Another Broken Promise Made to Jews -- Part II
peace of mind for antisemites
-- Eliyahu m'Tsiyon
How many Jews could have been saved from Nazi murder by fleeing to Israel if the United Kingdom had fulfilled its duty under the Mandate that it had accepted from the League of Nations to make the Land of Israel ["palestine" in international lingo] the Jewish National Home where Jews could find refuge? I think that one or two million could have been saved by coming to Israel, which they would have done if the British had allowed it. Moreover, given Britain's role as the world's leading power, the most powerful empire which was also looked up to for moral guidance, then other powers used to looking up to Britain might have also opened their gates to Jewish refugees from the Nazis.
But in fact, while British armies bravely fought the Germans in Europe and North Africa, earning the thanks of civilized humanity, British forces also fought Jewish efforts to escape and to rescue their trapped brethren. None other than Menahem Begin, leader of the Irgun [Etsel] anti-British underground in the 1940s and future Israeli prime minister, charged in his memoirs of the underground struggle, The Revolt, that Britain had locked Jews into the Nazi domain and prevented their escape. I for one agree with Begin's assessment.
There are some truly dramatic and tragic stories of Jewish refugee boats turned back by the British. The most dramatic is likely that of the Struma, a Danube river cattle boat carrying 769 Jewish refugees [December 1941-February 1942]. After British refusal to let the boat come to the Jewish National Home and Turkish refusal to let the boat stay docked at Istanbul --indeed the Turks towed it out to the Black Sea-- it was sunk by a torpedo, shot from a German or Soviet submarine, according to various accounts. There was one survivor, David Stolyar, who told his tale of the Struma.
Another dramatic story was that of the Exodus 1947, later made into a famous movie with a script tailored for Hollywood. The real story was much worse than the movie's tale. Sailing from the small, French Mediterranean port of Sete, the Exodus was seized by the British in international waters and, after a bitter fight for the ship, its more than 4,500 passengers --Holocaust survivors-- were put on British prison ships and brought to the French port of Port de Bouc in order to bring them back into Europe. The passengers refused to get off at Port de Bouc and the French --rather more sympathetic to Jews then than now-- refused to accept any passengers who did not debark of their own free will. Besides the very ill and elderly, only a handful did. The British, frustrated at Port de Bouc, brought the Jews to which country? Can you guess? They brought them to Hamburg in Germany, of all possible countries, Hitler's country. There the passengers were brutally forced off the prison ships by British troops and put into two prison camps, Amstau and Poppendorf, in the British occupation zone of Germany [yes, the British were quite happy to occupy another country].
These horrendous events took place because the British were maintaining their illegal --according to the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission-- White Paper policy even after the war after the world had become aware of the Nazi genocide of Jews and when the survivors did not want to stay in Europe that had actively collaborated in persecuting Jews or had acquiesced in the persecutions and genocide. British policy and conduct during WW2 had denied the Jews' humanity and contributed to the deaths of Jews at the Nazis' hands, not only by preventing Jews from finding refuge in the Jewish National Home but by refusing to take possible military steps to hinder the mass murder process, such as bombing the gas chambers, crematoria [when Allied warplanes were bombing close to Auschwitz, for instance], and the railroad tracks leading to the death camps and refusing to send weapons to Jewish rebels in the Warsaw Ghetto or Jewish partisans in the forests and countryside.
That is, after WW2 the White Paper policy remained in effect and the pathetic remnant of Jews that had survived the war on the European continent were refused entry to the internationally designated Jewish National Home, the Land of Israel.
Sources for Part II are listed at the end of Part III