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Mass movement of Jews across Polish-Czech border under the leadership of the Brichah


The situation of the Jewish survivors following World War II was very traumatic especially in Eastern Europe. Most felt guilty about having survived when their families perished. The common question was why did I survive, why do I deserve to live. Of course there was no answer. The survivors returned to find their homes occupied by strangers. They were often received coldly and many times were threatened and told not to return. On occasion surviving Shoah Jews were physically chased out of the hamlets and occasionally killed. Survivors had no choice but to move to bigger cities where there were more Jews. Small communities of survivors began to form in cities like Lemberg, Rowno and Kowno. The Russian secret police kept a close watch on these communities and had spies who reported on the activities of the survivors.

Some of the Shoah survivors were former Zionists who still had dreams of going to Palestine. It was obvious from their treatment in the camps that no one cared about the Jews. Many became convinced that salvation lay in Palestine helping to build a Jewish state. This idea arose in several places especially the former Polish areas that were now part of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet life style did not permit Zionist or Jewish activities except those approved by the Communist party. All freedom of expression was suppressed except for Communist Party doctrine. Jewish religious life was strictly controlled as were all non-party activities. The Shoah survivors felt lonely and desperate without any links to the outside Jewish world. They began to look for ways to establish contact with other Jewish communities in the region but most important, they sought contact with Jewish communities outside the Soviet Union.

The efforts were successful and contacts were established with an office of the Jewish Agency of Palestine in Bucharest, Romania, just emerged from underground to encourage Jews to move to Palestine. The American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) also had opened offices to help needy Jews. Ties were strengthened over time and a new organization named “The Brichah” or escape emerged, dedicated to helping Jews leave the Soviet controlled areas in Eastern Europe. The heroic organization functioned along spartan military lines: no formal organization or offices, no official records, and no reports. But the organization achieved results, in spite of the enormous logistical, political and administrative obstacles. At first dozens of Jews left their homes, then hundreds and eventually thousands.

Brichah entered the lexicon of the Jewish World. Its motto was “Between Mountains and Borders, in starless nights, we will lead Jewish convoys”. Most of the members of the organization were former partisans, discharged soldiers from the Polish, Russian and Allied armies Jewish Brigades. The secret organization led about 300,000 Jews from Eastern Europe to Central Europe mainly Germany and Austria. Most of the survivors lived in Displaced Person (DP) camps hoping to reach Palestine. Many Jewish refugees found new homes in the United States, Canada, South America, England and Australia but most of the Jewish survivors did reach Palestine, legally or illegally. Some Brichah members were caught and paid a heavy price for their activities but this did not deter others from taking their place.

This book describes the activities of the Brichah organization from 1945-1948. With the establishment of the State of Israel, the Brichah was dissolved, the members returned home to resume their normal life. The organization existed a short time but achieved heroic results. It led the Jewish masses from the DP camps to defeat the British naval blockade of the Palestinian borders..

The organization and its members inscribed a golden page in Jewish history and in the pages of the History of Israel.


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