Aliyah Bet (Hebrew: עלייה ב', "
Aliyah 'B'" – bet being the
second letter of the Hebrew alphabet) was the code name given to
illegal immigration by Jews, most of whom were Holocaust survivors
and refugees from Nazi Germany, to
Mandatory Palestine between 1934
and 1948 in violation of the restrictions laid out in the British
White Paper of 1939. In modern-day Israel it has also been called by
the Hebrew term Ha'pala (Hebrew: הַעְפָּלָה; ascension).
Aliyah Bet is distinguished from the
Aliyah Aleph ("
Aleph being the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet) which refers to
the limited Jewish immigration permitted by British authorities during
the same period. The name Aliya B is also shortened name for Aliya
Bilty Legalit (Hebrew: עלייה בלתי-לגאלית - illegal
4.1 After VE Day
4.2 After The UN Partition Resolution
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
During Ha'pala, several Jewish organizations worked together to
facilitate immigration beyond the established quotas. As persecution
Jews intensified in Europe during the Nazi era, the urgency driving
the immigration also became more acute. Those who participated in the
immigration efforts consistently refused to term it "illegal", instead
calling it "clandestine."
Ha'pala occurred in two phases. First, from 1934 to 1942, was an
effort to enable European
Jews to escape Nazi persecution and
genocide. From 1945 to 1948, in a stage known as Bricha, it was an
effort to find homes for Jewish survivors of the Nazi crimes (Sh'erit
ha-Pletah) who were among the millions of displaced persons ("DPs")
languishing in refugee camps in occupied Germany. During the first
phase, several organizations (including Revisionists) led the effort;
after World War II, the Mossad Le
Aliyah Bet ("the Institute for Aliyah
B"), an arm of the Haganah, took charge.
Post-World War II, Ha'pala journeys typically started in the DP camps
and moved through one of two collection points in the American
Bad Reichenhall and Leipheim. From there, the
refugees travelled in disguised trucks, on foot, or by train to ports
on the Mediterranean Sea, where ships brought them to Palestine. Most
of the ships had names such as Lo Tafchidunu ("You can't frighten us")
and La-Nitzahon ("To the victory") designed to inspire and rally the
Jews of Palestine. Some were named after prominent figures in the
Zionist movement, and people who had been killed while supporting
Aliyah Bet. More than 70,000
Jews arrived in Palestine on more than
The journey of
Aliyah Bet Group 14
American sector camps imposed no restrictions on the movements out of
the camps, and American, French, and Italian officials often turned a
blind eye to the movements. Several
UNRRA officials (in particular
Elizabeth Robertson in Leipheim) acted as facilitators of the
emigration. The British government vehemently opposed the movement,
and restricted movement in and out of their camps. Britain also set up
armed naval patrols to prevent immigrants from landing in Palestine.
Over 100,000 people attempted to illegally enter Palestine. There were
142 voyages by 120 ships. Over half were stopped by the British
Royal Navy had eight ships on station in Palestine, and
additional ships were tasked with tracking suspicious vessels heading
for Palestine. Most of the intercepted immigrants were sent to
internment camps in Cyprus: (Karaolos near Famagusta, Nicosia,
Dhekelia, and Xylotymbou). Some were sent to the Atlit detention camp
in Palestine, and some to Mauritius. The British held as many as
50,000 people in these camps (see
Jews in British camps on Cyprus).
Over 1,600 drowned at sea. Only a few thousand actually entered
The pivotal event in the Ha'apala program was the incident of the SS
Exodus in 1947. The Exodus was intercepted and boarded by a British
patrol. Despite significant resistance from its passengers, Exodus was
forcibly returned to Europe. Its passengers were eventually sent back
to Germany. This was publicized, to the great embarrassment of the
One account of
Aliyah Bet is given by journalist
I. F. Stone
I. F. Stone in his
1946 book Underground to Palestine, a first-person account of
traveling with European displaced persons attempting to reach the
Some 250 American veterans, including
Murray Greenfield (of the ship
World War II
World War II volunteered to sail ten ships ("The Jews'
Secret Fleet") from the
United States to Europe to load 35,000
survivors of the Holocaust (half of the illegal immigrants to
Palestine), only to be deported to detention camps on Cyprus.
