- Illegal immigrants to Palestine are crowded on the deck of the Tel Hai.
Szaja Aron Knobler (now Alex Knobler) is the son of Moszek and Jocheta Knobler. He was born in 1921 in Bedzin, Poland. Szaja had three older sisters, Ita, Esther and Leah. In 1931 the family moved to Chorzow near the German border. There Szaja became active in the Akiba Zionist youth movement. In 1938 he joined the Akiba hachshara [agricultural training farm] in Bielsko and made plans to immigrate to Palestine. His plans were thwarted, however, by the start of World War II. In the first months of the war Szaja fled to the Soviet sector of Poland, where he explored possible exit routes to Palestine via Romania for the nascent Zionist underground. During a visit home in 1940 Szaja was caught up in the forced resettlement of his family to the Sosnowiec ghetto. From Sosnowiec Szaja was deported to the Blechhammer labor camp, where he remained until the camp was evacuated in January 1945. During the forced march out of the camp Szaja ran away with two friends. German guards shot and killed his friends but Szaja escaped. Posing as a Polish laborer, Szaja found refuge with a German farmer in Gleiwitz until liberation. After the war Szaja, who was the sole survivor of his immediate family, took a leading role in the setting up of Zionist collectives in Poland. He also was active in the Bricha and Aliyah Bet [illegal immigration to Palestine] movement. This activity led to his arrest in Sosnowiec by the NKVD. Following his release from prison, Szaja left Poland for Germany. During the summer of 1945 Szaja organized Zionist activities at the Foehrenwald displaced persons camp. In October he moved on to the Bergen-Belsen DP camp, where he joined a group of 400 would-be immigrants to Palestine. The group sailed aboard the Tel Hai from Marseilles in March 1946. When the ship reached Palestine, it was intercepted by the British and its passengers interned for three weeks in Athlit. Following his release Szaja settled in Kibbutz Masada, but by December 1946 he was back in Germany. Serving as an emissary for NOHAM (Noar Halutzi Meuchad), a Zionist youth umbrella group, Szaja distributed immigration certificates and organized Youth Aliyah groups in the DP camps. While working at the Belsen DP camp Szaja met Pola Blicblum, a survivor from Lodz. They were married in the Landsberg DP camp on July 30, 1947. Soon after they settled in Palestine.
- En Route To Palestine/Israel
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Alex Knobler
- Event History
- The Tel Hai was formerly the Turkish vessel Asya that was built in Newcastle in 1875 and fitted with German U-boat diesel engines in Turkey in 1942. The immigrant ship set sail from Marseilles in mid March with 733 Jewish DPs, many of them concentration camp survivors. The ship was intercepted by a British destroyer off the coast of Palestine on March 27, 1946 and then escorted to the port of Haifa. Its passengers were interned in the Athlit detention camp for three weeks before being released.