Jeff Dunetz
Jeff Dunetz INN:JD

In July 1947 The President Warfield left France and became The Exodus 1947

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 the Jewish Holocaust victims trying to reach the eternal homeland of the Jewish people, and sent them back to Germany.

Still called the President Warfield, the ship that was 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 It was actually 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 a crew of 35 volunteers, most American Jews.

As she left port, the Exodus was shadowed by the sloop HMS Mermaid and RAF aircraft. Later, the Mermaid was relieved by the destroyer HMS Cheviot which would eventually ram the ship of Jews returning home.

On July 17, 1947, the rickety old steamer was renamed Exodus 1947. In an open sea ceremony, as the steamship was being attacked by the British navy, the Zionist blue-white flag with the Star of David was hoisted, and “Hatikvah (The Hope)” a song that eventually became the national anthem of the Jewish State of Israel was sung over and over. As the Exodus 1947 became Israel’s first ship Great Britain showed its cowardice and contempt for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

The USS President Warfield Leaves Baltimore On Its Way To Becoming The Exodus 1947

With the White Paper of 1939, the British caved into Arab pressure (as they have done before and as they still do today with every abstention of anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.). The White Paper severely limited the number of Jews entering what was then called Palestine, a territory that some Jews lived in tor. The White Paper meant that Great Britain was sentencing thousands of Jews who could have escaped Hitler to death as they had no place to go.

The U.S. refused to take them onto American soil. FDR believed there were already too many Jews in the U.S., and Churchill refused to take them on British soil or even to the Jew’s own homeland. So the Jews began to find ways to sneak Jews into the holy land. The most famous of those missions was The Exodus 1947.

With the White Paper of 1939, the British caved into Arab pressure (as they have done before and as they still do today with every abstention to anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.). The White Paper severely limited the number of Jews that could enter what was then called Palestine, a land at least some of the Jewish Nation lived ever since Joshua led the ex-slaves across the Jordan River 2,400 years ago. The White Paper meant that Great Britain was sentencing thousands of Jews who could have escaped Hitler to death as they had no place to go.

The U.S. refused to take them onto American soil. FDR believed there were already too many Jews in the U.S., and Churchill refused to take them on British soil or even to the Jew’s own homeland. So the Jews began to find ways to sneak Jews into the holy land. The most famous of those missions was The Exodus 1947.

Ironically The President 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.

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. The 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.

During the journey, the people on the Exodus 1947 prepared to be intercepted. The ship was divided into sections staffed by different groups, and each went through practice resistance sessions.

The training came in handy as the night after the renaming ceremony, two British destroyers rammed the Exodus 1947, each from a different side. The ramming damaged the hull, railings, and lifeboats. It was boarded by sailors and Royal Marines on July 18.

The ship was only 25 miles from the shore of the Jewish homeland.

When the ship of refugees from Germany was boarded, a desperate struggle developed. The Jews who just survived the Nazi Holocaust fought back, using tin cans, screwdrivers, potatoes, bottles, wooden boards, and metal bars as weapons.

As described by a refugee Noah Klieger, “we were determined not to surrender the ship to the British without a fight. It was an unequal battle, and eventually, the Royal Navy boarding party, using truncheons [police clubs] and light firearms, succeeded in bringing the Exodus” under its control. The clash lasted several hours and resulted in three deaths. Second Officer William (Bill) Bernstein, an AmericaniAliyah Bet volunteer crew member, was found clubbed to death, a 15-year-old refugee Zvi Jakubowitz, and one other died of bullet wounds. Some 150 were injured, including other American volunteer crew members.”

After the fierce and unexpected battle, a taut voice was heard broadcasting in a fine American accent to all of Palestine on Kol Yisrael (the Voice of Israel), the Haganah secret radio:

“This is the refugee ship, Exodus 1947. Before dawn today we were attacked by five British destroyers and one cruiser at a distance of 17 miles from the shores of Palestine, in international waters. The assailants immediately opened fire, threw gas bombs, and rammed our ship from three directions. On our deck there are one dead, five dying, and 120 wounded. The resistance continued for more than 3hours. Owing to the severe losses and the condition of the ship, which is in danger of sinking, we were compelled to sail in the direction of Haifa in order to save the 4500 refugees on board from drowning.”

