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Chapter XIV

American–Mossad Ships


The Wedgwood, the first American Mossad–Brichah ship to carry illegal Jewish passengers from Europe to Palestine


The Mossad was challenged to find ships and sailors not influenced by the British or the threat of the Cyprus camps. Few ships managed to bypass the maritime blockade of Palestine. Shaul Avigur was determined to crack the blockade and flood the shores of Palestine with thousands of illegals. He needed larger and faster ships that could only be obtained in the United States. The Mossad decided to send Ze'ev (Danny) Schind to the United States.


Ze'ev (Danny) Schind


Ze'ev (Danny) Schind was born September 7, 1909, in Wilno, Poland (today Vilnius, Lithuania). He joined the Zionist youth movement and in 1929 went to Palestine where he joined the kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar. He became active in the Haganah, especially in shipping Jews illegally to Palestine. In 1941 he was sent to Turkey to try to connect with the Jewish communities under Nazi domination. With the end of the war, he was sent to the United States to establish an organization that would purchase ships and recruit crews for those ships.

He had the assistance of several American Jews, including Morris Grinberg who was involved in the shipping business.[1] The first two ships to be purchased were Canadian military corvettes, the Beauharnois, later renamed the Wedgwood (after Josiah Wedgwood, an ardent Zionist member of the British Parliament), and the Norsyd, later renamed the Haganah. Now that Schind had ships, he started recruiting naval personnel. Some enlisted men came from the navy and had seen action during the war, others were members of the Zionist youth movement. All were told that they might wind up in Cyprus if intercepted by the British navy. But the idea of helping Jewish Shoah survivors in Europe was much more important to them.


The Wedgwood in Haifa as its illegal passengers disembark under the watchful eyes of the British
(Yad Vashem Archives)


The Wedgwood underwent extensive repairs and changes during its trip from the United States to Europe. On June 18, 1946, it arrived at the port of Savona, Italy. At night the ship left for a sandy beach area where Brichah trucks brought 1,259 Jewish refugees from German DP camps who all boarded the vessel. The small Wedgwood crew of thirty Americans was responsible for keeping the large ship moving. The military and political commanders were Palestinian Jews referred as “Shu–shu boys”, apparently derived from their constant Yiddish saying “sha” or “quiet.” Most of the services aboard the vessel were carried out by the refugees themselves who were well organized.

The British tried to stop the ship but the Wedgwood left port and headed to Palestine. The British had no trouble identifying this vessel, and it was waylaid on June 25th, when still about 75 miles from the shore of Palestine. Four British destroyers surrounded the vessel and accompanied her to the port of Haifa. An attempt was made by those on board to have the vessel captured outside the territorial waters of Palestine, so that there would be no grounds for its confiscation by the British. That attempt failed and another attempt was made to lower a launch to the water, in order to land 25 young men on the shore of Kiryat Chaim, but the launch was intercepted and the men were taken into custody. The Wedgewood was running out of gas, and finally surrendered to the British troops, who boarded the vessel on June 27th and turned it to the Haifa port. The passengers were disembarked and escorted to waiting British trucks. The crew disappeared as did the Haganah commanders aboard the ship. Some hid aboard the ship until the cleaning crews came aboard and brought them clothing that enabled them to mix with the cleaners and later disappear, while others melted into the crowd of refugees and were sent to Cyprus.

With this new effort, the British were faced with big, fast ships with American crews who were willing to defy the blockade and had no fear of internment; few expected to reach Palestine but they were determined to keep Palestine in the headlines. The British were furious, particularly with the obvious American involvement since most of the crew members were American citizens.

The situation in Palestine steadily deteriorated as military terrorist attacks against the mandatory administration became a weekly event. British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin managed to unite Palestinian Jewry against him with his anti–Jewish policies. Britain decided to restore order and on June 29, 1946 responded with the “Black Sabbath” or “Agatha” operation arresting and imprisoning about 2,700 Jewish leaders in Palestine. The British tried to break the Jewish Agency leadership but failed. The arrested Jewish leaders refused to talk to the mandate authorities. Terror attacks continued although on a smaller scale.

