Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

THE SURVIVORS’ EXODUS

A new exhibit, “Exodus,” tells the story of the ship that attempted to bring more than 4,500 Holocaust survivors and displaced persons to British-controlled Palestine in 1947, only to be turned away. The British had a restrictive immigration policy in Palestine while they awaited a solution to the Arab and Jewish claims to the land from the United Nation Special Committee on Palestine.

Originally named the President Warfield and built for roughly 500 people, the steamboat was expanded to carry the Jewish refugees. The ship sailed from the port of Sete, France, on July 11, 1947, and on the night of July 17, the British surrounded the ship with destroyers, minesweepers and a cruiser and boarded it. The refugees fought with whatever they had available — tin cans, bottles, wooden boards and metal bars, among other objects. Three Jews were killed and many more were wounded. The British prevailed, and the passengers were forced onto deportation ships bound for France. In France, the passengers refused to disembark for 24 days and went on a hunger strike. On August 22, the British returned the ship to the British-occupied zone of Germany, where the refugees remained until the founding of the State of Israel.

The refugees’ treatment aroused the world’s conscience, helping to create support for Israel’s establishment. The Exodus 1947 is now known as the “ship that launched a nation.”

The exhibit includes a 25- by 12-foot reproduction of the ship along with documents, photos and film footage tracing the ship’s development from a little-known Chesapeake Bay steamboat to an international symbol for the creation of the Jewish state.

Ruth Gruber, who covered the voyage of the Exodus for the New York Post, and Ike Aronowitz, the ship’s captain, speak at the opening. Otto Preminger’s “Exodus” (1960) is screened September 7.

Virginia Holocaust Museum, 2000 E. Cary St., Richmond; opening Sept. 3, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., speakers 7 p.m.; dinner Sept. 4, 6:30 p.m.; movie Sept. 7, 1 p.m.; exhibit and movie free. (804-257-5400 or www.va-holocaust.com)

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.