Top positive review
39 people found this helpful
Heartbreaking. Highly Recommended.
on October 3, 2003
This very moving book covers the story of the "Exodus", the unarmed ship carrying more than 4,500 Holocaust survivors seeking refuge in "British occupied" Palestine during 1947.
The ship, a former tourist vessel designed to carry only 400 passengers, is described as having been rammed and boarded by the British Royal Navy which was determined to prevent the Jewish Holocaust survivors from finding refuge in Palestine. The entry of the "Exodus" into Haifa harbour is further described amidst a British military blockade. But the story in this book is not so much about the ship, but about the individuals on board, their history & personal suffering, together with what faced them following their arrival in "Palestine" and the process outlined with such clarity in this work, which saw them being used as "political pawns" by the British Government.
The book begins with a description of the "Displaced Persons" camps of Europe, where those fortunate to survive the "Concentration Camps" were housed. The book recounts how some 70,000 Holocaust survivors "found their way out" of the "Displaced Persons" camps and made the tortuous journey across land borders, forests, mountain ranges, the Alps until they eventually located "secret" ports in France and Southern Italy where they climbed aboard a motley fleet of virtually obsolete vessels, including cutters, leaky fishing boats, cargo vessels, icebreakers, banana carriers, yachts & steamers (one called Exodus 1947) upon which they embarked upon their desperate journey to reach their ancient homeland of Eretz Israel, the "Promised Land".
The journey on the "Exodus" itself is described as being endured under extremely insanitary and unbelievably cramped conditions, whilst always under the threat of being arrested as "illegal immigrants" during the British blockade.
The book is replete with many photographs documenting the above and the story reaches the night of 17th July 1947 when "Haganah boys" pasted handbills on the shop windows of Netanya, Haifa and Jerusalem depicting the plight of the "Exodus" and describing it's cargo of 4,554 refugees consisting of 1,600 men, 1,282 women, 1,017 young people and 655 children. The posters also advising readers that the ship had been spotted by the British Navy and that five destroyers and a cruiser were closing in on the vessel.
The book documents the subsequent broadcast from the "Exodus" itself, which related how the Royal Navy had attacked the vessel at a distance of "17 miles from the shores of Palestine" in "international waters". The "Exodus" described as having been rammed from three directions and subjected to gas bombs and gunfire which left one Jewish civilian dead, five dying and some twenty wounded. The boarding of the "Exodus" by British troops is also detailed. Photographs of the damage to the vessel and the wounded Jewish civilians are also included. The book then describes the plight of the Jewish refugees as they are then forcibly ejected from the "Exodus". The ensuing public reaction is also described.
As the story proceeds, the book cites the British authorities as describing the prison camps of Cyprus as being "too good" for the Jewish refugees and outlines how the British "decided to make an example of them" by returning the Holocaust survivors upon three ships to Port-de-Bouc in Southern France. A measure portrayed in the book as a deterrent to others who would "dare run the British blockade".
Amidst further British threats to then transfer the Holocaust survivors to Germany the book shows the reaction on board ship as a British flag is painted with a "swastika" below the Union Jack. The described plight of the refugees is heartbreaking as they are disembarked in Germany where the book recounts so many having been murdered by the Nazi regime. (Being British, having served in our military & studied the Holocaust for many years, I feel very uncomfortable at the described behaviour of my "compatriots".)
The book also details how, having been forcibly returned to Europe and incarcerated in these "camps" in Germany, many of these self same Jewish refugees/Holocaust survivors began repeating their individual, tortuous process of escaping. The book depicting how they once more embarked upon their journeys back to their ancestral homeland, with many having reached Israel when their nation was re-born on 15th May 1948. Many described as forming part of the fledgling Jewish forces which met the combined invasion from the surrounding Arab nations immediately after the Jewish nation's declaration of independence.
This is an extremely moving, often disturbing book, about an often overlooked period of history. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Jewish history and events surrounding the re-birth of the Jewish state of Israel. The excellent photographs themselves are worthy of a special mention. Thank you.