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Joyful Mother Of Children: Part 7

Youth Aliyah Under Henrietta Szold
By Marian G. Greenberg

THE WAR YEARS (1939-45)
(continued)

 

THE TEHERAN CHILDREN

From Poland to Persia to Palestine

At the end of August 1942 the Youth Aliyah office was thrown into a state of excitement by the report that 933 Jewishchildren - attached to a group of 14,000 Poles - had landed at Pahlevi, the Persian port on the Caspian Sea. Miss Szold reported:

The young refugees had been sleeping in the woods, half-naked, exposed to disease, eaten up by vermin, starved, guiltless - the badly-used victims of the war and war-lords. From time to time in the course of their wan­derings, some of them were gathered in orphanages such as in Samarkand. Youth leaders shepherded them and are now with the children in the Teheran camp tending and teaching them. The Jewish Agency rushed teachers, nurses, social workers, medical supplies, and clothing to the camp.

Youth Aliyah undertook responsibility for all the Jewish children and applied to the Government for the student certificates required. But seven months were to go by before diplomacy aided by funds could open the way to Palestine. At long last, the first group of 712 children were moved by train to Basra on the Persian Gulf, and thence by boat to Karachi. There they were transferred to an empty British troop ship which, after a short halt in India, conveyed them to Suez.

The coming of the children (September 18, 1942) was acclaimed by the whole community of Palestine with an enthusiasm which beggars descrip­tion. Children vied with adults in expressing their joy over their rescue. The trains that brought them into Palestine were held up at station after station, and sweets and fruit were showered upon the children. Spontaneously contributions came pouring into our office and those of the daily newspapers - particularly from school children and soldiers at the Front.

But the flower-strewn honeymoon was soon over. A tempest of religious controversy arose in connection with the placement of the children who had been assigned temporarily to eleven reception camps. When it subsided and the Teheran children were settled in permanent homes, Youth Aliyah emerged stronger and more securely based than before. To this gradual and laborious build-up of public confidence, Henrietta Szold's contribution was monumental.

Reception Center

The Teheran transport emphasized the need of a permanent [reception] camp.

Formerly our candidates underwent careful investigation in their countries of provenance, but such preparation can no longer be given abroad. They can be under observation only if we have a place of our own, properly equipped and properly supervised by trained forces.

Miss Szold expressed her unbounded joy at Hadassah's initial gift of $150,000 for the reception camp, but she did not live to see its formal dedication on February 10, 1949 at Ramat Hadassah-Szold near Alonim. The Reception Center has accommodations for 350 children and contains a special building named in memory of Hans Beyth who fell in 1947, an early victim of the [War of Independence]. Hadassah gave the $400,000 needed for the original complex and has continued to improve Ramat Hadassah-Szold, as required.

Responsibility of the Jewish Agency

Since the Agency had been obliged to accept the financial guarantee for the enlarged undertaking, it reorganized Youth Aliyah by attaching it directly to the Jewish Agency Executive (January 1943). The new Board of Management was enlarged to include among others: repre­sentatives of the meshakim and institutions and of the two large women's organizations - Hadassah and WIZO. Hadassah through its repre­sentative Bertha S. Schoolman - who served as co-chairman of the Board of Management in Israel from November 1947 to January 1953 - helped tide the movement over a critical transition.
Miss Szold passed away a few months before the European armistice (June, 1945) gave the signal for mass immigration into Palestine. Her first deputy, Hans Beyth, was slain [during the War of Independence] in Decem­ber 1947. But for the initiative and support of Youth Aliyah's partners abroad - and particularly the day-by-day efforts in Israel of Moshe Kol, Mrs. Schoolman, and a dedicated staff - this unique undertaking would have lost its identity. Only a single-minded concentration upon the special needs of children and youth, together with creative minds and working hands, preserved Youth Aliyah for its greatest test.

 

TRANSDNIESTRIAN DEATH CAMP

Of 8,000 children deported with their families in 1941 fromBukovina and Bessarabia to Transdniestria, 3,000 had perished in two years. On May 2, 1944, the first group of 119 emaciated and ragged children arrived in Palestine after a six weeks’ journey. Most of them had wit­nessed the brutal slaying of one parent, a brother, or sister, or had been unnerved bytheir secret removal. During the summer of 1944, three more transports from Transdniestria and Rumania [sic] brought the number of the salvaged to 618 young souls.

These first survivors to reach Palestine fromthe death camp bore witness to incredible reports which were beginning to percolate through to the civilized world. They pronounced a grim prologue to the crimes perpetrated (but not yet fully revealed) in other concentration camps and charnel houses.

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