The second American Mossad ship, the Haganah, reached France in June of 1946 where the French Brichah loaded the boat with 1,000 Jewish refugees. On June 22, 1946, the Haganah, carrying 1.000 passengers, departed from France and transferred 1,108 of its passengers to the small steamer Biriah, west of the island of Crete. The Biriah was intercepted by HMS Virago on July 2, 1946. The Haganah picked up a new party of 2,678 refugees in Bakar, Yugoslavia, and set sail for Palestine on July 24th. The ship was found at sea with its engines broken down and no electrical power, and was towed to Haifa by HMS Venus. Its passengers were arrested and interned. The crew again disappeared.

The internment camps in Palestine were overflowing and Britain decided to send the illegal Jewish refugees to the island of Cyprus, knowing that the decision would provoke protests, especially in the United States. On August


The Haganah in the port of Haifa, Palestine


7, 1946, the British informed US officials of the decision by secret cable and stressed that the illegal voyages must be stopped. Instead, the Mossad–Brichah partnership increased the number of ships of all sizes creating more difficulties for the British.


Chaim Arlosoroff


The next ship was the Chaim Arlosoroff, named after an important Zionist leader. Chaim Arlosoroff was born in Romny, Ukraine in 1899. He obtained a doctorate in economics at the University of Berlin and became a key leader of Ha–Po'el ha–Tza'ir, (“The Young Worker Party”), a political party which attracted many Jewish intellectuals. As a result of his party affiliation, Arlosoroff was appointed editor of Die Arbeit, and in 1919 published his treatise “Jewish People's Socialism”, relating to a nationalistic hope for the Jewish people in Eretz Israel. At the age of 24 he served on the Zionist Action Committee and in 1926 represented the Jewish Agency for Palestine at the League of Nations in Geneva. Later he was named Political Director of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, a prominent position he filled until his assassination in 1933.

Arlosoroff successfully negotiated with the Nazis to allow Jews leaving Germany, who had money or assets, to deposit the money into a special account which the Jewish Agency for Palestine could use to purchase products and machinery in Germany and sell in Palestine. The proceeds were then turned over to the German Jews who settled in Palestine. About 60,000 German Jews came to Palestine and received some of their assets. This was an unusual effort which was attacked bitterly by the Revisionists and their leader Jabotinsky. Not long after the deal was negotiated, Chaim Arlosoroff was murdered in Tel Aviv. His death greatly aggravated political relations within the Zionist movement. The Revisionists were accused of the murder but no definite proof was found and all suspects were eventually released.


The Chaim Arlosoroff being chased by British warships just before it crashed onto the Palestinian shores. British military waits on the shore.


The Ulua or Chaim Arlosoroff was purchased in Baltimore where it underwent extensive repairs. It had a crew of 27 men, with Eliyahu Eliav, a Palestinian Mossad commander, serving as military captain of the vessel. He was assisted by Nissim Levitan, Israel Auerbach and Zvi Katznelson, all Mossad agents. The ship headed to Trelleborg, Sweden, where 664 Jewish Shoah survivors, mostly girls, waited to go to Palestine. The ship experienced many problems but at the end of February reached the port of Metaponto, Italy, where 734 more illegal passengers boarded the ship, which then sailed toward Palestine. It was intercepted by British military vessels that pursued it to the shores of Palestine. The Arlosoroff crew managed to crash the ship on the rocks of Bet Galim, near Haifa. The event occurred opposite a British military base. All passengers were interned by the British.


Hillel Kook, or his assumed name Peter Bergson


Hillel Kook was born in Lithuania in 1915, the son of Rabbi Dov Kook and younger brother of Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the British Mandate in Palestine. In 1924, his family immigrated to Palestine, where his father became the first Chief Rabbi of Afula. Hillel Kook received a religious education at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav established by his uncle, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and attended the Hebrew University. He joined the pre–state Jewish Haganah underground in 1930 and helped found the more militant Irgun, eventually becoming a member of the Irgun General Headquarters.

In 1937 Hillel Kook began his career as an international spokesperson for the Irgun and Revisionist Zionism, traveling to the US with Ze'ev Jabotinsky, where he took the name of Peter Bergson in order not to embarrass his rabbinical family in Palestine. In 1940 he became the head of the Irgun and the Zionist Revisionist mission in the United States. Kook warned the world about the fate of European Jewry and antagonized the American Jewish establishment. He bitterly attacked Britain for closing the gates to Palestine just at a moment when the Jews needed it most. Hillel Kook became Ben Hecht's mentor on Zionism.


