1,760 Visaless Jews Land at Haifa; Russians Refused British Demand to Halt Vessel
Menu JTA Search

1,760 Visaless Jews Land at Haifa; Russians Refused British Demand to Halt Vessel

Download PDF for this date

The 2,000-ton Greek steamer Smyrna, renamed the Max Nordau for its present voyage, steamed into Haifa this morning under British escort and landed 1,760 visaless Jews who embarked at the Rumanian port of Constanza last week.

The vessel was spotted yesterday afternoon by RAF reconnaissance planes which summoned the British destroyer Jervis. A boarding party was sent to the Smyrna, but when the master of the ship said that he was headed for Haifa, the boarders withdrew and allowed the vessel to continue. When it arrived in Palestine territorial waters late last night, it was taken into formal custody and escorted into Haifa.

British troops and a number of armored cars lined the pier as the first passenger, Gittel Ginsberg, 16, from Hungary, disembarked. She was the first refugee to arrive since the issuance of the Anglo-American committee’s report. The passengers and waiting crowds joined in singing Hatikvah as the disembarkation proceeded quickly and without incident. The refugees were immediately taken by buses to the Athlit clearance camp.


Among the arrivals are 80 rabbis, but most of them are young people, including 104 former partisans from Poland and 224 orphans, eight of whom are infants. According to the available figures 720 of the passengers from the Smyrna come from Poland, 430 from Rumania, 120 from Czechoslovakia, 450 from Yugoslavia and eighty from Hungary.

The Smyrna’s five-day voyage was difficult and unpleasant, the arrivals reported, as the ship was jammed, and eating and sanitary facilities were primitive. There was virtually no drinking water available for the last 24 hours of the trip, and fresh water was taken aboard as soon as the vessel arrived here.

The voyage of the Smyrna was one of the worst kept secrets since illegal immigration began. As soon as the ship left Constanza, the British consul there informed his government, while Jewish circles contacted groups in Palestine. Several thousand members of the resistance movement were mobilized last night, ready for any eventuality. The secret “Voice of Israel” radio said today that a branch of the Jewish underground railway in Rumania arranged the Smyrna’s voyage, outwitting efforts by British officials there.

It is reliably reported that officials of the British mission in Bucharest approached Soviet authorities in Rumania and requested that the ship be halted before it entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Bosporus but the Russians replied that a ship-load of visaless immigrants bound for Palestine was not their concern.

The Smyrna is an old Greek vessel manned by a Rumanian crew of 20, all of whom were arrested today as soon as the ship docked.

The Arab Higher Committee is reported to have added the question of the Smyrna to the agenda of its meeting scheduled for tomorrow. However, a spokesman for the Histadruth said today that he anticipated no difficulty from the Arabs.

This afternoon reconnaissance aircraft were patrolling the coast near Haifa looking for other immigrant vessels, which are reported to have slipped through the British naval patrols.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund