July 18, 1947, a ship carrying Holocaust victims, called The Exodus 1947, arrived at the port of Haifa after being boarded by the British 25 miles from the land of their prayers. Forget what you saw in the movie “Exodus” Paul Newman wasn’t there, and the British were much more brutal than portrayed in the film. They clubbed, shot, and found other ways to punish their Jewish victims whose only crime was trying to reach the eternal homeland of the Jewish Nation.
Decommissioned in 1946, the ship The President Warfield was bought for $8,000 as scrap by the Western Trading Company (a front for the Haganah, which later became the Israel Defense Forces). Jewish-American Sam (the Banana Man) Zemurray was instrumental in obtaining the ship for the Haganah, which would explain its Honduran registration. It was said that Mr. Zemurray’s United Fruit Company pretty much owned Honduras. President Warfield was refitted in Baltimore and sailed for France on February 25, 1947, where it picked up over 4,500 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and left for the Holy Land.
Still called President Warfield, the ship to become the Exodus 1947 left Sète France sometime between two and four in the morning of July 11, 1947. It flew a Honduran flag and claimed to be headed for Istanbul but was headed for British mandate Palestine. It carried 4,515 passengers, including 1,600 men, 1,282 women, and 1,672 children and teenagers. The Palmach skipper Ike Aronowicz was its captain, and Haganah commissioner Yossi Harel was the commander. The ship was operated by 35 volunteers, primarily American Jews.
Ironically ThePresident Warfield was named after Solomon Davies Warfield, president of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, a steamship line that owned the ship. Warfield was the uncle of Wallis Warfield Simpson, the woman for whom King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom abdicated his throne in 1937. I suppose the British got their revenge with the brutal way they treated the passengers of Exodus 1947.
During the journey, the people in The Exodus 1947 prepared to be intercepted. The ship was divided into sections staffed by different groups, and each went through practice resistance sessions.
In an unimaginable display of aggression, two British destroyers rammed the ship from both sides, damaging the hull, railings and lifeboats. As British marines began to board, the Zionist blue-white flag with the Star of David was raised and the wooden planks carrying the name President Warfield were flipped over to reveal the ship’s new name, Haganah Ship – Exodus 1947, and “Hatikvah” was sung over and over.
The refugees used tin cans, screwdrivers, potatoes, bottles, wooden boards, and metal bars as weapons.
The British used tear gas and pistols, and the uneven battle raged for more than 2 hours. An American Jewish crew member and two passengers were killed. Dozens suffered bullet wounds and other injuries.
The Jews simply wanted to go home.
King Geoge’s forces wanted to make an example of the Exodus 1947 passenger. First, they towed the ship to Haifa. After reaching Haifa, British soldiers forced them onto three freighters converted into caged prison ships and headed to Europe. When they reached Port-de-Bouc, France. There the Jews were ordered off the ship— they refused to leave.
Once they were stopped by the British, The Exodus 1947 passengers had no place to go. The British didn’t want them. Their White Paper was why they boarded The Exodus 1947 so close to the Holy Land. FDR kept the Jews out. In the book “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,” historian Rafael Medoff wrote that Roosevelt failed to take relatively simple measures that would have saved significant numbers of Jews during the Holocaust because his vision for America was one that had a small amount of Jews.
Unlike the brutal British, the French authorities refused to force the Jews off the boats. The British feared bad press feeding bad public opinion (if they only knew). Therefore they decided to wait until all the passengers left on their own accord. The passengers declared a hunger strike which lasted 24 days, and became the lead story in newspapers worldwide, even the NY Times.
Displaced Jews in camps all over Europe staged their own hunger strikes when they heard the news. Protests erupted on both sides of the Atlantic. The British got what they feared international embarrassment.
King George’s troops forgot the rule: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” The British ships carrying the Exodus 1947 passengers went from France to Hamburg, Germany, part of the post-war British occupation zone. Britain knew that returning the Jews to camps in Germany would increase worldwide scorn, but Germany was the only territory under British control that could immediately accommodate all the passengers.
The women and children left the boats voluntarily. The men fought back but were beaten and carried off the boat and joined their loved ones in the British camps.
The persistence of Exodus passengers and the way they overcame the brutal treatment they received from the British focused worldwide support for the Zionist cause. They became a symbol for many of the need for the Jewish nation to govern themselves in their eternal homeland, soon to be named Israel.
That’s what the haters don’t get. The meaning of Zionism is simple—The right of the Jewish Nation to rule themselves in their eternal homeland, now called the state of Israel.