After reaching Haifa, British soldiers transferred the Exodus 1947 passengers, exhausted from the sea journey and the battle to three freighters converted into caged prison ships. It was named “Operation Oasis.”

Exodus 1947 Arrives In Haifa

The three caged prison ships departed Haifa with the Exodus passengers. The Holocaust survivors assumed that as illegal emigrants, they would be interned in camps on the island of Cyprus. But the three prison ships were sailing towards the European mainland, back towards France. The conditions on board these ships were harsh. The refugees lay crammed together in the bare holds of the freighters. The British Government didn’t care that they were mistreating people who had just survived Hitler, many of whom survived concentration camps. After all, they were only Jews.

The ships first landed at Toulon, France, where the passengers were ordered to disembark, but they refused. When the French authorities refused to use force to remove the refugees from the ship, British authorities, fearing adverse public opinion, decided to wait until the passengers disembarked of their own accord. The British Foreign Secretary tried to scare them off the ship by threatening to send them back to Germany. But the passengers didn’t budge. They forced the issue by declaring a hunger strike.

The British punished them by sending them to Hamburg, Germany. There, the British authorities compelled the passengers to disembark, and some were forcibly removed from the ship by clubbing them. The British then took the 4,500+ passengers, many of whom were refugees from concentration camps, and transferred to displaced person camps in Germany. The country from which they had just escaped.

That’s when the British desire to avoid negative publicity failed.

Displaced persons in camps all over Europe protested vociferously and staged hunger strikes when they heard the news. Massive protests erupted on both sides of the Atlantic. The ensuing public embarrassment for Britain played a significant role in the diplomatic swing of sympathy toward the Jews and the eventual recognition of a Jewish state in 1948.

Sticker Printed to Protest British Mistreatment Of Exodus Passengers

The ship’s ordeals were widely covered by international media and caused the British government much public embarrassment. The former passengers were permitted to immigrate to Palestine in small groups, and most were present in Israel on May 15, 1948, when the Jewish Nation, whose desire was to return home, declared its independence.

A confidential report kept in the files of the child-tracking service and dated October 31, 1947, made it clear that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism also existed among the echelons of the British Mandate powers. Using sharp words, the report gives a disparaging assessment of the Jewish committee established in Pöppendorf, stating that the reason for the children’s being destined for Palestine was incomprehensible, considering that not even one of the children had Arab Palestinian parents.

It is said that even though the Exodus 1947 didn’t deliver a single Jew to the Holy Land, the events of the Exodus voyage convinced the U.S. government that the British mandate of Palestine was incapable of handling the Jewish refugee problem and a United Nations-brokered solution needed to be found. The U.S. government then intensified its pressures on the British Government to return its mandate to the U.N., and the British, in turn, were more than willing to accept this. After all, as it says in the Torah, the Jews are a stiff-necked people. The Jewish Nation would return to its eternal homeland no matter who objected.

Jews In Displaced Persons Camp Near Hamburg Fixing Wire Fence Under Watchful Eyes of German Guards.

Seventy-five years ago, the British appeased the Arabs, denied Jews from going home, and sent them back to the Germany they had just escaped— to be guarded by Germans.

Today Great Britain and their European allies are still appeasing radical Islamists,

In 1947 the British physically attacked the Jews. Today they attack the Jews and Jewish history with their cowardly abstentions from U.N. votes.

The battle to save Israel and the Jews no longer takes place on a rickety old ship. The Jewish State now has a modern army for protection. But make no mistake about it…the Jewish people remain in a precarious position. People trash the Jewish State of Israel as a polite way to spew Antisemitism,. But trashing the Jewish State of Israel IS Antisemitism.

.Make no mistake that the Jewish people are still in danger. We must fight that hatred today before we end up on a rickety old ship trying to save our lives and the future of the Jewish Nation, which is made up of the Jews living in Israel and those in the diaspora.

Jeff Dunetz is editor/publisher of the blog "The Lid." and a contributor to Israel National News and The Jewish Press. He is a weekly Thursday Guest on The Schaftlein Report, a National Board Member of Herut North America and Herut Representative on The AZM Board