In 1934, the first attempt to bring in a large number of illegal
immigrants by sea happened when some 350
Jews sailed on the Vallos, a
chartered ship, without the permission of Jewish Agency, who feared
illegal immigration would cause the British to restrict legal
immigration. She arrived off the coast of Palestine on August 25, and
the passengers disembarked with the help of the Haganah, which
received special permission to assist them.
The Tiger Hill, a 1,499 ton ship, built in 1887, sailed from
Constanţa on August 3, 1939, with about 750 immigrants on board. She
took on board the passengers from the Frossoula, another illegal
immigrant ship that was marooned in Lebanon. On September 1, the first
day of World War II, the Tiger Hill was intercepted and fired on by
Royal Navy gunboats off Tel Aviv, and was beached.
On November 24 and 25, 1939 a large group of immigrants travelled by
Bratislava and about 10 days later sailed from
there on the riverboat Uranus down the Danube. At the Romanian border,
the three smaller riverboats to which they had been transferred on
December 14 on entering
Yugoslavia were intercepted and the immigrants
were forced to disembark at the old fortress town of Kladovo. About
1,100 refugees were stranded there. In May, 1941, they were still in
Yugoslavia, where 915 of them were caught and eventually killed by the
On May 18, 1940 the old Italian paddle steamer Pencho sailed from
Bratislava, with 514 passengers, mostly
Betar members. The Pencho
sailed down the
Danube to the
Black Sea and into the Aegean Sea. On
October 9 her engines failed and she was wrecked off Mytilene, in the
Dodecanese Islands. The Italians rescued the passengers
and took them to Rhodes. All but two were then placed in an internment
Ferramonti di Tarsia
Ferramonti di Tarsia in southern Italy. They were held there
until Allied forces liberated the area in September 1943. The story of
the Pencho was published as Odyssey, by John Bierman.
In October 1940 1,770
Jewish refugees sailed from
two ships. The Pacific arrived off
Haifa on November 1, followed a few
days later by the Milos. The
Royal Navy intercepted each ship and
escorted it into Haifa, where British authorities detained the
refugees before transferring them to a requisitioned French ocean
liner, the Patria, for deportation to Mauritius. They were followed
Tulcea by another 1,634 refugees aboard the Atlantic, which
arrived on November 24 off Haifa, where the
Royal Navy escorted her
into harbour. On November 25 the British had just started transferring
Atlantic's refugees to Patria when
Haganah agents planted a bomb
aboard the French liner with the intention of disabling her to prevent
her from sailing. However, the bomb quickly sank Patria, killing 260
people and wounding 172. The survivors were allowed to stay in
Palestine on humanitarian grounds.
In October 1940 a large group of refugees were allowed to leave
Vienna. The exodus was organized by Berthold Storfer, a Jewish
businessman who worked under Adolf Eichmann. They took four river
boats, Uranus, Schönbrunn, Helios, and Melk, down the
Romania, where the Uranus passengers, about 1,000, boarded the
Pacific, and sailed on October 11, 1940. They arrived at
November 1, followed by the Milos. The British transferred all the
immigrants to the French liner SS Patria to take them for
internment to Mauritius. To stop the Patria from sailing, the Haganah
smuggled a bomb aboard. The explosion holed her side, capsizing her
and killing 267 people. The British, by order of Winston Churchill,
allowed the survivors to remain in Palestine.
In December 1940 the Salvador, a small Bulgarian schooner formerly
named Tsar Krum, left
Burgas with 327 refugees. On December 12 the
Salvador was wrecked in a violent storm in the Sea of Marmara, near
Istanbul. 223 persons, including 66 children, lost their lives. The
survivors were taken to Istanbul. 125 survivors were deported back to
Bulgaria, and the remaining 70 left on the Darien (No. 66).
