Select British Documents on the Illegal Immigration to Palestine 1939-1940
In February 1949 the British War Cabinet turned down a proposal by the Jewish Agency to suspend the White Paper, which restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine. Between January 1938 and December 1939, forty-eight vessels carrying 21,450 immigrants left ports in Italy and the Balkans and made their way to Palestine. Most were intercepted, some died or were shot on the way, but most were finally admitted to Palestine. In December 1939 the British announced that no more certificates would be issued. Furthermore, the British stepped up pressure on the countries permitting transit and embarkation of illegal immigrants and passed draconian laws to keep Jews out of Palestine. Jabotinsky’s appeal to the Foreign Office to permit refugees from Europe to escape to Palestine was curtly refused. The British now decided on deportation and a small number were sent to Mauritius. In the meantime the SS Patria sank with the loss of 250 lives. The survivors were allowed to land in Palestine. The SS Salvador also went down and 231 were lost. The British refused to accept the humanitarian argument and stuck to the political one. In effect, the Holocaust found the Jews at the mercy of the nations in which they lived in the dispersion and not in their sovereign homeland state. Extensive documentation of correspondence relating to the subject matter is presented.