The exciting story of the Exodus ship that in 1947 ferried 4,500 Jewish war refugees to the Zionist homeland.
Despite the urgent need for relocating concentration-camp survivors and displaced persons (DP) at the end of World War II, Britain refused to allow more than 1,500 immigrants per month to Palestine. The Jewish underground army, the Haganah, secured the boats necessary for transporting waves of refugees to Palestine, such as the large Chesapeake steamer, President Warfield. Veteran popular historian Thomas (Secret Wars: One Hundred Years of British Intelligence Inside MI5 and MI6, 2009, etc.) moves swiftly from one scene to the other to keep his suspenseful story percolating, using a wealth of information gleaned from official archives, news reports, public records, British intelligence documents and interviews with passengers. The author paints a complete portrait of a variety of settings: within the Haganah headquarters in Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street, as well as its outposts in New York, including the basement of the Copacabana nightclub, called the Kibbutz Fourteen, where Zionist leaders like Golda Meir stayed; DP camps across Europe; and the office of the British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin as he coordinated naval resistance to the “smuggling of illegal immigrants” into Palestine. Thomas looks at the outfitting of the President Warfield by U.S. volunteers, its refitting and slow odyssey in May 1947 from Baltimore harbor to Marseilles, where thousands of refugees at nearby DP camps were ready to board the ship built for holding 400 passengers—all the while tracked by British intelligence. The author then recounts the harrowing trip from July through September, as the now-christened Exodus 1947 was rammed by British destroyers and forcibly boarded, then detoured back to France and Germany before the refugees were finally allowed into Palestine almost a year later.
A fine depiction of the multifaceted context of this cause célèbre.