Ben Hecht


Ben Hecht was born in New York City in 1894, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants grew up in Racine, Wisconsin. His father, Joseph Hecht, worked in the garment industry. In 1910, at age 16, Hecht moved to Chicago and started a career in journalism, covering Berlin after World War I for the Chicago Daily News. While in Berlin he wrote his successful novel, Erik Dorn (1921). Hecht and fellow reporter, Charles MacArthur, collaborated on the well–known play, The Front Page, which was later made into a successful film. Hecht went on to write 35 books and some of the most entertaining screenplays and plays in America. Hecht was active in civil rights efforts but was never close to the Jewish community or the Zionist movement until he met Peter Bergson.

Hecht became a staunch Zionist and collected money for the Irgun in Palestine. Hecht introduced Kook to influential people in the United States. They formed the so–called “Bergson Group” that campaigned throughout the US to help the Jews in Europe and to open the gates of Palestine. With the end of the war, the Irgun in the US also wanted to help ship Jews from Europe to Palestine. They decided to honor Ben Hecht by naming an illegal ship in his name

With Ze'ev Schind's help the Revisionists managed to acquire the Abril on March 9, 1946. The Abril or Ben Hecht sailed for Port du Bouc, France and left France for Palestine on March 1, 1947. It was the only Revisionist illegal ship to leave the United States. Its decks were crammed with over 600 Holocaust survivors. Seven days later the Ben Hecht was spotted by British reconnaissance aircraft and soon after British destroyers intercepted the ship. It was boarded, impounded and towed to Haifa under British control. The refugees were sent to the prison camps in Cyprus. Most of the crew was arrested and sent to prison where they would face trials. It is not known why the crew did not disappear among the illegal refugees as was the case with other crews.


The Abril or Ben Hecht


The Hatikvah


The Tradewinds was built in Canada and served as an icebreaker and then as a Coast Guard cutter. It was moored in Miami and then in Baltimore, where it had extensive repairs, before sailing to Europe. It first stopped in the Azores and then proceeded to Lisbon where the Haganah Commander Yehoshua Baharav boarded the vessel. He was a Moshavnik from Palestine and an experienced blockade runner.

In April, 1947, the Tradewinds docked in Lisbon, Portugal, next to its sister ship, President Warfield or Exodus, for more refitting. When Portuguese police became suspicious of Yehoshua Baharav, the Mossad leAliyah Bet agent who directed the repairs, had him arrested. The Tradewinds then moved from Lisbon to Marseille, then to Port–de–Bouc, and finally to Portovenere, Italy, where 1,414 Jewish refugees waited to board the ship. Most of the passengers had just crossed the Alps under the guidance of the Brichah. Once loaded, the ship, now called Hatikvah or Hope, sailed for Palestine. A British reconnaissance aircraft spotted the Hatikvah approaching the coast of Palestine. On May 17, 1947, the ship was intercepted, rammed and captured by the destroyers HMS Venus and HMS Brissenden. Most of the passengers and crew were sent to Cyprus. Some of the crew members were detained in Haifa.


The Exodus


The President Warfield, named after the president of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, began to sail in 1928. It was an excursion ship that saw action in World War II. Then it was sold several times until it reached the American Mossad, which rebuilt the ship in Baltimore. British officials in the United States tried to block the ship from sailing but all their efforts


Itzhak Ahranovitch, captain of the Exodus


failed. The Warfield, under the command of Captain William C. Ash, left the port of Baltimore for the Azores. Stormy weather disabled the ship and it managed to reach the Norfolk harbor where serious repairs began. Finally the ship left and reached the Azores on April 5, 1947, where it obtained fuel and proceeded to Marseilles. The British Navy constantly shadowed the Warfield, which raced from port to port around Marseilles. The maneuvering was performed by a 23 year–old Palestinian captain, Itzhak Ahranovitch, who had acquired his sailing experience during World War II aboard British and Norwegian merchant ships. Meanwhile, the British embassy in France obtained legal papers that stopped the ship from leaving the port of Sete near Marseilles. The local Mossad commander, Shmarya Tzameret, tried unsuccessfully to bribe the guards to let the ship sail. While talks were taking place between French officials and the Mossad, eight trains brought thousands of Jewish refugees from DP camps in Germany to the port of Sete.[2] When the Exodus entered the Mediterranean Sea, the Brichah was issued orders to dispatch Jewish refugees from the DP camps in Germany to the borders of Holland, Belgium and France.[3] The Brichah selected 5,000 Jewish DPs and sent them on the road. The Mossad met the transports at the borders and directed them to Marseilles.[4] The Mossad kept about 600 refugees for future transports and 200 children were placed in French homes and orphanages; the remaining 4,200 boarded the ship.[5] The transfer of thousands of Jews from Germany to France was a major logistical and organizational effort and was an indication of the effectiveness of both the Brichah and Mossad in Europe.


