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Refugees en route to Palestine on board the SS Pentcho.

Photograph | Not Digitized | Photograph Number: 26999

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    Refugees en route to Palestine on board the SS Pentcho.
    After April 1940
    En Route To Palestine/Israel
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Karl Akiva Schwarz
    Event History
    The Pentcho was an 85 year-old paddlewheel steamer hired by the Revisionist Zionist movement to bring Jewish refugees to Palestine. It departed from Bratislava on May 18, 1940 with some 400 Slovakian Jews and proceeded down the Danube. A few weeks later it picked up over 100 Austrian Jews at the seaport of Sulina, bringing the total to some 510 Jewish refugees. The Pentcho left Sulina on September 21 and after a stormy crossing on the Black Sea, it passed the Dardanelles and reached the Greek port of Mytilene (Metelin) on the island of Lesbos. After the ship was ordered to leave without refueling, the passengers wired the Committee for the Relief of Refugees (CRR) in Athens stating their predicament. They headed for the port of Piraeus, where the CRR arranged for a delivery of food and fuel. The Pentcho left Piraeus on October 3 and four days later reached the port of Rhodes where they were reprovisioned by the Italian authorities but ordered to leave the following day. A few days later, on October 9, the ship's boiler exploded, and the ship broke in two off of the deserted island of Kamilonissi in Dodecanese territory, then under Italian control. The passengers and crew were able to get ashore and off-load their supplies before the ship finally sank. Five men took the ship's only lifeboat to look for rescue. Though they were caught in a storm and lost their bearings, they were eventually rescued by a British destroyer and taken to Alexandria. When the CRR learned about the wreckage of the Pentcho, it alerted Greeks in Herakleion who then endeavored to have supplies delivered to the stranded refugees on Kamilonissi. On October 18 and 19, Italian authorities picked up the refugees on two sorties and brought them to the main island of Rhodes where they stayed for the next year and a quarter in a hastily constructed camp in the soccer stadium of Rhodes. Then, in January 1942, the refugees were transferred to the Ferramonti internment camp in southern Italy. They were kept there until the Allies captured Italy. Most of the Pentcho's passengers arrived in Palestine in June 1944, but twenty-four of them were among the 1000 refugees brought to the US in 1944 aboard the SS Henry Gibbins and sheltered at Fort Ontario. The Pentcho was the last illegal immigrant ship sponsored by the Revisionist Zionist movement. Afterwards illegal immigration to Palestine was organized by the Mossad, the Organization for Illegal Immigration.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Karl Akiva Schwarz
    Source Record ID: Collections: 2004.273.1

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    Record last modified:
    2015-04-15 00:00:00
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