Captain of famed Exodus refugee ship dies: 86-year-old remembered for heroic mission to save Holocaust survivors
The Exodus 1947 ship left France in July 1947 carrying more than 4,500 people — most of them Holocaust survivors and other displaced Jews — in a secret effort to reach Palestine. At the time, Britain controlled Palestine and was limiting the immigration of Jews.Captain of Jewish immigrant ship the Exodus dies
The British navy seized the vessel off Palestine's shores, and after a battle on board that left three people dead, turned the ship and its passengers back to Europe, where the refugees were forced to disembark in Germany.
The ship's ordeal was widely reported worldwide, garnering sympathy for the refugees, especially because they were taken to Germany, where the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews during World War II originated.
Documents released from the British archives show that after much soul-searching, the British concluded that the only place they could send the Jews was to the British-controlled zone of post-war Germany, where the Jews could be placed in camps and screened for extremists; decision to land the Jews in Germany had been made because it was the only suitable territory under British control that could handle so many people at short notice. The British diplomats and military officers knew perfectly well that sending Jews back to Germany and putting them in camps so soon after the Holocaust would set off a fire-storm of protest.Yitzhak "Ike" Ahronovitch tried to save thousands of refugees from the Holocaust and his efforts brought sympathy for the founding of Israel as a homeland for Jews. His daughter described the attempt as a defining influence in his life. Despite the fact that the mission was illegal, it was certainly moral and an attempt to better the lives of so many who had suffered. It was the right thing to do, and Ahronovitch showed himself up to the task with his efforts on behalf of the refugees.