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September 05, 1986 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-09-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SPEAS

TREMENDOUS SAVINGS

TRUCKLOAD

SUMMER

JUICE
SALE!

* * *

50 0

0

FROM

30% TO

LAST NINE DAYS

SPECIAL ORDERS INCLUDED

Refugees from the Exodus were sent back to Europe by the
British.

were good, the people sang
and socialized, and the youth
courted one another.
Even a baby was born
aboard ship. Unfortunately, it
was a breach birth and the
crew was unable to save the
mother. A young sailor from
the South took a personal
interest in the baby, Weinsaft
recalls, and "Somewhere in
Israel there is a 40-year-old
man named Robert E. Lee."
The Exodus had special
musical notes as part of its
call signals. When the ship
sent messages to Haganah
headquarters in Palestine,
the radio station picked up
the broadcast and transmit-
ted it so that all of Palestine
was able to listen. "Exodus
Calling" became a regular
program, sending the mes-
sage, "We are 4,500 refugees
with no arms. Help us come
home."
As the ship steamed
towards Palestine with an es-
cort of six British destroyers
and planes flying overhead,
the crew prepared the ship
for battle. The Exodus was
encased with barbed wire to
ward off boarding parties.
Steam pipes with holes every
six inches were run through
the barbed wire. The decks
were smeared with oil. The
ship's only weapons were
potatoes and cans of Spam
that the observant wouldn't
eat. As the Exodus neared
Tel Aviv, the refugees and
crew members knew the con-
frontation would be soon.
The night was cloudy and
the moon obstructed. The
passengers prayed for a mira-
cle ... and it came. For the
first time since leaving Sette,
the British naval escort dis-
appeared. The crew hoped the
ship could slip into Tel Aviv
unnoticed.
But at 2 a.m. the sky
cleared and the entire naval
escort became visible, steam-
ing closer and preparing to
board. All of the able bodied
refugees helped defend the
ship, but they were no match

for the trained British sea-
men, swinging aboard like
pirates. The defenders tried
unsuccessfully to break the
British floodlights with their
potatoes and Spam. Through-
out the battle the ship's radio
kept broadcasting its famous
"Exodus Calling."
The British captured the
wheelhouse after a three-
hour fight. Three were dead
— two refugees and crew
member Bill Bernstein from
San Francisco — life boats
were gone, the radio was de-
stroyed and people were
screaming. Many refugees
confused the British tear gas
with Cyclon B from the Nazi
gas chambers and became
hysterical. Finally, there was
no land in sight. During the
course of the battle, the
Exodus had been driven out
to sea. Realizing further ef-
fort was useless, the crew
surrendered but refused to
lower the Star of David.
The Exodus limped into
Haifa harbor surrounded by
British ships. The port was
closed, but people were stand-
ing on the rooftops. As the
sun set, the British began the
transfer of the refugees to
prison ships with barbed wire
cages. There was no breeze,
no food, and no medical care (
the seriously injured had
been removed to a British
hospital ship), but there was
a steady whimpering of
people.
From Haifa's rooftops, flic-
kering torches could be seen
and the sounds of people
singing Hatikva could be
heard. The prisoners joined in
and the words echoed back
and forth across the water.
Bernie Marks was arrested
on the Exodus. He was re-
leased on one thousand
pounds bail to attend the
funeralof Bernstein, and was
later deported to the United
States.
Weinsaft remained with
the refugees. They thought
they would be taken to Cyp-

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Continued on next page

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17

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