On December 11, 1941 the Struma sailed from
between 760 and 790 refugees. Three days later she reached Istanbul,
where Turkey detained her and her passengers for 10 weeks. On February
23, 1942 Turkish authorities towed her back into the
Black Sea and
cast her adrift. Early the next day the Soviet submarine Shch-213
torpedoed and sank her. Between 767 and 791 people were killed, and
there was only one survivor.
On September 20, 1942 the Europa sailed from
Romania with 21
passengers. She was wrecked in the Bosphorus.
On April 21, 1944 the "Belasitza" sailed from
Romania with 273
passengers including 120 children, who went from
Istanbul to Palestine
by sealed train.
On August 5, 1944 Bulbul, Mefküre and Morino sailed from Constanţa
carrying about 1,000 refugees between them. In the night the Soviet
submarine Shch-215 sank Mefküre by torpedo and shellfire, and then
machine-gunned survivors in the water. Between 289 and 394
refugees plus seven crew were aboard Mefküre; only the crew and five
refugees survived. Bulbul rescued the few survivors and took them to
After VE Day
Yisrael Meir Lau
Yisrael Meir Lau (aged 8) in the arms of Elazar Schiff, survivors of
Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp on their arrival at Haifa, 15 July 1945
On August 28, 1945 the Italian fishing vessel Dalin, made in Monopoli,
carrying 35 immigrants, landed at Caesarea, disembarked its
passengers, and returned to Italy.
On September 4, 1945 the ship Natan, carrying 79 immigrants, landed in
Palestine. It carried seamen and radio operators from the
Jewish Agency emissaries on the return trip to Italy. On October 1,
1945, the Natan again ran the blockade arrived at
Shefayim with 73
On September 9, 1945 the Gabriela, carrying 40 passengers, arrived
undetected in Palestine.
On September 17, 1945 the Peter, carrying 168 immigrants, landed in
Palestine undetected by the British. She again slipped into Palestine
undetected and arrived at
Shefayim on October 22, this time carrying
On November 23, 1945 the Berl Katznelson, carrying 220 Jewish
refugees, arrived in Shefayim. As the ship was landing immigrants she
was intercepted by the
Royal Navy sloop HMS Peacock. Of the
passengers, 200 reached the beach and escaped, and 20 were
On December 14, 1945 the ship Hannah Senesh, carrying 252 passengers,
was beached at
Nahariya after evading
Royal Navy patrols. The
passengers were brought ashore via a rope bridge, and evaded
On January 17, 1946 the Enzo Sereni, carrying 908 passengers, was
intercepted by the destroyer HMS Talybont and escorted to
On March 13, 1946 the schooner Wingate, carrying 248 passengers,
ran the blockade and attempted to land. British Palestine Police
opened fire from the shore, killing a female
Palmach member. The ship
was then captured and escorted to
Haifa by the destroyer
On March 27, 1946 the steamer Tel Hai, carrying 736 passengers, was
intercepted by the destroyer HMS Chequers 140 miles out at sea as
it approached Palestine.
On May 13, 1946 the ship Max Nordau, carrying 1,754 immigrants, was
captured by the destroyers HMS Jervis and HMS Chequers. The same
day, the ships Dov Hos (675 passengers) and Eliahu Golomb (735
passengers) arrived in Palestine legally. The British had blockaded
the Dov Hos after it had arrived in La Spezia, but the passengers
responded with a hunger strike and a threat to blow her up, compelling
the British to give them entry permits.
On June 8, 1946 the Haviva Reik, carrying 462 passengers, was
intercepted by HMS Saumarez on June 8, 1946. Some 150 people had
previously transferred from the Haviva Reik to the Rafi off the
Palestinian coast, and the crew had disembarked.
On June 26, 1946 the Josiah Wedgwood, carrying 1,259 passengers, was
intercepted by HMS Venus.
On July 20, 1946 the Haganah, carrying 2,678 passengers, departed from
France, and transferred 1,108 of its passengers to the small steamer
Biriah west of Crete. The Biriah was intercepted by HMS Virago on
July 2. The
Haganah picked up a new party of refugees at Bakar,
Yugoslavia, and set sail for Palestine, this time also carrying 2,678
passengers total. She was found at sea with its engines broken down
and no electrical power, and was towed to
Haifa by HMS Venus. Her
passengers were arrested and interned.
