• U.S.


4 minute read

And Jehovah said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people . . . and I am come down . . . to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. . .. .

Only Jehovah knew last week how many Jews were moving out of their modern bondage toward the ancient promised Land. By thousands they fled from eastern Europe, where three-fourths of the Continent’s 1,300,000 surviving Jews (not including those of Russia) have found no victory in Hitler’s defeat.* Their exodus was illegal, clandestine, and humanitarian. A Polish Jewess explained why: “You know what Europe is to me? It’s a cemetery. When I walk into a store and see soap on sale, I remember that this may be the body of my sister.”

The pressure behind the underground was recognized this week by the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine. After three months of study in the U.S., Europe and the Near East, the twelve-man committee recommended, in effect, a new policy that would scrap the 1939 British White Paper. Salient points: 1) the immediate admission of 100,000 Eufopean Jews into Palestine; 2) Jewish D.P.s are a responsibility of all the nations; 3) terrorism by Jews or Arabs must be sternly repressed.

Out of Bondage. Even as the committee spoke, the underground was shifting its human freight out of the villages of eastern Europe. Operated by Haganah (Hebrew for “self-defense”), the movement is largely financed by funds collected in the U.S.

By foot, rail or whatever conveyance is available, the migrants pass from “station” to “station” (usually farmhouses or barns off the beaten track). Before they get out of eastern Europe, the travelers have usually been despoiled of their meager belongings by bribe-taking frontier officials. Munich, in the U.S. zone of Germany, is the great clearing center for the semi-final lap to the Mediterranean.

Bari in Italy is the chief jumping-off place; it has large reception camps where the travelers are housed and fed until the night they crowd aboard a little tramp ship for the voyage to Palestine. Sometimes they leave from other, poorly organized ports. Last week 1,014 Jews were stranded at La Spezia on the Ligurian coast; they were resolved to sail aboard an old 750-ton wooden cargo boat, the Fede, jampacked with canvas cots in fantastic, seven-tier rows.

Into Zion. Landing in Palestine is a touch-&-go operation. The vigilant British patrol is composed of coast guard stations on 24-hour watch, motor launches and cutters, radar posts. If a ship eludes all these, the authorities may throw a smoke screen around a suspected landing place, then intensively search nearby homes and fields. “Illegals” who are caught are herded into a concentration camp. The Jewish Agency for Palestine, recognized as spokesman for world Jewry, negotiates for their release. Usually the British deduct the “illegals” from the regular quota for immigrants (1,500 a month), before freeing them.

Haganah men say that in the last four months they brought 7,000 out of 10,000 “illegals” safely through the British cordon. Once ashore, the travelers find the channels of absorption into the Jewish community efficient and heartwarming. One Polish girl’s account:

“At 11 o’clock at night, our ship arrived. We could see a small light blinking from the Palestinian coast.

“Rowboats came to meet us. … One by one we climbed down to them. Everything happened very quickly then. In the boats were Palestinians. They shook hands with us and said, Shalom—welcome home!

“When we came to shore there were more boys from the Haganah, and they were armed. We walked through the fields for a few miles. … I saw men and boys all along the road. Our guide told us that these people were all members of the Haganah standing guard for us..’.. There was a chain of them all the way to the shelter of a settlement inland. As we passed them, they smiled and quietly called to us: ‘Shalom, shalom!'”

*Before Hitler, Europe’s non-Russian Jewry numbered 6,500,000.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com