Returning and Redemption
Europe’s Desperate Jews Head for the Holy Land As Early Yanks Went West

It’s Hell Ships vs. British Radar, But Surge Goes On Just the Same;

It Takes Underground and Millions


United Press Staff Writer

JERUSALEM, Dec. 7—“Operation Briha”—the desperate surge of Europe’s Jewish remnant toward the promised land—has grown since the collapse of Nazism into an effort which involves the expense of between 10 and 200 million dollars a year.

It is a movement which has its roots in Europe’s age-old ghettos, which drew its impetus from the horrors of Belsen, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz, and which relies for its working parts on old undergrounds of slave Europe and the dynamic young underground of Palestine.

The funds it requires flow from 50 countries, principally of the United States.


“Briha” means escape to the Hebrew, but thousands fail to reach the promised land and end up behind barbed wire in Cyprus. For the few hundred each month who manage to skip through the blockade, the escape means freedom from centuries ridden by fear.

One Jew explained simply “there is one place we can be sure—really sure—of immunity of anti-Semitism and its inevitable persecution. That is Jewish Palestine.”

A casual visitor like myself, who spends a couple of weeks in Palestine is struck by one primary impression- In the isolated little settlements which are erected “illegally” overnight, there is a pioneer spirit which probably has had no equal since the American colonization of the West.

It is a spirit which to a great extent dominates the glaring new cities like Tel Aviv and even leaves its stamp on ancient Jerusalem.


Hell ships—leaky, filthy, verminous, overcrowded outcasts that they are—are the covered wagons on the surge. They try to run the gentle of British radar planes and warship like Conestoga wagons on the Oregon trail—and for the handful intercepted so far, there are perhaps 75 to 100 ready to sail from Europe

The surge is about as easy to overcome as the wagon trains which finally overran the Buffalo country of the Sioux, the Arapahoes, and the Apaches.

The immigrant organization operates at least 90 per cent outside Palestine, and—except for the last desperate effort to reach the Coast undetected—is essentially a foreign affair.

Some idea of its scope may be gained from the fact that Palestine Jewry is about to give 50,000 pounds ($200,000)—the last half of the original 100,000 pounds ($400,000) collected here—to the immigration fund. But that represents less than one week’s expenses for the immigration campaign.

$600–$800 PER HEAD

Veterans of a dozen Nazi undergrounds—Frenchmen, Germans Poles, Spaniards, Italians, Austrians, and men from the Balkan mountains—collect refugees and lead them to obscure ports, where they board little rusty ships.

Bribes on one frontier or another, or crushing prices to the owners of the junk yard fleet, raise the price per head to $600 to $800.

The Haganah organization waits on the Palestine shore for the final desperate effort.

Haganah has little contact with the underground members abroad who load the ships and send them off. Few of its 80,000 members know they are arriving, but a secret radio attempts to guide them in the almost hopeless task of defeating the radar air patrols and destroyers, which patrol for the ships.

Usually the ships are intercepted, and a few hundred or a few thousand Jews put up a flurry of resistance at the gangways as the boarding parties scramble over the side. They make headlines.


Meanwhile, at the rate of several hundred monthly, others arrive from schooners and steamers which cruise innocently down the coast in daylight and discharge in the cover of night, The successful ones probably number 50,000, since the British white paper of 1939, and during much of that time almost nobody could leave Hitler’s Europe.

It is quite obvious no movement on the scale of the present surge toward Palestine could exist without a central organization with an extremely strong framework. Nobody here could say definitely where the core of the movement is, except that it clearly lies inside the world Zionist movement.

Beyond that, nobody could name the organizer. The plain fact is that the trickle of ships across the Mediterranean—or the Conestoga wagons from Independence or Dodge City—are folk movements which create their own leaders as they need them.