The "Exodus 1947" was a worn-out U.S.-owned passenger ship launched in 1928. Originally called the "President Warfield," it sailed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay between Baltimore and Norfolk for more than a decade. Transferred to the British under the Lend-Lease agreement as part of a group of shallow-draft ships, President Warfield was later deployed in the Normandy invasion. After World War II, he returned to American waters. However, the ship was to participate in yet another event that secured its place in history, symbolizing the struggle for unrestricted immigration to Palestine.
Initially sold as scrap metal for just over $8,000, the ship was purchased by the Haganah (an underground Jewish military organization). Haganah personnel planned to dock the ship in Europe to transport Jews attempting to illegally immigrate to Palestine. The plight of the ship's passengers would attract worldwide attention. In July 1947, the "President Warfield" left Sete, France, for Palestine with more than 4,500 Jewish men, women, and children, all displaced persons or survivors of the Holocaust. Even before the ship (by then renamed "Exodus 1947") reached Palestinian territorial waters, British destroyers surrounded it. A confrontation ensued in which a Jewish crew member and two passengers were killed. Dozens suffered gunshot wounds and other injuries.
To set an example with the "Exodus 1947," the British transferred the passengers to three navy ships returning to Europe. The ships first docked in Toulon, France, where the passengers were forced to disembark. When the French authorities refused to use force to get the refugees off the ship, the British authorities, fearing bad public opinion, tried to wait until the passengers disembarked voluntarily. When the passengers, including many orphaned children, exerted pressure by declaring a hunger strike, the British were forced to take them back to Hamburg in the British-occupied zone of Germany. Amidst worldwide public outrage, the British authorities forced the passengers to disembark; some by force. The passengers were then transferred to refugee camps in Germany.
When they heard the news, refugees in camps all over Europe protested loudly and with hunger strikes. Large protests broke out on both sides of the Atlantic. The resulting public embarrassment for Britain played an important role in the diplomatic change of heart towards the Jews and the eventual recognition of a Jewish state in 1948.
Artist: Fred Friedrich
Name: EXODUS ( Genesis Tag 1, Tag 2, Tag 3,
Tag 4, Tag 5, Tag 6)
Artwork: Mix Technique on canvas
Measure: 200x300 cm