The French Jews Who Fought the Nazis and Brought the “Exodus” to Israel

Aug. 22 2019

Fictionalized by Leon Uris, and later made into a movie, the story of the Exodus—a ship that left France in July 1947, carrying some 4,500 Holocaust survivors, headed for Mandatory Palestine—is well known in the West. The British, unwilling to allow more Jews into the Land of Israel, turned the ship back; its passengers refused to leave the French port; and eventually the Royal Navy brought them to Hamburg. Less well known is the group of former French resistance fighters who helped organized Exodus’ departure, as Tsilla Hershco writes:

The Jewish resistance organization in France . . . participated in the rescue of tens of thousands of Jews in France during the Nazi occupation through the fabrication of forged documents, the hiding of children and adults, and the smuggling of convoys to Switzerland and Spain. At the end of the war, David Ben-Gurion appointed Avraham Polonski, a leader of the Jewish resistance in France, as commander of the Haganah in France and North Africa. The volunteers who joined the organization, mostly veterans of the Jewish resistance, participated in many critical activities: clandestine and legal immigration [from Europe to Mandatory Palestine]; the forging of documents; the transfer of arms to the yishuv; and the setting up of communication systems, immigrant camps, and military-training camps. . . . Later, many veterans of the resistance went on aliyah and participated in the War of Independence.

Members of the Haganah in France and North Africa under Polonski’s command were involved in the Exodus operation from its early stages: they forged travel documents, assisted in the transporting of survivors to the Strasbourg-Mulhouse border, recruited medical students, organized the reception of refugees by the Red Cross, and accompanied the refugees on their journey from the border train stations to Marseille.

Members of the Haganah in France, under Polonski’s leadership, also played an important role in preparing accommodations for the refugees. By leveraging their contacts and making bribes, they even managed to overcome the obstacle of a truck drivers’ strike in Marseille by obtaining their leaders’ consent to transport the refugees to their destination. [After they were returned to France], Polonski’s team assisted in preventing the British from forcing the passengers to disembark.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: French Jewry, Haganah, Israeli history, Leon Uris, Mandate Palestine, Resistance

What to Expect from the Israeli Election

Sept. 16 2019

Tomorrow Israelis go to the polls for the second election of 2019, in which the two main contenders will be the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the centrist Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Neither party is likely to have an easy path to forming the 61-seat Knesset majority needed to form a government, a reality that has affected both parties’ campaigns. Haviv Rettig Gur explains how the anomalous political situation has led to something very different from the contest between left-wing and right-wing “blocs” of parties predicted by most analysts, and examines the various possible outcomes:

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avigdor Liberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics