Atlit detainee camp

Atlit detainee camp

The Atlit detainee camp was a camp for Jewish illegal immigrants seeking refuge in Palestine during the period of the British Mandate for Palestine. Atlit is located on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, 20 km south of Haifa. The camp, which operated in the 1930s and 40s, was a detention center run like a concentration camp, surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers. [ [ Atlit “Illegal Immigration Camp” ] ] Many of the detainees were Jews who had escaped Nazi Europe. The British authorities, succumbing to Arab demands to limit Jewish immigration, refused to allow these Jews to enter the country.

In November 1940, the British authorities decided to send 5000 "illegals" to be detained in Mauritius. One of these deporting ships was the Patria. To stop the deportation, the Haganah, the Jewish underground militia in Palestine, exploded a bomb in the ship's hold on November 25. The size of the explosive charge had been seriously miscalculated, and the ship sank quickly. On board were 1800 refugees; 216 drowned in the disaster. The survivors from the "Patria" were detained in Atlit and not deported to Mauritius. They were released after a few months.

The "Darien II" arrived with 800 refugees in March 1941. They were detained at the Atlit camp until September 1942, when the camp was shut down.

The Atlit camp was reopened in 1945 following World War II, as more and more "illegals" arrived in Palestine. Most of them were Holocaust survivors from DP camps in Europe who made the journey through the Berihah and Ha'apala ("Aliya Beth") clandestine immigration network. On October 10, 1945, the Palmach (special forces unit of the Haganah) broke into the camp and released 200 detainees, who escaped. Yitzhak Rabin, then a young officer, planned this raid and Nachum Sarig commanded it.

Following this event, the British deported illegals to be interned in Cyprus internment camps. These camps operated from 1946 through the establishment of the State of Israel.

The Atlit Detainee Camp is today a museum dedicated to the pre-State illegal immigration.


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