Shlomo Koren, passenger on the Exodus, at the Zabrze orphanage
(Lochamei Hagetaot, the Ghetto Fighters' Museum)


Included in the transport were hundreds of children from Jewish orphanages. Many of the children had been hidden by non–Jewish families and churches. Their own families had either been murdered by the Nazis or miraculously escaped and disappeared. The children had been redeemed or rescued through an intensive effort by Captain Yeshayahu Drucker, Rabbi Aaron Becker and Rabbi Yitzhak Herzog.


Numbered certificate issued to the passengers of the famous Exodus


David Danieli, formerly Daniel Danielski, at the Zabrze children's home in 1946. Danieli was a passenger on the Exodus.


The Exodus sailed from the port of Sete, near Marseilles, on July 11, 1947, without permission. Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary, was in France at the time and begged French Foreign Minister Georges Bidault to stop the ship. Bidault consented and the order was issued to stop the departure of the ship. But someone leaked the information to the Mossad, which ordered the ship to leave the port immediately. The Exodus left the port without a French pilot.[6] As soon as it left the territorial waters of France, British destroyers followed it. On July 18, near the coast of Palestine but outside territorial waters, heavy machine gun fire was directed at the ship and two destroyers rammed the Exodus from both sides. .The first landing party boarded the ship and was bombarded with tins of preserves and potatoes by the passengers, with no effect. The British marines and sailors, armed with side–arms and clubs, attacked the passengers and crew. They reached the bridge and viciously clubbed the Exodus captain, Second Officer William Bernstein, who died almost instantly as did two Jewish Shoah survivors. The ship was towed to Haifa, where the immigrants were forcefully taken off.


The Exodus is towed into the port of Haifa


Haifa's waterfront was like a battlefield with soldiers and policemen everywhere blocking access to the port area. The illegal refugees refused to move and were dragged on board the prison ships. Ambulances rushed seriously wounded refugees to the hospital. The Jewish population of Haifa was tense and nervous, hostility toward Britain was at a high point. Observers of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry witnessed the scenes, which influenced them to support the end of the mandate in Palestine.[7] On July 18, 1947, mourning signs appeared all over the city calling on the Jewish population to participate in the funeral procession of the young American Jewish naval officer. He was buried on July 18, 1947, in the Martyr section of the Haifa Jewish cemetery. The fact that he was an American created a great deal of negative coverage for Britain in the American press.


William (Bill) Bernstein aboard the Exodus prior to its departure for Europe


William Bernstein was born January 27, 1923, in Passaic, New Jersey. At the age of 13 his family moved to San Francisco. He graduated from Galileo High School in San Francisco and attended Ohio State University. Although entitled to a deferment from military service as a pre–medical student, he volunteered for the U.S. Merchant Marines in World War II. He graduated from the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy in 1944 as a second lieutenant. After the war, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, but volunteered for Aliyah Bet and served as a second officer on the Exodus.




The Exodus Jewish survivors being directed to the prison ships watched by lines of British soldiers
(Yad Vashem Archives)


People expected that the prison ships would sail to Cyprus where the refugees would be disembarked. But the British government decided to teach a lesson to the survivors of Hitler and send them back to the port of embarkation in France. British international standing had hit bottom. Bevin tried to involve France in his disastrous strategies regarding the Jewish refugees. On August 2, 1947, the three British prison ships entered the port of Port–de–Bouc and docked. The refugees refused to leave the ships. The British government urged France to forcefully remove the refugees from the ships, but the French refused to co–operate. They were willing to accept refugees who wanted to leave the ship but would not use force. The refugees were well organized and declared a hunger strike that gained attention from the entire free press, especially in France. The French government stood by their decision to help those who wanted to leave the ships and not interfere with the others.

