The Exodus-1947 Story

.Exodus 1947  -  As remembered by Yochanan and Rivka Levy (Hans and Regine Loewy) and additional sources

Halamish: ‘Exodus – The Real Story

(Hebrew edition) Tel Aviv University; Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 1990

Jacques Derogy:  ‘La Loi du Retour’, (French edition) Fayard, 1969.

Anita Shapira, editor: ‘Haapala’, (Hebrew) Studies in the History of Illegal Immigration into Palestine 1934-1948; Aviva Halamish:’ The Exodus sea battle on the shores of Israel’, pp. 302-333. Tel Aviv University; Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 1990.

Hans (20) and Regine (19) Loewy

‘Illegal Immigration’   -  Aliya B’[1].

The offices of the Federation of Jewish Societies in France[2]  (FSJF) and ‘Hehalutz’  worked from the same building in Marseilles where I lived with my parents in 1940-1941.  The Hehalutz Group organized for the incoming holocaust refugees eleven reception camps[3] from Bandol, East of Marseilles, to Salon on the river Rhone.  The total capacity of these camps was about 1,650 persons.  At the disposal of the Hehalutz Group were also two large former French army camps at Grand Arenas with a capacity of 10,000 persons.  All these camps were equipped by the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC - ‘Joint’).

 

Preparations for the ‘Exodus 1947’ sailing

Arrival of Holocaust survivors scheduled to sail.

On June 30, 1947 the first group of holocaust survivors arrived by rail at Le Canet freight depot near Marseilles harbor. A total of 6,000 refugees arrived by five trains. Forty ‘Overland’ trucks, each  to transport 30 refugees, brought the refugees from the trains to different camps in the Marseilles region.  These refugees, from the camps in Germany,  were clad in a kind of yellow-brown ‘uniform’.  The origin of these hand sewn uniforms was US Army blankets, handed out in the camps.    5,000 refugees, scheduled to board the next boat were in the camps by July 7, 1947.

 

The organization of transportation.

172 trucks were hired for bringing people from the camps to the harbor; of them 20 on standby, in case of hitches on the 200 km trip.  A reconnaissance fleet of 20 taxicabs was also recruited, for the use of personnel from Alyia B’ to cruise along the convoys for control and emergency repairs  in case of need.

 

In these very days French Trade Unions declared a transportation strike. Hehalutz made the Drivers Union a gift of one million francs, ostensibly  a  ‘cash contribution’. In exchange the Trade Unions bestowed upon Hehalutz transit passes to allow moving through strikers’ roadblocks.

 

Moving the crowd

On Wednesday night, between July 9 and 10, 1947, the starting signal was given.  Refugees and local Jews  -  among them Rivka and I – were to board the trucks between 22:00 and 03:00 hours.  A total of 12 convoys, of 12 to 13 trucks each, started from the camps at intervals of 50 km between them, and by different  roads.

 

The first trucks were programmed to reach Sete harbor, at a distance of approximately 200 km from the different camps, at  about 03:00 hours.  Control and regulation points were established in Arles and Salon.  Five hours on the road necessitated, of course, to take into consideration rest  stops for the comfort of the travelers.  The consequence was that here and there a vehicle left the convoy, and it was necessary for all the trucks in the convoy to wait for it to resume its place in the convoy.  The last point of rendezvous was at about ten km from Sete harbor.

 

Escorting the convoys

Rivka and I were ordered to join the convoy trucks at Caillol-A’ camp..  Our function, as French speakers, was to represent the immigrants at road blocks with the police and strikers.  Our duty was also to make the drivers respect the time tables for arrival at check points on the road.  The escort sat beside the driver; he or she  was given sealed envelops with directions for the  roads to be taken and the time table for the arrival at check points. 

 

An additional problem in these days was to find supply points of wood for the gasogene burners that had to be  replenished every ten to fifteen km. The time taken to replenish the burners was taken into consideration in the marching orders.

 

The initial time table became distorted when stretches of the road were closed and opened alternately, because of the 1947 Tour de France race between Montpellier and Carcassonne.  Newspaper photographers and cameramen from MGM and other services -  CNN did not exist then - were stationed all along the road and also ‘perpetuated’ by the same token the passage of some of our convoys.  These photographs  represented excellent evidence for British Intelligence.  As a consequence of all these delays, our convoy reached Sete only at 05:00 hours.

 

‘SS President Warfield’

Our truck entered Sete harbor in the early hours of the morning.  There were lines upon lines of trucks with refugees on board that came in before us.  We, the escorts, had to wait for a long time before we reached our objective: the gangway of the American river boat, lying low in the water, SS President Warfield

[1]  The Institute for Illegal Immigration –  in Hebrew: Hamossad le-Alyia B’.

[2]  Organizations who acted in direct concert with ‘Hehalutz’ (Pioneers) and the ‘Aliya B’ Institution,    24, Rue des Convalescents, Marseille

[3]  La Madrague de Montredon in Marseille, La Ciotat, Le Bec d’Aigle, Bandol, Billa Barry; the logistic centers were in Saint Jerôme, Villa les Tilleuls.

 

The cruises in the Mediterranean of the Exodus-1947 Ma'apilim
Interactive map
Move the mouse over the bubbles on the map

Exodus route from the port of Set to Haifa ---> ---
A sailing route of the 3 exile ships from the port of Haifa to Port de Bock and Gibraltar ---> ---

The journey of the Exodus-1947's Ma'apilim from the port of Sete to Haifa and back to Port-de-Bouc and  Hamburg,

as Hans Loewy sketched in his copybook, when he arrived at the Poeppendorf's DP camp

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