Education, Culture, Art and Atmosphere
The Jewish leadership in post-war, post-holocaust Europe faced several critical missions concerning the care and education of the children who survived the holocaust, and of those born in the Displaced Persons (DP) camps. A specific phenomenon which occurred at the ending of the persecutions and the death camps was the baby-boom among European Jews, a birth rate much higher than the normal European average. Communities organized “children’s houses” providing nutrition and medical services to the newborn infants and their mothers, at least in the first months after the births. An additional mission for the Jewish leadership in the DP camps was to find and care for the children and youths left by the war in monasteries and convents, or roaming the streets by the thousands. These children and youths were cared for by the Zionist youth movements, such as HeChalutz(Pioneers), Dror(Freedom), HaShomer Hatzair(the Young Guards), Bachad(United Religious Pioneers), Mizrachi(the Easterner), Pachach(Pioneer Soldiers and Partisans), the Joint and the Jewish Agency.
The primary task of all these organizations, in addition to gathering the youngsters scattered throughout Europe, was to provide them with a pioneering Zionist education, teach them Hebrew and provide professional agricultural training to prepare them for immigration to the Land of Israel. Classes were organized in the camps for the wide spectrum of ages, each age group with its own proper framework. The framework for children up to 14-15 years old was the Children’s Communes, and the older groups were “Adult Communes”. These communes, or Kibbutzim, organized all children from primary school ages up to High Schools and religious Yeshivas. The communes were a substitute for the family and homes which had disappeared during the war years, providing nutritional and physical security, clothing and education.
The communes also included children sent by parents who managed to reunite their family in the DP camps after the war. These parents preferred to send their children to the communes where the education, physical safety and health treatment they received was much better than what the parents could supply in their own homes.
In some cases the parents had no idea what was happening in the communes. There are testimonies of children sent with their communes to immigrate to Israel without their parents’ knowledge. The following story from the Bergen-Belsen camp emphasizes the deep divide between the families and the communes. On the day the British deportation ships returned the Exodus immigrants to Hamburg, the parents from the Bergen-Belsen camp who went to Hamburg to demonstrate against deportation to Germany didn’t even know that their children were being forcibly disembarked from the ships at the same time.
The education staff of the communes, teachers and counselors, served as a substitute for the family frameworks lost to the children during the war. The children didn’t dare to be far from their teachers and obeyed them completely. As the children’s self-confidence recovered, they became more fully convinced that the commune frameworks protected them and will eventually bring them to the Land of Israel. A 14 year-old girl who was on the Exodus without her family, as a part of the “Children’s Commune”, wrote in her diary while on the deportation ship: “In spite of the crowding, the heat, the stagnant air, the minimal clothing and the subhuman living conditions on the deportation ship, in the Children’s Commune the morals and mutual respect between the boys and girls were preserved”. She described how, when she was cold and lacking warm clothing, one of the boys found a warm coat and wrapped her in it while she was sleeping.
The educational and cultural frameworks were active when the deportation ships were in harbor at Port de Bouc and Gibraltar, and all along the way to Hamburg.
Avner Gilead (Scandy) of the Palyam stowed away on the Runnymede Park while at Port de Bouc. He wrote in his diary how he requested that headquarters send them a large supply of notebooks and writing implements, in order to open schools on the deportation ships, teaching Hebrew to the children as well as religious instruction for the adults. These schools included hundreds of students. In addition, there were evenings of public singing, lectures, and even puppet theater performances, with puppets manufactured on the ships. The puppet theater travelled between the ships docked at Port de Bouc.
Similar reports were received from Meir Schwartz who snuck aboard the Ocean Vigour. Meir Schwartz counted 230 children and 300 adults in the classes. Micha Perry (Gad) reported that, in addition to the classes, the newspaper BaDerech (On The Way) was published on the Empire Rival. The envoys Scandy, Gad and Schwartz testified that the educational and cultural activities greatly improved the immigrants’ morale and cohesion, and thus strengthened them in the suffering they underwent on the deportation ships.
In the Displaced Persons Camps there were several community cultural institutions such as libraries, public kitchens, theaters and also Rabbinical courts who mostly issued wedding licenses and strove to dissolve the marriages of the many women whose husbands were missing after the war. The youth movements also published newspapers, notably the BaDerech newspaper which was first published on the Empire Rival, then continued at the Am-Stau and Sengwarden camps.
Many of the Exodus deportees recorded their tribulations in the notebooks they received on the deportation ships and in the camps. They kept diaries detailed to the levels of days and hours. These diaries formed the basis of several books about the journey of the Exodus, and the return to Israel after the deportation.
The Exodus carried artists who painted, played music, sang, and wrote poetry and prose. Among the well-known songs composed and set to music on the Exodus were “The Exodus Anthem”, Alterman’s “The Nation and Its Envoy” and others. These artists painted the Exodus signs on the day the President Warfield was renamed the Haganah Ship Exodus 1947. At the great demonstration in Port de Bouc they drew the British fleet flag with a swastika, and of course, they painted all the placards used in the demonstrations against the British.
One girl from the Children’s Commune, an Exodus immigrant, who was extremely gifted in music and song, tells how her singing calmed a baby who cried incessantly.
Their stories are collected in the following links, pertaining to education, culture and art connected to the Exodus immigrants:
Records of the Zionist Youth Group in the Bar-Cochba and Nitzanim Communes ------>
Excerpts from personal diaries
Videos of the immigrants telling their story
Clips of songs and acting
Plastic arts, painting and sculpture
Songs and poetry written by or about the voyage of the Exodus immigrants
Exodus documents from the National Library in Jerusalem
חומרים מהארץ ומהעולם המתיחסים לאניה אקסודוס ומעפיליה
מאגר קטעי העיתונים הגדול ביותר על האקסודוס מצוי במכון ז'בוטינסקי שבבית ז'בוטינסקי בתל אביב.
קטעי עיתון "דבר"
קטעי עיתונות שונים אודות האקסודוס ומעפיליה
מצבם של מעפילי האקסודוס במחנות העקורים Pöppendorf ו - Am Stau מתואר בעיתון
לקריאת העיתון במקור הקש כאן ----->
עיתון מאמדן, גרמניה אודות
האירוע לציון 70 שנה שהתקיים
באודיטוריום חיפה ------->> לקריאה
לקריאת קטעי עיתונות נוספים ----->
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.
Photos of life in the Children’s Communes and the study classes