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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dramatic personal story is right!, February 25, 2006
Anyechka (Rensselaer, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Open the Gates!: Dramatic Personal Story of "Illegal" Immigration to Israel (Hardcover)
The subtitle, "A Dramatic Personal Story of 'Illegal' Immigration to Israel," totally describes the tone of this incredible book. Ehud Avriel, his girlfriend (later to become his wife), and his family were Zionists from way back, and were among the sadly small group of people with enough foresight to realise what was happening in Europe. They left Austria for Israel in the late Thirties, before it was too late. While he was still in Austria, Mr. Avriel was instrumental in helping many other people to leave occupied Europe for Israel, and after he himself was evacuated, he was shortly transferred to netural Turkey, where he spent much of the war involved in the same pursuit. Although there were some tragedies and bitter disappointments, he did help to get ships and travel visas for countless people to travel through Romania, Bulgaria, Jugoslavija, and Greece on their way to Turkey and ultimately Israel. He wished he could have been at his kibbutz near Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) with his new wife, particularly after his brief sojourn back in Israel when he became a father for the first time, but duty called him and he had no choice but to continue slaving overtime to save as many people as possible. Among the many fascinating people he worked with during the war included Yoel Brand, whose mission to save the Jews of Hungary before the Nazis devoured them was tragically unfulfilled (except for a relatively small number of people, among them his relatives, who were allowed to travel to safety). Brand himself was also treated practically like a war criminal for the mission he had gone on and the travel route he had taken. There was no way he or many of the people in this circle could win, thanks to both the British, who were controlling Israel, and the Nazis.

After the war, Mr. Avriel continued to work on getting people into Israel. The majority of Shoah survivors longed to go to Israel, the only nation on earth that wanted them, the only place where they felt they would belong, but the British continued to brandish their White Paper and to strictly curtail immigration, coupled with the indescribable actions of the infamous Ernest Bevin, Britain's Foreign Minister at the time. Although Avriel did manage to forge visas and to secure ships for many people, many more had their ships pirated by the British when they got within sighting distance of Haifa. These people, who had already been through so much, were once again sent to camps, even if the British-run camps on Cyprus didn't have gas chambers and Kremchies. They were physically abused and treated like evil people and horrible criminals for daring to want to go to their homeland. World opinion turned against the British, however, as stories about hunger strikes on these ships and how these refugees were being treated gained worldwide attention, and finally they rescinded the White Paper and let the UN vote on Israeli statehood. The book ends with a chapter about how Avriel managed to get a large shipment of arms and ammunition through the blockade, and with the declaration of Israeli Independence.
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Open the Gates!: Dramatic Personal Story of "Illegal" Immigration to Israel
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