On August 11, 1946 the Yagur, carrying 758 passengers, was intercepted
by the destroyer HMS Brissenden, with passive resistance from the
On August 12, 1946 the Henrietta Szold, carrying 536 passengers, was
intercepted. The same day, the British announced that illegal
immigrants would be sent to
Cyprus and other areas under detention.
The first British deportation ship sailed for
Cyprus on the same day,
with 500 illegal immigrants on board.
On August 13, 1946 two immigration ships were intercepted: Katriel
Jaffe (604 passengers) by HMS Talybont, and Twenty Three (790
passengers) by HMS Brissenden. There was desperate resistance on board
Twenty Three. The same day, two British ships with 1,300 Jewish
detainees on board set sail for Cyprus. A crowd of about 1,000 Jews
attempted to break into the
Haifa port area, and British troops
responded with live fire, killing three and wounding seven.
On August 16, 1946 the yawl Amiram Shochat, carrying 183 passengers,
evaded the British blockade and landed near Caesarea.
On September 2, 1946 the Dov Hos, this time named the Arba Cheruyot,
carrying 1,024 passengers, was seized by the destroyers
HMS Childers and HMS Chivalrous. The boarding was strongly
resisted, and two people drowned after jumping off the ship.
On September 22, 1946 the brigantine Palmach, 611 passengers, was
seized by the minesweeper HMS Rowena. The
Royal Navy tried to
board the ship four times before finally seizing her, and one
passenger was killed.
On October 20, 1946 the Eliahu Golomb, renamed the Braha Fuld,
carrying 806 passengers, was captured off
Lebanon by the destroyer
HMS Chaplet and minesweeper HMS Moon.
On October 19, the Latrun (1,279 passengers), was intercepted by HMS
Chivalrous and the minesweeper HMS Octavia. Four people had died
en route, and the ship was leaking and listing heavily when she was
On November 9, 1946 the HaKedosha (600 passengers), foundered in a
gale and sank. The passengers were rescued by the Knesset Israel. The
Knesset Israel, carrying a total of 3,845 passengers, was intercepted
by the destroyers HMS Haydon and HMS Brissenden and minesweepers
HMS Octavia and HMS Espiegle and taken to Haifa. The interception
met no resistance, but in
Haifa when the British tried to transfer
them to transport ships to take them to
Cyprus the refugees resisted
fiercely, two were killed and 46 injured.
On December 5, 1946 the Rafiah (785 passengers), was wrecked on Syrina
Island in bad weather. The survivors were rescued by two Royal Navy
and one Greek warship, and were taken to Cyprus. Women and children
were taken to Palestine.
On February 9, 1947 the wooden brigantine Lanegev (647 passengers) was
captured by HMS Chieftain after a battle which left one refugee
Haganah ship Medinat HaYehudim ("Jewish State") in
Haifa port, 1947
SS Exodus arriving at
Haifa port, July 20, 1947
United States lands
Jewish refugees in Nahariya, 1948
On February 17, 1947 the steamer HaMapil HaAlmoni (807 passengers) was
intercepted by HMS St Austell Bay, captured after a violent
battle, and taken in tow by the minesweeper HMS Welfare.
On February 27, 1947 the Haim Arlosoroff, after the name of an
assassinated leader of the
Jewish Agency (1,378 passengers) was
Royal Navy destroyer HMS Chieftain, and the passengers
put up fierce resistance. The ship ran aground at Bat Galim, south of
Haifa, just opposite a
British Army camp. The passengers were arrested
and deported to Cyprus.
On March 9, 1947, the Ben Hecht (597 passengers), the only ship
sponsored by the Irgun, was captured without resistance by the
destroyers HMS Chieftain, HMS Chevron and HMS Chivalrous.
