After World War II, the Yishuv attempted to assist Holocaust survivors to immigrate to Eretz Israel - Mandatory Palestine. Due to the plethora of illegal immigration attempts, the British set up detainment camps in Cyprus in August 1946 to house the tens of thousands of would-be immigrants, but this did not stop the Jews from trying to reach the shores of Eretz Israel.
The Aliyah Bet organization acquired the American ship "President Warfield" in November 1946, the largest vessel to be operated by the Aliyah Bet. They hoped to help the thousands of Jewish displaced persons wishing to leave the DP camps in Germany, and at the same time organize a major immigration operation that would generate international media coverage and capture the attention of the members of UNSCOP (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) then working in Eretz Israel.
In early July, some 4,500 Jewish refugees from DP camps in Germany were brought to southern France and embarked the "President Warfield". The ship set sail from France for British-controlled Palestine on 11 July 1947 and was renamed "Exodus 1947" while at sea. Attacked on 17 July by the British navy in international waters before it was able to make a run for the coast of Tel Aviv, a battle took place aboard the ship in which 3 Jews were killed and dozens were wounded. Rammed repeatedly by British destroyers, the Exodus hobbled into port at Haifa the next day, 18 July 1947. The British government, hoping to make an example of the illegal immigrants aboard the Exodus, immediately loaded the passengers aboard three deportation ships of the British navy, "Empire Rival", "Runnymede Park" and "Ocean Vigor", which set sail back to France.
The three deportation ships anchored in France for about a month. The French offered the refugees a safe haven, but only a few disembarked. Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin ordered the refugees' return to camps in Germany, where they were forcibly removed from the ships in the port of Hamburg. Most of them remained in DP camps in Germany for over a year, and reached Israel only after the establishment of the State. The last passengers on the Exodus arrived in Israel in 1949.
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