Palestine and Israel

Question:

trying to get info or sources for oinfo re the attempts to smuggle dps from the camps into palestine in 45-47 by BRICHAH (FLIGHT), also about Aliya-bet. most attemps failed thanks to the british but what about successful attempts from italy and france any help would be welcome

Harry W. Mazal OBE answers:

Thank you for your question addressed to our webmaster.

An excellent book on the subject is available from the American Jewish Historical Society:

http://www.ajhs.org/publica.htm#New

Bauer, Yehuda. Flight and Rescue: Brichah--The Organized Escape of the Jewish Survivors of Eastern Europe, 1944-1948. New York: Random House, 1970. $10.00.

You can also find a selected bibliography on the subject at: http://www.wiesenthal.com/bibliog/immigrat.htm

An article on "Displaced Jews in Europe: 1945-1951" at:

http://www.about.com/education/geography/library/weekly/aa051898.htm?once=true&

Yours sincerely,

Harry W. Mazal

The Holocaust History Project

How important was the Holocaust in the establishment of an independent state of Israel?

Andrew Mathis answers:

Zionism, or the move to establish an independent Jewish state, existed asan active philosophy for five decades before the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed. However, Nazi persecution of European Jewry and the Holocaust itself had a direct effect on the Zionist movement in Palestine in two ways.

First, Zionists in Palestine began to organize militias in order to consolidate territory for a refugee state for European Jewry. Second, once the extent of the Nazi genocide was revealed, the World Jewish Congress began to push for the permission of Jewish displaced persons who had survived the war to emigrate to Palestine. Within two years, around one million European Jewish survivors settled in what would become Israel, with more to follow in subsequent years.

The Holocaust also directed the sympathies of important world powers to the Zionist cause, and when Israel declared its independence in May 1948, the U.S. and Soviet Union both immediately recognized its sovereignty.

Finally, in recognition for the crimes of its previous government, Germany, in the early 1950s, negotiated with the fledgling state of Israel to make reparations for war crimes in the form of payments aimed at helping Jews displaced by the war to settle in Israel. This was a hot-button issue for many Jews inside and outside of Israel, because the reparations from Germany were considered by many to be "blood money." Nonetheless, the reparations from Germany assisted in the settlement of a substantial portion of Israel's first generation of post-independence settlers.

Hope this helps.

Andrew E. Mathis, Ph.D.

The Holocaust History Project

Question:

I am a postgraduate student in Australia studying how influential the Holocaust has been on US foreign policy. I note specifically the responses on Displaced Persons. I was wondering if there are sources detailing US policy towards Israel on this issue, and how significant the Holocaust and the entire matter of displaced persons was in leading Truman and his administration to creating the state of Israel?

Andrew Mathis Responds:

Let me start with the end. Neither Truman nor his administration "created" the State of Israel. It was voted into existence by the United Nations in November 1947 (it's either S.C. Res. 171 or 181, I'm pretty sure). So, for that matter, was a Palestinian state created in the same resolution. Israel's 1949 borders are based on the war that followed the Arab League's rejection of the resolution in favor of eliminating the Jewish State and the Zionist ejection of some 750,000 Palestinian Arabs. In response, the Arab nations of the area ejected a near equal number of non-Zionist Sephardic Jews from their own borders.

Now, Truman's recognition of Israel is another matter. Truman was *not* inclined to recognize Israel, but he had been informed through intelligence both that Israel was about to declare its independence at the expiration of the British Mandate for Palestine in May 1948 and that the Soviet Union was going to recognize the new State of Israel. Truman's recognition of Israel was largely motivated by an attempt to pre-empt Stalin and thereby make sure Israel did not become a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

Israel, in fact, remained neutral until Gamel Abdel Nasser began to receive Soviet aid in the 1960s. In the 1956 Sinai War, Israel was forced to withdraw from the Sinai based on dual pressure from the U.S. and the USSR.

Where the Holocaust fits in is rather difficult. Zionism was a fringe movement within Judaism, for the most part, until the Holocaust and even through 1967, though to a lesser extent. To be sure, the Holocaust motivated the sympathies of the Western democracies to support the creation of a Jewish state.

What seems to be the thrust of your question is whether displaced persons (DPs) that survived the Holocaust coming to the U.S. to settle permanently motivated a move by the Truman Administration to recognize Israel in order to stanch the flow of DPs emigrating to the U.S. (I ask this not suspiciously but in a genuine attempt to better understand your question.) I would say that it is certainly possible, but that the Jewish community in the U.S. in the years after WWII was so up in arms against the U.S. government for not taking in Jewish refugees that might have survived that Truman was probably under greater pressure to receive Jewish immigrants rather than send them elsewhere.

There is some proof for this in the numbers of Holocaust survivors. If there were four to five million DPs at the end of the war, and approximately half of them were absorbed by the Soviet Union, pre-state Israel and the U.S. each absorbed about a million. This million that entered the U.S., by the way, is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions more Jews that entered by the U.S. between 1880 and 1920, the largest period of Jewish immigration to the U.S. in the nation's history.

So, to conclude, I generally regard Truman's move to recognize Israel as an early cold war move more than anything else. Israel would be used as a client state more directly after 1967, but Truman's move did keep Israel neutral, despite its uniformly socialist governments (until 1977).

For more on the U.S. reaction to the Holocaust, please see Peter Novick's excellent study, The Holocaust in American Life.

Good luck,

Andrew E. Mathis, Ph.D.

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