After the world’s failure to address the tragic situation of Jews throughout Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the resulting atrocities Jews were forced to endure, it might be expected that world leaders would have made every possible effort to improve life for those few Jews who miraculously survived the Holocaust. Sadly, this was not the case.
Even after the last Jew had expired in the Nazi death camps, the world community put constant obstacles in the way of survivors rebuilding their lives.
In 1945, having survived nearly five years of horror, nineteen-year-old Rachel Roth made a herculean effort to be reunited with her father who had fled Poland in 1939 and was living in Israel. Far from helping Roth be reunited with her father, the British placed endless obstacles in the way of Roth reaching her father in Israel.
In her painful book, Here There Is No Why, Rachel Roth shares a letter she and her aunt received from her father while they were waiting in Paris hoping to immigrate to Palestine. The letter explains the obstacles for Jews hoping to leave Europe after the war.
Roth’s father wrote,
“I’ve put in a request to the British authorities to renew your certificates. We have to be patient and wait for the legal papers that will allow you to enter the country. I can’t let you try to smuggle your way into Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel with Aliyah Bet [code name given to illegal immigration by Jews to Mandatory Palestine in violation of British White Paper of 1939]. You’re too dear to me, the two of you [Rachel and her aunt], the only ones left alive of the whole family, for me to let you put your lives in danger…
“As you know, Eretz Yisrael is a British mandate. The British have sealed the gates to our country to Jewish immigration. The Jewish Agency in Palestine has organized an underground railway for illegal immigration that they call Aliyah Bet.
“Battered old cargo ships (for lack of funds, the Agency can’t do any better) reach our shores at night and unload their cargo of illegal European Jews under the cover of darkness. The British Navy blockades the seas, and the army patrols the shores, making it almost impossible for the ships with the last remnants of our people to unload. But under the cover of darkness, our proud youth, our brave Sabras, Jews born in Palestine, risk their own lives, literally carrying the human cargo on their own backs from the ships to shore. They realize these are their own brothers who have survived the gas chambers.
“Unfortunately, two of the ships organized by the Haganah [Jewish paramilitary organization in the British Mandate of Palestine (1921–48)] were apprehended in the Italian port of Le Spezia and turned back before they could leave the Italian coast. Under pressure from the British government, the Italian police stopped the two ships, which were loaded with people who had survived the concentration camps. The passengers on the ships declared a hunger strike and stated categorically that if the Italian police attempt to take them off the ships, they would commit suicide by sinking the ships.
“In a show of solidarity, Jewish representatives in England and Palestine declared their own hunger strike. Before declaring the strike, however, a delegation headed by Golda Meir confronted the head of the British Commission in Jerusalem with a request that he release the two blockaded ships. The Englishman refused, assuring the delegation that the British government would not change its established policy because a few Jews refused to eat. Gold Meir replied to the commissioner that if the murder of six million Jews could not influence the British government to change its policy, she didn’t expect that a few fasting Jews would succeed in effecting a change.” 392, 393
It is not clear that in the intervening seven decades much of the world community has learned how to care any better for refugees fleeing the horror of violence and injustice in the world.