Subject Matter of the Exhibition
Liberation — a day of redemption but also the dawning of awareness of the magnitude of awareness of the catastrophe. Efforts to gather the shattered fragments of life and start over commenced then and there (Posters 2, 3, 4).
The encounter with the Jewish Brigade – the survivors’ first contact with the yishuv (the organized Jewish community in Palestine) is established with Palestinian Jewish volunteers in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army. The sight of a soldier with a Star of David insignia on his sleeve is intensely moving for the survivors; it instills a sense of national pride and identification (Poster 5).
Trying to return home – the few surviving ghetto fighters, partisans, and individual Jews who escaped to the forests try to return to their homes in search of relatives and friends (Posters 6. 7).
The Kielce pogrom – more than seventy Jews who survived the war unscathed are killed by Polish rioters in and near the town of Kielce. The pogrom dashed the Jews’ remaining hopes and convinced them to leave Poland (Poster 8).
Crossing borders – the flight of Holocaust survivors from Poland, which began spontaneously after the liberation, evolved into a mass exodus sponsored, organized, and led by young Jews, with the aim of bringing the survivors to Palestine (Posters 9, 10).
Displaced and homeless – in the summer of 1945, camps were set up for the Jews in the American-occupied zones of Germany and Austria. These camps, defined as communities of displaced persons under the protection of the military authorities, were run by teams from UNRRA, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and other Jewish relief organizations. Life in the DP camps was active and vibrant despite the restrictive circumstances (Posters 11,12,13,14,15).
New homes overseas – the gates of the United States, Canada, and other Western countries were barred to the DPs. Until 1948, only 12,000 of them were allowed to emigrate to the United States (Poster 16).
En route to Palestine – clandestine immigration to Palestine, resumed in 1944. An immigration network was established under the leadership of Ha-Mossad le-Aliya Bet – the ‘auxiliary immigration agency,’ which purchased, equipped, and operated ships of various kinds for immigration. Aliya Bet joined up with the bricha (escape) movement, and though the networks were separate, they collaborated with each other under Shaul Avigur. They were joined by a third body, the Hagana, operating through the Palyam, the maritime unit of its Palmach commando forces. The Hagana was responsible for escorting the ships and disembarking immigrants on the shores of Palestine. However, this operation did not mark the end of the uprooted survivors’ ordeal; their journey brought them to detention camps in Palestine and in Cyprus; some 50,000 found themselves behind barbed wire in the latter country (Posters 17, 18, 19, 20).