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.

Read more at Times of Israel

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

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy