Jews Dragged from British Deportation Ships at Hamburg Vow to Return to Palestine
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Jews Dragged from British Deportation Ships at Hamburg Vow to Return to Palestine

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Weary and battered, but still defiant, 1,406 Jewish refugees who disembarked today at Hamburg from the Ocean Vigor, on which they were deported from Palestine, nursed their wounds tonight, at the Poppendorf camp, 75 miles from here, and vowed that they will be ready to start for Palestine again in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Empire Rival, second of the three prison ships, docked this afternoon, and its passengers will be disembarked at dawn tomorrow. The third vessel, the Runnymede Park, will be unloaded later tomorrow, or early Wednesday, depending on how long it takes the British to remove the Empire Rival deportees.

The disembarkation from the Ocean Vigor began at 6 a.m. this morning and lasted for five hours, which was longer than the British anticipated, owing to stiff resistance by about half of the ship’s passengers. The first troops to board the ships rushed into one of the four crowded holds shouting at the sleeping refugees to “get up, and got out.” In the resulting confusion any Jews were pushed up to the deck and led to the gangplank.

The soldiers then grabbed children and took them out, thus forcing their mothers, and then fathers, to follow, removing a few hundred in this fashion. Others she appeared reluctant, but not ready to resist, were encouraged to leave by buckets of water and prods from the soldiers’ truncheons. In this manner about half the ship was emptied.


In the two forward holds, however, virtually all of the occupants refused to leave. Dancing the Hora, they sang Palestinian songs and defied the efforts of the small boarding party to remove them. Hundreds of reinforcements were then sent aboard from the dock area where they had been held in readiness. They clambered down into the holds and, using their clubs, succeeded in forcing most of the refugees to back up against the walls.

The troops then formed a long single line the length of the hold and plucking single refugees from the sides of the hold, passed them along in bucket brigade fashion to the stairs, where they were forced on deck, and then across the deck to the ganglank. In the process, the soldiers struck and kicked the struggling Jews, using their fists, clubs and feet.

The British authorities permitted only one American and one English correspondent to witness the operations below decks. They reported that they had observed considerable violence, but not brutality. They said that truncheons were used frequently, as well as fists. This correspondent witnessed the action from the dock area, near the gangplank. Troops which lined the gangplank and the passageway to a large enclosure on the pier handled the refugees roughly and, in many cases, brutally, as ? descended the slippery gangplank, loaded down with haversacks and other luggage.

The many incidents of mistreatment of the Jews by the soldiers provoked shouts if disgust from American and other correspondents, who saw the troops needlessly pump and boat the deportees in full view of their officers. Intelligence officers who were scattered among the newsmen in a crowded enclosure threatened on several occasions to eject any correspondent who vocally objected to what one officer termed a jally good show.” Photographers were banned completely.

The people coming down the gangplank wept openly and many screamed that the soldiers were beating the refugees below decks. Others shouted: “The British shall ?eep us from our homeland” or “Back to Auswitz.”


While this depressing operation was in progress, the British, for some inpublicable reason, had jazz records blaring away through the loudspeaker system on the pier. While the scuffling was in progress, one correspondent noticed three German murses, part of a medical team assigned to the pier, who were literally dancing with glee as they watched the disembarkation. They were hurriedly ejected from the ? by a British officer.

Once they had been shoved into the enclosure on the deck, the refugees’ bage was searched and the Jews were loaded onto the trains which were pulled up alongside the pier. The trains consisted of long strings of old, wooden, third-class coaches, from which all seats and fittings had been ripped by the British. The windows were barred and guards were stationed at each window.

This correspondent spoke to some of the refugees after they had been placed in the trains. They looked weary and dispirited, but responded with a smile when created by “Shalom.” When asked their plans, they replied simply: “We will return to Palestine. Nobody can stop us. We have had many other oppressors. We will be on ? way again in six or eight weeks.” They were given army rations on the train, but any threw them back shouting: “First you beat us; then you feed us.” Many of them spoke in English.

The heavily guarded train left on the three-hour journey to Poppendorf as soon as it was filled. The ride was comparatively uneventful, the only incident occurring with the refugees tried to stop the train by throwing a door out of a window, but only succeeded in injuring several Germans who were knocked off a passing train. At the station, which was completely surrounded by barbed wire, the Jews were piled into ?ks and carried a half-mile to the camp.The operation was carried out in full ? of the Germans living in the area.

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