@2017 – Team to Commemorate the Legacy of the Hagana Ship “Exodus 1947” Immigrants

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The SS President Warfield

The President Warfield was built in the USA by the "Pusey A. Jones Corporation". It was launched on February 6, 1928. Its upper structure and decks were made of wood. The ship was named after Solomon Davies Warfield, president of the Old Bay Line shipping company of Baltimore, for which it was built. The President Warfield was the company’s flagship, a pleasure ship sailing on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, between Baltimore, Norfolk and Washington D.C. .  At her peak, she hosted 450 to at most 500 partying passengers.

The ship’s technical specifications:

Type: 2 deck passenger ship.
Gross Tonnage: 1840 Ton, Displacement: 3200 Ton.

Length:   320 foot.
Draft:  8 foot (British destroyers required at least 20 foot).
Propulsion: Diesel.
Speed: 14 knots. The ship could sustain up to 20 knots for a few hours.
Structure: Flat bottom made of steel, lower deck steel, 2-deck wooden upper structure.
Clandestine Immigration Foundation codename: “The President”.

During WWII, from 1942 to 1944, the ship was on loan to the British navy as an auxiliary ship for the military forces on the British Channel and the Normandy coast. Among other assignments, she served as a school for British naval officers, a frontline headquarters at the Normandy shores, and as a troop transport between England and France, carrying no more than 800 troops.

In July 1945 it was returned to the USA, and in November 1945 was put up for scrap.

Watch the video -  Monica Levin talks about how her father Louis “Shorty” Levin sold the “president Warfield” to the Clandestine Immigration Foundation

 

Monica Levin tells about her father:

“After WWII, my father Louis S. Levin, nicknamed ‘Shorty’, was discharged from the US Navy and went into the metal scrap business. It was at the beginning of 1946, he and his older brother, George, formed the company for the dismantling of ships for scrap, which was called: "Potomac Shipwrecking Co.", located on the banks of the Potomac River in Popes Creek, Maryland.

Unknowingly at first, he had a significant role in building the Land of Israel Jewish community’s navy, making history in bringing the Holocaust survivors from Europe to the Land of Israel.

In September 1946 he purchased the ferry President Warfield, intending to scrap her, at $ 8028.  Soon afterwards he received a phone call from the "Chinese American Industrial Corporation", who was looking for a ship suitable for upgrade to carry passengers in Asia.

Negotiations lasted through October 1946, and the contract was signed. The two sides had agreed to close the deal in a New York City hotel.  The meeting included several Asian lawyers, and a European gentleman who watched the proceedings from the sideline. After the contract was signed, so said my father, the European gentleman approached me quickly and, looking straight into my eyes, asked: "Are you Jewish?"  My surprised father answered "yes". The man pointed at my father’s face and said: "Then you should be a Zionist". He then quickly left the scene. My father didn’t know, at the time, that he had just confronted Teddy Kollek, future mayor of Jerusalem. Later it became clear that the Chinese firm was fictional, a front intended to bypass the embargo on arm sales to the British Mandate. The sale of equipment to the Land of Israel’s Jewish community was dangerous at the time, and anyone caught could be sent to prison. This was the reason for the Clandestine Immigration Foundation’s charade.

The President Warfield was then taken to Baltimore, Maryland, for renovation to enable it to sail on the open sea.

Several months afterwards my father understood he was involved in a very dangerous affair, but by then the state of Israel had been declared, so such deals could be made with no punishments or fines. At this stage my father increased his support by purchasing Nazi submarines (German U boats) meant for scrap, which reached him completely armed. Tons of weapons, rifles, machine guns, cannons and ammunition were taken off the Nazi submarines, loaded on ships and sent to Israel to be used against the Arabs in the War of Independence. It's a dichotomy, "Weapons of the German army, the Nazis, by Jews in their war against Hitler's allies, the Arabs."

 

The rest of the President Warfield’s story is well known…. She was renamed the Exodus 1947.”

Read more about Louis Levin "Shorty" in the attached links: -

https://goo.gl/beaJqD  ;   https://goo.gl/29ZF3e   ;   https://goo.gl/JyE7uL 

Louis S. Levin "Shorty" died at the age of 90 from intestinal disease on February 10, 2005 at a hospital in Aventura, Florida, USA.

Monica Levin, September 7, 2017, at the Exodus Conference, in the Auditorium of Haifa on the Occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Exodus 1947

 

The President Warfield was purchased for $50,000 by the Clandestine Immigration Foundation and by December 1946 the search for crew members to sail it to Europe had started.

In addition to Captain Ike Aharonovitz, there were 31 Americans, 3 Mexicans, 1 stateless and 1 Polish crew members. The ship’s commander was Yosi (Hamburger) Harel, code named "Amnon". Altogether there were 38 crew members.

The “President” was prepared, in France and Italy, to carry 5000 immigrants, more than 10 times its designed capacity. All the luxurious interior furnishings were removed, replaced by wooden bunks that could only carry passengers lying down, packed as sardines.  Bathrooms, toilets and kitchens were added to fit the planned number of passengers, as well as emergency equipment such as lifeboats and rafts.

The President Warfield left the St. Louis Pier at Sète harbor, in the south of France, at July 11, 1947, at 2:00 AM. After a cable was caught in her propeller, and subsequently hitting a sand bar at the harbor entrance, the ship finally exited the harbor at 06:30 AM. From the minute she reached the open sea she was accompanied by a British destroyer, and on the next day by 6 war ships including the well known cruiser Ajax.

On the morning she left the harbor, the representatives of the Clandestine Immigration Foundation in France informed their headquarters in the Land of Israel that the ship was named “Exodus 1947”. The ship’s commanders and the passengers were not informed of the name change.  On the third day at sea the commanders contacted the headquarters demanding to know the ship’s Hebrew name. The reply was that the new name was “Exodus 1947 - יציאת אירופה תש"ז”, where both the Hebrew and English names were to be displayed together. The Hebrew name was received erroneously as “Exodus 1947” rather than the correct “European Exodus 1947”. The new sign for the ship’s name was prepared immediately, but the order to display it was only given on Thursday, July 17 1947, as the ship was entering the Land of Israel’s territorial waters, 3 nautical miles from shore. Powerful broadcasts on her internal loudspeakers and external radio transmitters informed both the ship’s immigrants and the Jewish community of the Land of Israel of the new name for the “President Warfield”.

The President Warfield served the Haganah/Palyam only 2 days under its new name, before being put out of service. It was placed in the Shadow Fleet wharf in Haifa Harbor, with other Clandestine Immigration ships. 5 years after the deportation of its immigrants to Germany, in August 1952, a fire broke out on the Exodus 1947. All efforts at putting out the fire failed, and the ship sank in place.

in August 1952, a fire broke out on the Exodus 1947. All efforts at putting out the fire failed, and the ship sank in place.