they would think, and it was not flattering.  I stuck with the book just to see the background of what was happening to these Jews who wanted so desperately to get to Palestine and were having such a hard time of it when they were so close.  The main male character was an American major who was in love with Luise and helped her and the others mainly because of the attraction he felt for her, and because he was just a good guy.

The fact is that "Two years after the end of World War II in Europe, some 850,000 people lived in DP camps across Europe. 

 Among them ArmeniansPolesLatviansLithuaniansEstoniansYugoslavsJews,GreeksRussiansUkrainians and Czechoslovaks. all were thrown together."    The majority were inmates of Nazi concentration campsLabor camps and prisoner-of-war camps that were freed by the Allied armies.   In portions of Eastern Europe, both civilians and military personnel fled their home countries in fear of advancing Soviet armies, who were preceded by widespread reports of mass rape, pillaging, looting, and murder.

"Displaced persons began to appear in substantial numbers in the spring of 1945. Allied forces took them into their care by improvising shelter wherever it could be found. Accommodations primarily included former military barracks, but also included summer camps for children, airports, hotels, castles, hospitals, private homes, and even partly destroyed structures. Although there were continuous efforts to sort and consolidate populations, there were hundreds of DP facilities in Germany, Austria, Italy, and other European countries by the end of 1945. One camp was even set up in Guanajuato in Mexico."

The idea that many DPs, may not want to return to their country of origin was not initially taken into account. Yet, two million DPs, including 50.000 Jews, refused to return to their homeland. This group began to grow from September 1945 as the first groups of Jews fleeing from anti-Semitic violence in Poland began illegally entering the American Zone of Germany. Later they were joined by Jewish refugees from Hungary Czechoslovakia and Romania.In consequence, by the end of 1946, two-thirds of Jewish DPs in Germany and Austria were people who were not directly involved in the Shoah, but survived Holocaust in hiding or in the USSR and later decided to flee Eastern Europe. By mid-1947, the Jewish DP population reached about 250,000 people housed in hundreds of DP centres- about 185000 of them in Germany, 45,000 in  Austria and 20,000 in Italy.
Brichah is thought to be the largest clandestine movement of people in the history, transferring an estimate of up to 150,000 people from Eastern Europe to Palestine. In order to get to the sea ports, the refugees were forced to journey for miles, most often on foot, over snow covered mountains, often carrying babies and children. The ships on which survivors were fleeing Europe, often overcrowded old cargo and cruise ships, where in ninety percent of cases  intercepted by the British Navy and the survivors sent back to Germany or to the detention camp in Cyprus. The best known of such cases was the Exodus 1947 affair. The ship carrying 4500 passengers was stopped on its way to Palestine by the English and during subsequent fight, three people were killed and many injured. Despite the protests of international public opinion all passengers were sent back to DP camps in Germany.  This is the group, Brichah, that Jon Cleary had in his book who were trying to help the Jews get to ships.  
Resource: The Safe House by Jon Cleary, Novel, 316 pages, printed 1975

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