Monday, April 22, 2024

The Fateful Voyage of the Exodus 1947

By Sherri Stewart
The SS President Warfield, a US freight passenger ship, had seen better days. Having been launched in 1928, it originally sailed the Chesapeake Bay, but it was transferred to England, where it was deployed in the Normandy invasion (June 1944). The old ship was returned to US waters after World War II, but its greatest voyage was yet to occur.

Hagana, an underground Jewish organization, covertly bought the SS President Warfield in order to transport Jews who sought to immigrate to Palestine. The plight of the ship’s passengers would capture the world’s attention at that time and later on through the film, Exodus.

In July 1947, the President Warfield left France for Palestine, which was under British mandate. The ship carried over 4,500 Jewish men, women, and children, all of whom were either displaced people or survivors of the Holocaust. Soon after it left France, the ship’s name was changed to Exodus 1947 for its similarity to the Jewish exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land thousands of years before.

Even before the ship reached Palestine’s waters, British destroyers surrounded it. On July 18, British naval forces attacked the Exodus1947.A crew member and two passengers were killed. Dozens of passengers suffered bullet wounds and other injuries.

To make an example of the Exodus 1947, the British towed the ship to Haifa and transferred the passengers onto three navy transports which returned to Europe. The ships first landed at Port-de-Bouc, France, where the passengers were ordered by the British Navy to disembark, but the passengers, including many orphaned children, refused to disembark and declared a hunger strike which lasted 24 days. Mounting pressure from international media coverage pressured British authorities to find a solution.

The ships sat for three weeks in the sweltering summer heat, but the passengers refused to disembark, and the French authorities were unwilling to force them to leave. The British government then transported the passengers to Hamburg where the passengers were sent to displaced persons camps.

Displaced persons in camps all over Europe protested and staged hunger strikes when they heard the news. Large protests erupted on both sides of the Atlantic. The ensuing public embarrassment for Britain played a significant role in the diplomatic swing of sympathy toward the Jews, and played a factor in the establishment of the country of Israel in 1948, less than a year later.

Selah Award finalist Sherri Stewart loves a clean novel, sprinkled with romance and a strong message that challenges her faith. She spends her working hours with books—either editing others’ manuscripts or writing her own. Her passions are traveling to the settings of her books and sampling the food. She traveled to Paris for this book, and she works daily on her French and German although she doesn’t need to since everyone speaks English. A widow, Sherri lives in Orlando with her lazy dog, Lily. She shares recipes, tidbits of the book’s locations, and other authors' books in her newsletter.
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  1. Thank you for posting today. I had to look up why Britain attacked the ship because I thought Britain was one of the Allied countries. After reading up on Google, I understand why. But....yikes....similar issues to today.

  2. Connie, isn't that true? So similar today.