Bevin did not know what do to. Meanwhile the refugees continued to get worldwide attention, especially in the United States. The ships remained in port for four weeks and on August 22, 1947, Bevin sent the refugees to the British zone in Germany. The decision rallied the entire free world against Britain. The idea of sending concentration camp survivors back to Germany was the height of cruelty and made no sense. The ships arrived at Hamburg and new clashes erupted between the Jews and the British soldiers. All passengers were finally forced into camps near the city of Lubeck, Germany. The Brichah would later transfer most of them into the American occupation zone in Germany. Many would join other illegal ships heading to Palestine. Bevin had won a very hollow victory.

Britain was convinced that the Exodus operation would stop further illegal ships from coming to Palestine or at least substantially reduce their numbers. The head of the Mossad in Paris, Avigur, read the map differently. He saw the British act in haste and in panic with the Exodus operation and decided to increase the number of illegal ships to Palestine.

On July 28, 1947, the Halalei Gesher Haziv, carrying 685 Eastern European Jews, was intercepted by HMS Rowena. Also, the Shivat Zion, carrying 411 North African Jews, was intercepted without resistance by the minesweeper HMS Providence. On September 27, 1947, the Af Al Pi Chen (434 passengers), was intercepted by HMS Talybont and taken after violent resistance. One person was killed and 10 were injured. All Jewish refugees were transported to Cyprus. Bevin did not want a repetition of the Exodus. At this point the passengers of the Exodus were still at sea. The Mossad response was clear and loud: “Illegal ships would continue to sail to Palestine.”

The Mossad was, however, concerned with the possibility that the British would return passengers of big ships to their country of embarkation. So Avigur decided to play safe and bring refugees from Romania where there was a large reservoir of potential passengers due to the poor conditions in the country. Orders were issued to Shaike Dan to activate the Romanian Brichah office.


Shaike Dan


Isaiah Sheyke Dan Trachtenberg, better known as Shaike Dan, was born November 15, 1919, in Moldavie, Romania. He went to Palestine as a pioneer and joined a kibbutz. During World War II, Shaike Dan volunteered to parachute behind enemy lines in Romania on behalf of British Intelligence. This jump would begin a remarkable career of rescuing Jews aided by the many friends he made during the war, who became key figures in the security services of Eastern Europe. His jump had two objectives: to locate the prison camp where 1,400 allied air force crewmen, downed when bombing the Ploesti oil fields in Romania, were being held, and find ways to get them out of Romania so that they could go back into action. The second objective was to try to rescue Jews from Eastern Europe and get them to Palestine. There were 32 volunteer parachutists from Palestine. Some of them parachuted into Yugoslavia, linked up with partisan forces, and stole across frontiers with the help of local smugglers. Many of these volunteers were caught and some of them never returned.

Dan received orders to start negotiating for the release of Jews from Romania and the use of the port of Constantsa for their embarkation. Meanwhile two American ships received orders to prepare for crossing the Atlantic.


The Paducah renamed Geula or Redemption


The USS Paducah was launched on October 11, 1904 and commissioned 11 months later. It was named for the former mayor of Paducah, Kentucky, David A. Yeiser. The Paducah served as an escort for allied convoys in the Mediterranean during World War I and also saw action in World War II. It was decommissioned in 1945. A year later, Maria Angelo of Miami, Florida, purchased the ship and transferred it to the Mossad. The Mossad hired Merchant Marine Captain Rudolph Patzert to bring the Paducah from Miami to New York and then across the Atlantic. The crew was comprised of young Jewish volunteers. The final destination was the port of Bayonne, in southwest France, where the Paducah was transformed over several weeks into a crude but effective passenger liner. The ship was ordered to head to Varna, a Bulgarian port on the Black Sea. As mentioned previously, the Soviet fleet controlled the port of Constantsa and refused to share it with other groups, especially foreigners. The Soviets suggested that Romania use the ports in Bulgaria.

All through the Mediterranean, British destroyers cruised behind the Paducah. The Paducah arrived in Varna and soon after, on a moonless night, slipped away to Burgas, 50 miles down the coast. The Romanian Brichah sent 1,388 Jewish refugees to Burgas to board the Paducah. The British protested in Sofia against the presence of the illegal ship in Bulgaria but the Brichah had very good connections and the ship left, headed to the Dardanelles and the Mediterranean Sea with a British warship following. Five miles from the shores of Palestine, a British destroyer rammed the ship, now named Geula. Soldiers jumped from a specially built platform and boarded the ship. The Haganah sent orders from shore that there was to be no resistance. It would have been futile, resulting in unnecessary bloodshed. The engine room crew quickly disabled the engines. With the Geula immobile, the British towed the ship to a dock along the Haifa shoreline near a large prison ship. The passengers were marched down the gangplank and directed to the ship where they were transported to internment camps on the island of Cyprus.

