The S.S. Exodus was an American Holocaust Refugee Ship, purchased by Americans and crewed by American volunteers with Jewish Palestinian leadership. The American mission was to rescue desperate Jewish Holocaust survivors, unwanted human remnants trapped in Europe, after the murder of 6 million Jews. Despite the Balfour Declaration of 1917, British Mandate policy, as it had before World War II, closed Palestine as the haven of refuge for Jews.
July 18, 1947, the unarmed ship carrying 4,515 Holocaust Survivors tried to breech the British Palestine blockade. In international waters, two British destroyers crashed into the sides of the Exodus, threatening to sink the ship with all its human cargo. British Marines boarded, killed three, including an American Mahal crew member - Bill Bernstein. 147 refugees were injured. The Jews resisted bravely.
The captured ship was taken to Haifa port where the brutalized refugees were transferred to awaiting British prison ships and forcibly returned to "Displaced Persons Camps" in Germany. World news captured the pathos in Haifa, turning world opinion and sympathy to the Jewish plight.
In Jerusalem, the United Nations special Committee on Palestine was deliberating the Palestine question. They had refused to hear Jewish refugee testimony. Aboard the Exodus was American Methodist Minister Reverend John Stanley Grauel. The Haganah smuggled Grauel to Jerusalem where he testified before the Committee. Because of Reverend Grauel's eye witness account, the Committee agreed to hear Holocaust Survivor testimonies. The Committee's anti-Partition recommendation changed in favor of Partition.
Saturday, November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to end British control of Palestine setting the stage for the re-birth of a Jewish State. Journalist Ruth Gruber named the Exodus, "The Ship that Launched a Nation."
The Exodus Memorial
Haifa - July 18, 2017
Of the dozens of Aliyah Bet ships attempting to bring Jewish Holocaust Survivors to British Mandatory Palestine, the Exodus was the most famous and significant. Memorials to The Ship that Launched a Nation were created in Germany, France, Italy and the United States. Ironically, nothing specific to the Exodus was ever created in Israel - until now.
July 18, 2017, the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation is leading an international effort to place a historic interpretive memorial in the Port of Haifa for the Exodus. It is anticipated that the dedication will be on the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Exodus in Haifa.
A tragic fire, of controversial origin, destroyed the Exodus in 1952 while tied up in Haifa. The wreck was towed out past the ship lanes to the port and scuttled. Two attempts were made to raise for salvage the Exodus' hull but each attempt failed. The Exodus refused to leave Israel and remains just north of the port in forty feet of water to this day.
Artist's Rendering of Exodus Memorial
Exodus Memorial sculpture under fabrication. Sam Philipe - Sculptor
The true story of the Exodus is largely unkown, mostly forgotten today. it is not just the story of Uris, Preminger and Gold. It is a story of drama, firece courage, determination, tragedy and resolution in the face of cold hearted anti-jewish brutality. The Exodus - "The Ship that Launched a Nation", Ruth Gruber the famous newswoman, named her in dispatch and in her book by the same name.
Daddy, I was once told that the only things in life we could be sure of were “death and taxes”. After reading this book I am convinced that there is another certainty we can add to the above two- and that is “there will always be an Israel.” Dorothy, May 20, 1959