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dan

Dan Sambra / Administrator

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Saturday, June 14th 2014, 7:51pm

1939 - 1975: Emigrarea evreilor catre Israel / The Aliyah Bet, Haifa, Palestine, Transilvania

1945 and later: The Aliyah Bet / Passenger Ship Transilvania

Source #1: The Royal Navy and the Palestinian Patrol

Author: Ninian Stewart
Publisher: Frank Cass, London, 2002

Source #2: Immigrants in Turmoil
Author: Dvora Hacohen
Publisher: Syracuse University Press, New York, 2003








Excerpts:


1945 [1]: The Istanbul press reported that the Soviet-Romanian Transport Company intended to sail Transylvania on October 22 with 1,054 Jewish emigrants on board.

1945 [1]: On October 26, SS Transiyvania, under a Romanian master, arrived as anticipated in Haifa, carrying 42 illegal passengers amongst her legal immigrants.

Prof. Ulvi Keser, Turkish Assistance Activities for the Jewish Immigrants and Jewish Immigrant Camps in Cyprus during World War II, cites 54 Romanian passengers. The illegal passengers were transferred to Atlit Illegal Immigratants' Detention Camp.


1947: In June, Gad Hilb was sent as a passenger to Marseille, with a false identity and false papers, aboard the Romanian passenger ship, Transylvania.

SS Transylvania sailed regularly between Romania and Israel, at the fare of fifty-five dollars per passenger - twice the regular fare, and the Joint Distribution Committee paid.

Twice a month SS Transylvania carried 600 passengers.

1948: In March, SS Transylvania sailed from Marseille to Haifa.

1949: By June, departures increased to to four times per month, and by July, they increased to six times per month, and passenger numbers increased to 1,500 per voyage.

1952: Central Intelligence Agency, Top Secret Security Information, February 4, cites: "The S.S. Transylvania is now making only three trips a month to Haifa instead of the former weekly voyages, and Rumania seems to be adopting a more stringent policy regarding documentation of emigrants, particularly for young men."

Quoted from "Royal_Navy..."

[...]
Romania was by now again becoming an area where illegal immigrants could be expected to embark and a dummy run the previous year by a Soviet-Russian Transport Company vessel with 42 illegals embarked was thought to have been connived at by the Soviets.

After pressure from the British Military Mission, the authorities at Constanza frustrated an attempt by a coastal steamer to take 1,500 illegal immigrants onboard.

[...]

Intelligence reported the Smyrna was preparing to leave Constanza on 7 April with 1,500 illegal immigrants embarked. This vessel, owned by Jean Pandelis, a Greek residing in Bucharest and one of two brothers who had owned Struma, had been intended to be employed evacuating Jews in 1944. The venture failed; she later came into the hands of the Revisionists and was transferred to the Central Committee of the Jewish Community in Bucharest who arranged her voyage to Palestine. Romania being an occupied former enemy nation the British Military Mission was requested to intervene with the Allied Control Commission and the Soviet authorities confirmed that those concerned held visas for entry to Mexico.

There was no authority in Romania authorised to act in the name of the Mexican Government and the visas were forgeries issued by Jewish officials in the Ministry of the Interior. Air searches flown by Warwick aircraft and sea patrols started 9 April and a false alarm caused 18 fighter aircraft to conduct a dawn search on 13 April, with two Warwicks searching as well.

Twenty-four hours later there were reports of the approach of the Hanna Fold with 930 immigrants, but nothing was seen and on 19 April Smyrna was reported still to be at Constanza.
[...]

Quoted from "Immigrants..."

[...]
Faced with the difiiculty of absorbing so many newcomers, the Israeli government and the ]ewish Agency grappled with the question of whether to proclaim a general slowdown of immigration or to give preference to one Diaspora community over another.

This issue again rose to the fore in 1950, when Iraq and Romania simultaneously lifted their bans on Jewish emigration. The immigrant camps were overflowing and the basic resources to handle newcomers were depleted. Israel’s decision-makers were at their wit’s end, their dilemma compounded by the many twists and turns in the course of aliyah from different countries.

In May 1948 more than 350,000 Jews were living in Romania, constituting the largest jewish community in Europe after the Holocaust. When Romania joined the Communist bloc that year, anxiety increased among the Jews. Economically, they were faring poorly, and their memories ofwar and anti-Semitism were still fresh. The majority of Romanian Jews were thus ripe for aliyah.

Emissaries from Israel worked to pave the way through diplomatic and other channels, but at the end of 1948 the Romanians blocked all the exits. Qnly a handful of jews, most of them old or sick, were allowed to leave the country.

In mid-November 1949 the authorities relented somewhat, issuing several thousand exit permits each month and as many as twenty-three thousand by May 1950. According to the Aliyah Department, 35 percent of those who received permits were elderly. A further policy shift became evident in the spring, apparently in response to the social unrest in Romania and the growing incidence of anti-Semitism.

The government and the Communist Party, fearing an upset of the delicate political balance, considered measures to defuse the situation. Romania’s foreign minister, Anna Pauker, herself of Jewish extraction, proposed rounding up the Jews in camps, but the idea was vetoed by the prime minister, Giorgio Dej [Gheorghiu Dej].

Eventually it was decided that emigration was the best solution; in this way, the Communist regime would be able to rid itself of negative elements and trouble - the Jews. There were even some who envisaged an end to Romania’s economic difficulties: Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria and Hungary had received payment for every Jew allowed to leave.

The decision of the Romanian government required the approval of Moscow, which was secured after a round of talks with Soviet diplomats in Bucharest. As soon as the signatures on the agreement were dry, the authorities rushed into action. The Ministry of Interior hung notices on the walls of every police station in the country, and Jews interested in emigrating to Israel were asked to present the necessary documentation.

Within days, dozens of registry ofiices were opened throughout Romania. Twenty-two oflices opened in Bucharest alone, drawing 60 percent of the city’s 120,000 Jews.

Seventy-five percent of Iassi’s 35,000 Jews registered for emigration, and the figures reached 90 percent in other areas. All this was accomplished in less than a month. Thousands of passports were issued as people lined the streets outside the Israel office in Bucharest. By the end of May, 10,000 Romanian Jews were waiting for ships to take them to Israel.

The Jewish Agency executive had received a steady flow of information about the mood in Romania, contacts with the government, and the financial arrangements that had been worked out. It dared not call a halt or even a slowdown on immigration.

The Romanian government was eager to get the Jews out before a commotion erupted over their release. The SS Transylvania sailed regularly between Romania and Israel at the fare of fifty-five dollars per passenger - twice the real cost of the trip - and the Joint Distribution Committee paid.

At first, the line operated twice a month, carrying six hundred passengers each time; soon departures increased to four a month (in June) and six a month (in July). The number of passengers also increased at a steady rate, with as many as fifteen hundred persons aboard at one time.

Schemes to Diminish Romanian Immigration

During the summer of 1950 Israel’s desperate pleas to release the Jews of Romania gave way to the embarrassing realization that it could not cope with the tens of thousands who were expected to come. In June, July, and August 1950, the government and the Jewish Agency pondered how to achieve more manageable numbers without provoking the Romanians into locking their gates as had happened in 1948.

Nobody was prepared to take that risk. At the insistence of the absorption authorities, immigration quotas had been established for other countries, but in the case of Romania this was deemed too hazardous.

Instead, Israel searched For ways of manipulating the Romanians in order to achieve this end. At a joint meeting of ]ewish Agency and government officials, Minister Shapira proposed that Romania be asked to reduce the serious overcrowding on the Romanian ship that transported olim. Israel could claim that the passengers suffered greatly from the cramped conditions and that the level of hygiene was very poor.

Most of the oflicials, including Ben-Gurion, thought the idea was a good one, but Yitzhak Raphael opposed it. “None [of the olim] are complaining; they are happy to come to Israel,” Raphael said. Furthermore, Shapira’s scheme contradicted the request of Israel’s envoy in Bucharest to hasten the unloading of passengers and baggage so that the ship could return to Romania that same day to transport another group.

An alternate suggestion was to do the very opposite: to hold up the ship in port, disembark slowly, and delay baggage unloading. Shapira had his doubts. “I have the feeling that another ship is about to be added to this line,” he said. “In that case, none of our ideas will be effective and the tempo of aliya/1 will reach 10,000 persons a month.” The Romanians also began to separate passengers and baggage, sending the latter by freighter so that more people could fit on board their ship.

In ]uly the number of olim rose to 7,182. When the Foreign Ministry heard the talk about reducing immigration from Romania, it warned against measures that might stop aliya altogether. The Jews of Romania were very tense; some 15,000 were awaiting transport and feared that their passports would be confiscated if they did not leave soon. Savage propaganda and horror stories about the conditions in the immigrant camps began to appear in the press in order to intimidate those seeking permission to emigrate.

All this contradicted the efforts of the Romanian government to speed up the departure of the ]ews. Such ambiguity in a Communist regime, where newspapers were controlled from above, was strange indeed. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem speculated that the Romanians had not correctly assessed the number of people who desired to leave and were startled by the tens of thousands who applied for papers. The ministry was not at all certain that emigration from Romania would be allowed to continue.

This assessment proved correct. In ]uly most of the leaders of the Zionist movement in Romania were incarcerated. The Jewish community was shocked. Again there were speculations about why the Romanian government acted as it did: Was it trying to frighten applicants for emigration? Did this predict an end to Israel’s diplomatic activity? There was a growing fear that emigration would be halted or drastically curtailed.

Israel’s immigration authorities were relentlessly pulled in two directions: the need to alleviate the crush in the immigrant camps and the inability to stave off outside pressures to absorb more immigrants. Time and again, these authorities resolved to slow down immigration, only to cancel their resolution in the next breath. Yitzhak Raphael transmitted the data he received from Romania and other countries to his colleagues in the ]ewish Agency, laying the decision in their laps: “A verdict must be reached about the number of immigrants [from Romania] ,” he said. “If it is 5,000 [a month], then we must decide in favor of no immigration from Iraq, no immigration from Poland, no olim from other countries. If I also want immigration from other countries, then I must regulate aliya from Romania so that it does not drown me."

Activists of Mossad le-Aliyah Bet favored limiting immigration from Romania, but again not at the expense of crippling the entire enterprise. Another consideration was financial. In August, Israel had paid the Romanian government $412,500 for the release of jews. The Romanians were now demanding an increment of $35 per head, which would increase the monthly outlay by $262,000.

“Dealing with Robbers”

In 1950 money became an even greater problem. The Joint Distribution Committee usually handled payments connected with the immigrants. However, by August its annual budget for this purpose was depleted and all immigration expenses would now Fall on the Israeli government. Frantic, Eliezer Kaplan, the minister of finance, insisted that some way be found to restrict aliya/1 from Romania.

He fiercely opposed paying more for the transport of the immigrants.Most of the others, however, recognized the risks involved in tampering with the current arrangements. Even Shapira, who in the past had joined Kaplan in calling for controlled immigration, agreed that in this instance it was too hazardous.

The debate revolved around cost. In August the Romanians raised their charge per passenger to ninety dollars. Israeli vessels could make the trip for one-third of that price, but the Romanians insisted on using their own ships. Kaplan and other members of the Jewish Agency Executive were indignant. Avraham Granott advised the ]ewish Agency to stand firm:

“The fear of stopping aliyah is not irrational, but the question is how far one should give in . . . We must not consent to blackmail” Granott said. Shapira disagreed with him, arguing that the state had no choice: “We must pay ransom,” Shapira argued. “We are dealing with robbers. This is robbery in the disguise of a ticket.” Even though it might spell the end of emigration from Romania, Shapira favored negotiating with the Romanians. Golda Meir had harsh words for those who would turn them down:

“Before aliyah from Romania was permitted, we would never have gotten into such an argument . . . If the ]ews of Russia were allowed to leave, Kaplan would not wrangle over population make-up, cost and so forth . . . The situation in Romania may soon be the same as in Russia.”

Surprisingly, Ben-Gurion was among those who felt Israel should not pay the higher price demanded by the Romanians. He was certain that they intended to halt emigration anyway, and that the monetary issue was only a camouflage. Nonetheless, he proposed the appointment of committee to study all aspects of aliyah from Romania, including a demographic profile of the olim, their age, working ability, marital status, etc. Ben-Gurion was particularly concerned about health.

The spread of contagious diseases around this time had sparked panic in the Israeli public. Ben-Gurion was very much influenced by Dr. Haim Sheba, his appointee for the directorship of the Ministry of Health, who repeatedly warned him that Israel was being reckless in admitting olim without screening or supervision.

As the government and the Jewish Agency grappled with these questions, immigrants continued to stream into Israel from Poland. The exodus of Romanian Jewry was in full swing, and pressure began to mount from other countries, too.

[...]

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