The facts show clearly that the Bericha was established by partisans, ghetto fighters, and persons who returned from Central Asia to Poland. Palestinian emissaries, in uniform or not, linked up with them only after they had reached the emissaries on their own. The idea of an organized mass exit, necessarily illegal, therefore originated in the Diaspora and not in the Yishuv. In Palestine, as Aharon Hoter-Yishai testifies, the Yishuv believed there was no one left in Europe to escape, no one left to come; everything had been destroyed and the “smoking embers” - a phrase often heard in those days - would need warmth and understanding, since the people were “human dust”.
The criticism that the founders of the Bericha leveled against the Brigade and the emissaries was that just as the Bericha organization had reached the Brigade, the Brigade could have found them. Where then, were the soldiers? The soldiers in Italy, at all events, were engaged in fighting the Germans until the very end of the war, which lasted until early May. Some time passed before they were able to organize and send out people to scout the territory. The Palestinian soldiers in the British army were effectively unable to reach Poland before June, when they began transferring refugees to Italy. However, the reproach was directed also against the emissaries in Romania, and particularly against the Yishuv. The latter was aware of the establishment of a kind of “Jewish Committee” in Poland headed by Emil Sommerstein in the second half of 1944, yet the blocked routes were breached only from within Poland itself to the outside; emissaries from abroad did not reach Poland. We find there is no adequate reply to this reproach.
The contention of the Bericha founders - Abba Kovner, Eliezer Lidovsky, Shmuel Amarant, Yizhak Zuckerman, and, to some extent, the returnees from Central Asia, too - is harsher. They remembered how the Palestinian emissaries had left Poland at the beginning of the war and the total severance from Palestine during the Holocaust period. Yitzchak Zuckerman addressed himself plaintively to this subject. If you had come, you would have been a burden on us, we would have had to look after you and conceal you but why didn’t you come? Chaika Klinger from Bendin was more severe in her censure when she arrived in Palestine. The members of the Zionist youth movements, and especially the pioneer groups, regarded Eretz Israel and the movements in the Yishuv as their family. Yet in the time of their most acute distress there had been no sign of the family. Indeed, even after the war, the movements in Europe made their way to Palestine and not vice versa. Moreover, just as many were disappointed in the pro-Soviet ideology, particularly members of Hashomer Hatza’ir and, to a certain degree, Dror, the Diaspora movements were disappointed in Palestine and in the parent-movements - a disappointment deriving, paradoxically, from total identification.
While the Bericha was carving out a route from Poland to Italy via Romania and subsequently via Hungary and Austria, the soldiers were transferring about 15,000 refugees from the liberated camps to Italy. This was far more than the founders of the Bericha were able to move via their routes. But it is doubtful whether the transfer of the survivors in the camps can bear comparison with the lengthy and tortuous roads of the Bericha. Ultimately, the two branches of this river - the soldiers, those coming from Poland and the Soviet Union, and the Yishuv emissaries - merged. The debate erupted after all of them had reached Palestine, for while the activities were going on, the controversy remained below the surface. After 1945, within Poland, there was complete agreement, and the mission was implemented with full co-operation on all sides. It was only after some time had passed, and after the fact, that the operation coordinators in the field were called “Bericha commanders”. But they were in fact not commanders; they were first among equals, and, for the most part, ordinary equals. It was only the prestige that they invoked that facilitated their ties with the outside - with the Mossad le-Aliyah centre in Paris or with the staff of the JDC in Switzerland and Prague. Nevertheless, the problem remained: Palestine, with its Zionist and Zionist-pioneering ethos, was not represented in Poland, both during the war and in its immediate aftermath. True, it was impossible to get through, but the attempt was never even made.
Source: Gutman, Yisrael and Saf, Avital (eds.), She’arit Hapleta 1944- 1948, Rehabilitation and Political Struggle, Proceedings of the Sixth Yad Vashem International Historical Conference, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1990, pp. 52-53.