On March 12, 1947 the Shabtai Luzinsky (823 passengers) ran the
blockade and beached itself north of Gaza, where the passengers
disembarked, and most escaped a
British Army cordon. Hundreds of local
residents came down to the beach to mingle with passengers who evaded
arrest. Many residents were mistaken for refugees, arrested, and sent
to Cyprus, with some 460 locals returned home the following week.
On March 30, 1947 the Moledet (1,588 passengers) developed a list and
suffered engine failure some 50 miles outside Palestinian waters and
issued an SOS. Passengers were transferred to the destroyers HMS
Haydon and HMS Charity, minesweeper HMS Octavia and frigate
HMS St Brides Bay, and the
Royal Navy towed Moledet to
On April 13, 1947 the Theodor Herzl (2,641 passengers) was intercepted
by HMS Haydon and HMS St Brides Bay. Passengers resisted heavily;
three were killed and 27 were injured.
On April 23, 1947 the Shear Yashuv (768 passengers) was intercepted by
destroyer HMS Cheviot.
On May 17, 1947 the Hatikva (1,414 passengers) was intercepted, rammed
and captured by the destroyers HMS Venus and HMS Brissenden.
On May 23, 1947 the immigrant ship Mordei Hagetaot, carrying 1,457
immigrants, was intercepted and boarded by the
Royal Navy off southern
Palestine. All of its passengers were arrested.
On May 31, 1947 the
Haganah ship Yehuda Halevy, carrying 399
immigrants, arrived in Palestine under escort after being intercepted
by the Royal Navy. The immigrants were immediately transferred to
On July 18, 1947, the ship SS Exodus, carrying 4,515 immigrants,
was intercepted by the cruiser HMS Ajax and a flotilla of
destroyers. She was rammed and boarded but the immigrants resisted the
boarding, and had put up barriers and barbed wire to impede boarding.
Two passengers and a crewman were bludgeoned to death, several dozen
were injured, and the ship was taken over. The Exodus was towed to
Haifa, where the immigrants were forced onto three deportation ships
and taken to France. When the deportation ships docked in
Port-de-Bouc, the passengers refused to disembark after the French
government announced that it would only allow the immigrants off the
ships if they consented. The immigrants were then taken to Germany,
forcibly taken off the ships, and sent back to DP camps.
On July 28, 1947 the 14 Halalei Gesher Haziv, carrying 685 Eastern
Jews was intercepted by HMS Rowena. Also, the Shivat Zion,
carrying 411 North African Jews, was intercepted without resistance by
the minesweeper HMS Providence.
On September 27, 1947, the Af Al Pi Chen (434 passengers), was
intercepted by HMS Talybont and taken after violent resistance. One
person was killed and ten were injured.
On October 2, 1947 the Medinat HaYehudim (2,664 passengers) was
intercepted by the Royal Navy. The same day, the Geulah, with 1,385
passengers, was intercepted by HMS Chaplet.
On November 15, 1947 the Peter, renamed the
Aliyah and carrying 182
passengers, ran the British blockade and beached near Netanya. The
passengers, all specially-picked youths, quickly disembarked and
On November 16, 1947 the Kadima, a larger ship carrying 794
immigrants, was intercepted by the
Royal Navy and brought to Haifa,
where its passengers were transferred to the British transport ship
HMT Runnymede Park and taken to Cyprus.
After The UN Partition Resolution
Film about Ha'apala after World War II
On December 4, 1947 the HaPortzim ran the blockade and landed its 167
passengers at the mouth of the Yarkon River.
On December 22, 1947 the Lo Fafchidunu (884 passengers) was
intercepted by HMS Verulam and taken in tow by the sloop
On December 28, 1947 the 29 BeNovember (680 passengers) was
intercepted by HMS Chevron.
On January 1, 1948 the HaUmot HaMeuhadot (537 passengers) ran the
blockade and beached herself at Nahariya. 131 passengers were caught,
the rest evaded arrest. The same day, the Atzmaut (7,612 passengers)
Kibbutz Galuyot (7,557 passengers) were intercepted by the
Mauritius and HMS Phoebe and taken to
On January 31, 1948 the 35 Giborei Kfar Etzion (280 passengers) was
intercepted by HMS Childers.
