When Britain Imprisoned 1,500 Jewish Refugees from Hitler’s Europe in Mauritius

Aug. 13 2020

In the fall of 1940, some 3,500 Jews from Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany—many of whom had spent the previous two years in Dachau, and were released on the condition that they would leave Europe—made their way to the Romanian port of Tulcea, on the Black Sea. There they boarded three ships bound for Palestine, but Britain had other plans. Robert Philpot writes:

In October 1940, the colonial secretary, George Lloyd, requested the governor of Mauritius, [an island in the Indian Ocean then under British rule], to accommodate 4,000 Jewish refugees he believed were heading for Palestine. In some respects, Lloyd’s attitude was unsurprising: just a year before, the British government’s White Paper had set strict limits on the number of Jewish migrants who would be allowed into Palestine.

But enforcement of the quota wasn’t his only concern. The refugees, Lloyd warned the Mauritius governor, should be held in a camp, behind barbed wire and kept under constant guard. . . . The commander of British military forces in the Middle East similarly warned that it was unlikely that the Nazis would not attempt to plant agents among the refugees.

The British government was, however, not entirely at one in its approach and there was an undercurrent of disquiet. The prime minister, Winston Churchill, attempted to soften Lloyd’s orders that the refugees be held behind barbed wire, warning him: “We cannot have a British Dachau.” But Churchill’s request—that the Jews be treated as refugees and not criminals—was effectively ignored.

In December, despite the Haganah’s desperate attempts to interfere, 1,580 of the refugees—temporarily being held in a prison in Haifa—were sent on the seventeen-day oversea journey to Mauritius:

In Mauritius itself, the ground had been prepared. Detainees at the central prison of Beau Bassin were removed to free up space for the refugees. . . . The first eighteen months of the refugees’ time in Mauritius were particularly harsh. They could not leave the camp and there was little by way of family life. Indeed, their detention, combined with the authorities’ insistence the refugees would never be allowed to enter Palestine, proved devastating for some. Although unrecorded on any official documents, a number of refugees died by suicide. In total, 128 refugees did not survive their time on Mauritius, and are buried at the St. Martin Jewish cemetery on the island.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Adolf Hitler, Holocaust, Mandate Palestine, United Kingdom, Winston Churchill

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism