Documents show how the British government tried to portray turning back the Exodus refugee ship in a sympathetic light.
More than 400 pages of secret government documents from post-World War II stored in Britain’s National Archives were opened to the public Monday.
The documents show that British diplomatic and military officials were concerned that sending Jews to German military camps so soon after the Holocaust would spark anger and protests around the world.
John Coulson, a diplomat at the Briitsh Embassy in Paris, suggested in one of the documents how to spin the Jews’ confinement in the camps to score a public relations
“If we decide it is convenient not to keep them in camps any longer, I suggest that we should make some play that we are releasing them from all restraint of this kind in accordance with their wishes and that they were only put in such accommodation for the preliminary necessities of screening and maintenance,” Coulson advised.
“These documents show the British perspective for the first time,” Mark Dunton, contemporary history specialist at the National Archives, told the AP. “It’s obvious in the files the British were sensitive to the claim they were putting Jews into concentration camps.”
The more than 4,500 Jews aboard the Exodus refugee ship tried to illegally enter Palestine just months before the United Nations voted to create a Jewish state on part of the land.
The Jews were removed from the ship, made famous by author Leon Uris and the 1960 movie based on his book, and sent in three British steamers back to the British-controlled zone of Germany where they were placed in military camps. Most of the passengers were able to move to Israel in 1948 after statehood was declared.