Aliyah During World War II
and its Aftermath
War II, the aliyah
effort focused on rescuing Jews from Nazioccupied Europe. Some olim
entered the country on visas issued under the "White
Paper" quota; the majority came as illegal immigrants. This
immigration, called Aliyah Bet, arrived by land and by sea, from Europe
and the Middle East, in contravention of the Mandatory Government's
The loss of contact with European countries, the hazards
of maritime travel under wartime conditions, and the difficulty in
obtaining vessels for transport of illegal immigrants placed severe
constraints on Aliyah Bet. Several boatloads of immigrants who managed to
reach Palestine were sent back by British authorities upholding the quota
system. Many lost their lives at sea or in the Nazi inferno in Europe.
Overland, 1,350 Syrian Jews were escorted to Palestine in an intricate and
During the years 1944-1948, the Jews in Eastern Europe
sought to leave that continent by any means. Emissaries from the yishuv,
Jewish partisans and Zionist youth
movements cooperated in establishing the Beriha (escape) organization,
which helped nearly 200,000 Jews leave Europe. The majority settled
From the end of World
War II until the establishment
of Israel (1945-1948), illegal immigration was the major method
of immigration, because the British, by setting the quota at a mere
18,000 per year, virtually terminated the option of legal immigration.
Sixtysix illegal immigration sailings were organized during these
years, but only a few managed to penetrate the British blockade and
bring their passengers ashore. In 1947, 4500 immigrants on the Exodus
were sent back to Europe by the Mandatory government. The British stopped
the vessels carrying immigrants at sea, and interned the captured immigrants
in camps in Cyprus; most of these persons only arrived in Israel after
the establishment of the state. Approximately 80,000 illegal immigrants
reached Palestine during 1945-48.
The number of immigrants during the
period, legal and illegal alike, was approximately
480,000, close to 90% of them from Europe.
The population of the yishuv expanded to 650,000
by the time statehood was proclaimed.