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An unidentified speaker addresses the crowd at the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp during a demonstration protesting the return of the Exodus 1947 passengers to Germany.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 19796

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    An unidentified speaker addresses the crowd at the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp during a demonstration protesting the return of the Exodus 1947 passengers to Germany.
    An unidentified speaker addresses the crowd at the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp during a demonstration protesting the return of the Exodus 1947 passengers to Germany.  

Behind the speaker stands Josef  Rosensaft, chairman of the Central Jewish Committee for the British Zone.


    An unidentified speaker addresses the crowd at the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp during a demonstration protesting the return of the Exodus 1947 passengers to Germany.

    Behind the speaker stands Josef Rosensaft, chairman of the Central Jewish Committee for the British Zone.
    Ursula Litzmann
    1947 September 07
    Bergen-Belsen, [Prussian Hanover; Lower Saxony] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Aviva Kempner
    Event History
    The Exodus 1947 was an illegal immigrant ship carrying 4500 Jewish displaced persons from Europe to Palestine during the final year of the British Mandate. It became the symbol of the struggle for the right of unrestricted Jewish immigration into Palestine and the need for a Jewish national home. In November 1946 the Mosad le-Aliya Bet (the Agency for Illegal Immigration) acquired an American ship, the President Warfield, an old Chesapeake Bay pleasure steamer. During World War II, the vessel had been converted into a troop ship for the British navy. After taking part in the Allied landing at Normandy, the ship was taken out of service and anchored in the ships' graveyard in Baltimore. Immediately after the Mosad purchased the vessel, its interior was reconfigured in order to maximize the number of passengers it could hold. By the end of January 1947 the initial conversion was complete and a crew of nearly 40 American Jewish volunteers had been assembled in Baltimore. The crew was joined by a Methodist minister, John Stanley Grauel, who served as the official observer for the American Christian Palestine Committee. It was the Mosad's intention to mount a huge illegal immigration operation that would draw the attention of the international media and influence the members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), who would then be visiting Palestine on a fact-finding mission. In early July 1947, Jewish DPs were moved from camps in Germany to transit camps in the south of France. With the cooperation of several French Socialist cabinet ministers, they boarded the President Warfield at the old port of Sete, near Marseilles. Once it was out to sea, the vessel was renamed the Exodus 1947. The ship was intercepted by the British navy off the coast of Palestine. The sailors were able to board the vessel, tow it to Haifa, and unload its passengers only after an extended struggle, which left two passengers and one crew member dead and many injured. In the port of Haifa the illegal immigrants were transferred by force to three British vessels--the Ocean Vigour, Runnymede Park, and Empire Rival-- to be taken back to France. This marked a significant change in British policy from what had been the standard procedure since August 1946, namely, the deportation of all apprehended illegal immigrants to detention camps in Cyprus. When the ships arrived in France on July 28, most of the passengers chose to remain on board. The French refused to accede to the British demand to force them out. For a month the three ships remained anchored near Port-de-Bouc. The refugee passengers suffered under grueling conditions. Finally, after a hunger strike, the British decided to return the refugees to DP camps in Germany. The ships arrived in Hamburg on September 8 and their passengers were forcibly removed by British soldiers. From Hamburg, they were taken by prisoner trains with barred windows to the Poppendorf and Amstau DP camps in the British zone. Most of the Exodus refugees remained in the DP camps for over a year, reaching Israel only after the state was established in May 1948. In 1951 the Mayor of Haifa announced that the Exodus 1947 was to become "a floating museum, a symbol of the desperate attempts by Jewish refugees to find asylum in the Holy Land." The project was put on hold while attention was focused on issues of national security. However, on August 26, 1952, the ship caught fire and burned to the waterline. It was towed out of the shipping area and abandoned on Shemen beach. On August 23, 1964, an attempt was made to salvage the Exodus 1947 for scrap, but during the process, the hulk broke loose and sank. It remains on the bottom of Shemen beach near Haifa.

    [Source: "Poppendorf statt Palastina" (The Haganah Ship Exodus 1947), an online exhibition by Henrik Jan Fahlbusch et al. (25 November 2002)]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Aviva Kempner
    Source Record ID: Pressebild und Illustrationen Litzmann-Hamburg

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Josef Rosensaft (1911-1975) was the son of Menachem Mendel and Devora (Szpiro) Rosensaft. He was born and raised in Bedzin, Poland, where his father, a Gerer hasid, was a prominent member of the Jewish community. Josef had four older siblings: Leah, Rachel, Mari-Mindl and Itzhak. His mother died in a flu epidemic when he was eight or nine. During his youth and early adulthood, Josef was active in the labor Zionist movement. After he finished school he worked in the family's scrap metal business. Josef remained in Bedzin during the first four years of the German occupation of Poland. On June 22, 1943 he was put on a deportation transport to Auschwitz, but managed to escape by diving out of the train into the Vistula River. Though wounded by German bullets during his escape, Josef made it back to Bedzin the following morning. A few weeks later during the final liquidation of the ghetto, his father died in his arms of natural causes. Josef then fled to the nearby town of Zawierce to escape the deportations. However, that same month he was again rounded-up and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Josef spent five months in the camp before being transferred to the Auschwitz sub-camp of Lagisza Cmentarna in January 1944. That winter he escaped from the camp and returned to Bedzin, where he was hidden by a Polish friend for six weeks. He was recaptured in April and sent back to Auschwitz, where he was imprisoned in the Block 11 punishment barracks for seven months. In November Josef was transferred to the Buchenwald sub-camp of Langensalza, and from there to Dora-Mittelbau early in 1945. He was moved one last time to Bergen-Belsen in early April, where he was liberated by the British on April 15. Within days of the liberation, Josef was chosen by his fellow survivors to become chairman of the Bergen-Belsen camp committee. Later, after the convening of the First Congress of Liberated Jews in the British Zone in September 1945, he was elected chairman of the Central Jewish Committee for the British Zone of Germany. He headed both the camp committee and the central committee until the closing of the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp in the summer of 1950. During his years of leadership in the DP community Josef repeatedly stood up to the British in defense of the needs and political sensitivities of Jewish survivors. He demanded that the British formally recognize Jews as a separate category of displaced persons. He halted the transfer of Belsen DPs to two inferior camps established near the Dutch border. He thwarted the British attempt to change the name of the Belsen DP camp to Hohne, which would have diminished the moral and political power of the DPs living there that derived from their link to the infamous concentration camp. Finally, he repeatedly spoke out against the anti-Zionist policies of the British government and actively aided the illegal Bricha and Aliyah Bet movements that strove to get Jews out of Eastern Europe and smuggle them into Palestine. On August 18, 1946 Josef Rosensaft married Hadassah Bimko (1912-1997), a fellow Bergen-Belsen survivor from Sosnowiec, Poland, who at the time was head of the health department of the Central Jewish Committee in the British Zone. Hadassah was the daughter of Hersh Leib and Hendla Bimko, Gerer Hasidim who worked in the jewelry manufacturing business. She had a younger brother, Benjamin and a younger sister, Roszka. In the summer of 1943 Hadassah was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she spent fifteen months before being transferred to Bergen-Belsen in November 1944. While she survived, most of her relatives, including her husband, son, parents and sister, perished in Auschwitz. A dentist by training who had also studied medicine, Hadassah was recruited immediately after the liberation to organize a group of Jewish doctors and nurses in the camp to help British medical personnel treat the thousands of Belsen survivors suffering from disease and malnutrition. Hadassah also served as one of the principal prosecution witnesses at the Bergen-Belsen Trial in Lueneburg (September-November 1945). A year-and-a-half after their marriage, Hadassah gave birth to their son Menachem on May 1, 1948. With the closing of the Belsen DP camp, the Rosensafts moved to Switzerland, where they spent eight years in the town of Montreux. The family then immigrated to the United States, where Josef remained active in a variety of Jewish organizations. He served as president of the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Survivors until his death.
    Record last modified:
    2004-03-12 00:00:00
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