|Youth Aliyah Under Henrietta Szold|
THE WAR YEARS (1939-45)
YOUTH IN FLIGHT
Training in Transit and Escape Routes
At dawn on the morning of September 1, 1939, a "Kindertransport" of 60 children, including 31 Youth Aliyah candidates, arrived at the English channel port of Harwich. They had left a Germany poised for attack and had been rushed through Holland which was mobilizing for defense. Two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany; hence this was the last group of nearly 10,000 children of all faiths who were able to reach the British Island sanctuary under the auspices of the Lord Baldwin Fund. Among these refugees there were 450 Youth Aliyah candidates who received training in six agricultural centers.
The flight of thousands from Central Europe to neutral lands made it necessary to provide for the education of nearly 2,000 Youth Aliyah candidates during the long periods of waiting for transport. Miss Szold rejoiced at the "year of fine human experience" which was granted to the 270 young fugitives from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia who escaped to Denmark at the outbreak of war.
They were placed in the homes of individual farmers all over the little Danish country. They worked along with the farmers' families exactly as our groups in Palestine work with families in the moshavai ovdim.
An organization of Christian women, Liga fuer Frieden und Freiheit (League for Peace and Freedom), undertook responsibility for the youth. After the Nazi conquest of Norway and Denmark, these valiant friends spirited away the endangered refugees to Sweden. Denmark's Youth Aliyah wards eventually reached Palestine by traveling via Finland, Russia, Turkey, and Syria.
One group of boys and girls among those who had been expelled from Germany in November 1937-38 were awaiting Aliyah at their training camp, Kibbutz Grochow, near Warsaw. In 1940 some of this group escaped extinction - through Sweden, Holland, Belgium, and France to Marseilles, thence to Beirut and Palestine; the older survivors arrived a year later.
By the end of 1940, the continued training of youth on the Continent became impossible. In occupied France practically all escape was cut off for a thousand Jewish children who had been abandoned by parents about to be deported. In conquered Holland one hundred Youth Aliyah candidates shared the fate of thousands of Dutch citizens and refugees. Unless they became and remained invisible, they perished.
All told, 1500 Youth Aliyah candidates from northern Europe and the Balkans reached Palestine during the first 14 months of war. They had traveled by arduous and lengthy routes. They had been forced to give a wide berth to the Mediterranean which was practically closed to Allied shipping after the collapse of France and Italy's entry into the war on the side of the Axis.
On June 22, 1941 Hitler attacked Soviet Russia and added the Balkan States to his trophies. Thus Europe became a prison and death-house with six million Jews, including two million children, proscribed.
"Down to the Sea in Ships"
Unseaworthy ships - overloaded with immigrants with no certificates - crammed hundreds of children into their steamy holds. "Today, Thanksgiving Day, was an occasion of distress for us here," Miss Szold wrote her sister on November 21, 1940.
The government announced its decision to transport three shiploads of immigrants - who have been anchored in Haifa Harbor these last ten days, to a British colony - it is rumored, to the island of Mauritius. I saw the Chief Secretary, my plea being for the release of our groups for whom I could make myself responsible for two years; but he refused to act in favor of any one group.
A week later, one of these derelicts, the S.S. Patria exploded and its passengers were spilled out or jumped into the sea. The Youth Aliyah children (except for five who lost their lives during the catastrophe) went with other survivors to Athlit (a detention camp maintained by [the] Government in the vicinity of Haifa).
After many appeals the British Government granted 300 certificates for youth and children on the "Struma," a rickety craft anchored in the Black Sea (February 25, 1942).
The descriptions we have received tell a tale of crowding, filth, deprivation - in short, sufferings that should not be the lot of human beings . . . The vessel was designed for 100 persons at the utmost; 200 might be made half comfortable, but not nearly 760!
While Miss Szold's dictated letter was being transcribed, the Struma which had not been permitted to land for repairs in Turkey, struck a mine and sank - with the loss of all on board. Miss Szold had gone to Athlit to visit the passengers from the S.S. Dorian. She found even the children "fasting as an expression of grief over the fate of the Struma passengers." Thirty of the Dorian's young survivors were released in time to celebrate the Seder of 1942 in their new homes.