On February 12, 1948 the Yerushalayim Hanezura (679 passengers) was
intercepted by HMS Cheviot.
On February 20, 1948 the Lekommemiyut (696 passengers) was intercepted
by HMS Childers.
On February 28, 1948 the Bonim v'Lochamim formerly the Enzo Sereni,
(982 passengers) was intercepted off Cape Carmel by HMS Venus .
On March 29, 1948 the Yehiam (771 passengers) was intercepted by the
destroyer HMS Verulam.
On April 12, 1948 the Tirat Zvi (817 passengers) was intercepted by
On April 24, 1948 the Mishmar HaEmek (782 passengers) was intercepted
by HMS Chevron off Haifa.
On April 26, 1948 the Nakhson (553 passengers) was intercepted off
Haifa by the sloop HMS Pelican after fierce resistance which left
a number of people injured.
Graves of the 223 Jewish passengers of Salvador who drowned during a
storm at sea in 1940, Mount Herzl, Jerusalem.
The success of
Aliyah Bet was modest when measured in terms of the
numbers who succeeded in entering Palestine. But it proved to be a
unifying force both for the Jewish community in Palestine (the Yishuv)
and for the Holocaust-survivor refugees in Europe (Sh'erit ha-Pletah).
The immigrants who drowned in the sea and whose bodies were found were
buried in the National Cemetery in
Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries
Jewish Agency for Israel
^ Halamish, Aviva (1998). The Exodus affair:
Holocaust survivors and
the struggle for Palestine (1st ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse
University Press. p. 68. ISBN 0815605161.
^ Reich, Bernard. A Brief History of Israel. New York: Checkmark
Books. pp. 39–40. ISBN 0-8160-5793-1.
^ MacArthur, John R (May 22, 2009). "The first draft of Israeli
history". The Globe and Mail.
^ Lapidot, Prof. Yehuda. "The Irgun's Role in Illegal Immigration".
Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli Cooperative
^ Ofer and Weiner (1996) "Dead-End Journey - The Tragic Story of the
Kladovo-Sabac Group", pp 29-34.
^ Wasserstein, B (1979). Britain and the
Jews of Europe 1939–45.
Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. not cited.
^ a b c d e f "British Rule in Palestine Timeline (1918 - 1947)".
Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli Cooperative
^ "The Darien Dilemma". Erez Laufer Films.
^ Aroni, Samuel (2002–2007). "Who Perished On The Struma And How
^ Подводная лодка "Щ-215". Черноморский
Флот информационный ресурс (in Russian).
2000–2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
^ "מפקורה SS Mefküre Mafkura Mefkura". Haapalah /
27 September 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae
af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq Silverstone, Paul H. "
Project". Paul Silverstone.
^ Eliav, Arie L. The Voyage of the Ulua. Funk & Wagnalls.
^ Unalga 1912, Cutters, Craft & U.S. Coast Guard-Manned Army &
Navy Vessels, U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
^ "The Exodus 1947". Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli
^ a b Hazan, Haim (2016). Serendipity in Anthropological Research.
Routledge. p. 296. ISBN 1317057074.
Greenfield, Murray S; Hochstein, Joseph M (1987). The Jews' Secret
Fleet: The Untold Story of North American Volunteers Who Smashed the
British Blockade of Palestine.
Jerusalem and New York: Gefen
Publishing House. ISBN 978-965-229-517-0.
Stewart, Ninian (2002). The
Royal Navy and the Palestine Patrol.
London and Portland OR: Frank Cass Publishing.
Media related to
Aliyah Bet at Wikimedia Commons
Aliyah Bet and Machal Virtual Museum
World War II
World War II and its Aftermath", Jewish Virtual Library
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum -
Aliyah Bet Voyages
Aliyah Bet Project
Aliyah Bet Voyages includes
pictures and details of the boats of
Aliyah Bet, ports of origin,
dates of sailing, dates of arrival in Palestine and the number of
immigrants on board.