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Joyful Mother Of Children: Part 4

By Marian G. Greenberg


New Conqnests - New Candidates

"Our work in Germany began as an emergency measure but it may spread to various parts of the world." Henrietta Szold had risked this prophecy on her departure from Palestine to attend the World Zionist Congress in Lucerne and the Youth Aliyah Conference in Amsterdam (August and September 1935). She regarded the mis­fortune of the Polish child as a call to action and rejoiced when Ben Shemen was permitted to accept 150 Polish children under the aus­pices of Youth Aliyah. Immigration from lands other than Germany was sanctioned in the Mandatory's April-October 1938 schedule creat­ing the new category of III B.

This conferred far greater latitude upon Youth Aliyah installations and even settlements than hitherto - provided they could build and staff secondary schools and living quarters for prospective immigrants. Once the Government had approved such facilities, it issued certifi­cates in the number requested. In practice this amounted to a grant of unrestricted student certificates and an easement of limitations on country of origin. Thus, on the eve of Nazi aggression, Category III B enabled Youth Aliyah to gather in more exiles and from many lands.

"Unrestricted certificates!" exulted Miss Szold, adding, "on second thought, restricted not by Government but by our limitations - avail­able places and available funds." The Youth Aliyah Bureau scraped together 1100 places; at least they might apply an "unguent to the outrage perpetrated in Germany and Austria, and impending who knows where else?"

Miss Szold's foreboding cry was soon answered. Hardly had the invasion of Austria (March 10, 1938) been "legitimized" by annexa­tion to the German Reich when Hitler began his incitement of German nationals living in the Sudeten region. At Munich in late September, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Premier Edouard Daladier agreed to the shameful sacrifice of Czechoslovakia which was dismem­bered by degrees. On March 15, 1939, Hitler devoured Prague and its surrounding enclave of liberty. A week later der Fuehrer fulminated against Poland, demanding the Free City of Danzig and access to East Prussia through Polish territory. ­

Each vanquished province exposed its defenseless citizens to Hitler's fury. Foremost among the hunted were the Jews - detested, among other "grounds," for their open espousal of democratic governments. In Austria the general stampede for emigration visas included 4,000 children who registered for Youth Aliyah; 970 reached Palestine before the outbreak of war. One month after the lights of Prague went out, 227 children escaped from Czechoslovakia.

On November 10, 1938, a half crazed refugee assassinated Heinrich von Rath, the German attaché in Paris. His desperate act touched off a "spontaneous" reign of terror throughout the Reich and its appen­dages. The expulsion of Jews to Poland, begun in October 1937, was stepped up. Men, women, and children were rounded up and set upon the Polish frontier without food, money, or adequate clothing. The first unfortunates were given a refuge of sorts in barns and barracks near the border; but as their numbers increased, later arrivals were met by the bared bayonets of Polish soldiers.

A few groups of young deportees who had been destined for Pales­tine were gathered together in No-Man's Land and permitted to enter Poland temporarily. Youth Aliyah had guaranteed their eventual emi­gration. The madrichim, who accompanied these trainees into the interior, continued their training in crude camps and with improvised equipment. When the groups were forced to flee again before the invad­ing German armies, they proved able to endure privations and aerial bombardment such as had wiped out many a seasoned regiment.

First Ports in the Storm

Civilized neighboring lands - Great Britain, Holland, Denmark, and Sweden - offered sanctuary to thousands of threatened children and youth. Some were sheltered in Belgium, France, and the Balkans. In most cases refuge was granted on the guarantee of Youth Aliyah that certificates and fares for the children's eventual transfer to Pales­tine would be furnished.

From 1934 to September 1939, Youth Aliyah transferred 5,000 children and youth to Palestine. Its wards came from Germany, Austria. Czechoslovakia, Poland, and a few from Rumania. Several countries in what was still free Europe were providing shelter and training to Youth Aliyah candidates; they and other humane nations played a life-saving role during and after the holocaust. Thus the movement was on the way to becoming "world embracing," as Henrietta Szold foresaw.


In 1936-37 Palestinian Arabs embarked upon a campaign of violence against Jewish immigration and land sales. Dealing gently with the culprits and harshly with the Jewish community, the Mandatory de­layed and reduced immigration schedules. In May 1939 it issued the MacDonald White Paper which practically repudiated the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. For nearly a decade its prohibitions against immigration were enforced against desperate men, women, and children seeking entry into the Jewish Homeland.

The Yishuv intensified its resistance to the infamous White Paper and the World Zionist Congress (Geneva, August 1939) supported the policy of Aliyah Beth - immigration which the British had barred as "illega1." In October Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald sus­pended all immigration. For six months no Jew - whatever the cir­cumstances of his escape or extremity - would be admitted to the Jewish National Home. Fortunately Youth Aliyah was not immediately affected. The new student-school formula enabled it to absorb more adolescents and younger children at a time of great stringency; also to expand its facilities at a hot-house growing rate as soon as Israel could open its doors to the exiles.

In relation to the massive need, the statistics of the saved never exceeded a fraction of a frantic multitude. But Youth Aliyah's first few years must be viewed against the back-drop of Hitlerian horror and Arab violence. On the anvil of adversity it was forged into a great Zionist instrument which later proved equal to the challenge and oppor­tunity of Israel's statehood.

Date: 3/29/2011 12:00:00 AM

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