The Northbound or Jewish State


The American Mossad ship Medinat Hayehudin or Jewish State


The Northbound was built in 1927 and saw naval action in World War II. The ship was purchased by the Mossad and also sent to Bayonne, France, for repairs. But the two Mossad ships, the Geula and the Medinat Hayehudim, were attracting too much attention. The Geula left port but the second ship was detained before it could sail. British agents informed the French police that the ship was owned by the same company that owned the Exodus that had caused extensive damage when it left the French harbor. The French insisted on payment for the damages. The Mossad appealed to the former French Prime Minister Leon Blum, who was Jewish, for help.


Léon Blum


André Léon Blum was born April 9, 1872 in Paris, France to a prosperous, assimilated Jewish family. Blum attended the École Normale Supérieure and The University of Paris and became both a lawyer and literary critic. He was a French politician, identified with the moderate left, He was heavily influenced by the Dreyfus affair of the late 19th century and became an important French Socialist leader rejecting the class conflict model of Marxist socialism, instead defining socialism as the highest use of the power of the state, under the guidance of well–educated experts like himself, “to define, protect, and guarantee the condition of the working class.”[2] As Prime Minister in a “'Popular Front” government of the left 1936–37, he provided a series of major economic reforms. Blum declared neutrality in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) to avoid the civil conflict spilling over into France itself. Once out of office in 1938, he denounced the appeasement of Germany. When Germany defeated France in 1940, he became a staunch opponent of Vichy France. Blum made no effort to leave the country, despite the extreme danger he faced as a Jew and a socialist leader. Blum was arrested and sent to a French detention camp named Fort du Portalet in the Pyrenees.

Tried by Vichy on trumped–up charges, he was imprisoned in the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. After the war he resumed a transitional leadership role in French politics, helping to bring about the French Fourth Republic, until his death in 1950.


Leon Blum memorial in kibbutz Kfar Blum, Israel


Leon Blum used his connections and the ship was released and sailed for Burgas followed by British warships.[8] The ship docked in Burgas where the Romanian Brichah brought 2,700 Jewish refuges by train to the port. All the passengers had received permission from the Communist Party to leave Romania. They boarded the ship, which sailed to the Mediterranean Sea where British warships escorted it to the shores of Palestine. Once in Palestine, the British stormed the ship and sent all the passengers were sent to Cyprus as was the crew.

The fact that the passengers of both the Geula and the Jewish State were sent to Cyprus indicated to Avigur in Paris that the British were retreating from their announced position that all refugees would be sent back to the ports of embarkation. He decided to push for bigger ships with larger passenger capacity in order to flood Palestine and Cyprus with Jewish refugees. There were unlimited numbers of refugees awaiting their turn to sail to Palestine. In response the American Mossad purchased two huge ships in the spring of 1947, with an additional ship purchased later in the year. The man who approved the purchase was Paul Schulman, the naval adviser of the American Mossad.


Paul N. Schulman


Paul N. Schulman loved the sea and ships. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and saw action in the Pacific during World War II. He resigned from the U.S. Navy in 1947 and joined the American Mossad under Schind's leadership and served as the naval expert assisting in purchasing and refurbishing vessels. Then, in May 1948, David Ben–Gurion asked Schulman to come to Israel to assist in the organization and establishment of the Israeli Navy. Schulman was appointed Commander of Israel's Navy in October 1948 and served in that capacity until March 1949, when he was appointed Naval and Maritime Advisor to the Prime Minister.

The Pan Crescent or Atzma'ut and the Pan York or Komeimiut were the two largest ships in the history of illegal immigration to Palestine. The ships had a capacity of about 15,000. While the ships were being prepared for their journeys to Europe, the British found out about the ships and applied pressure on the U.S. State Department to stop them from sailing. The efforts failed and the ships left for Europe. The Pan Crescent went to Venice, Italy, and the Pan York sailed to Marseilles. Both ships needed extensive repairs to accommodate large numbers of passengers. The British damaged the Pan Crescent by placing a charge along the side of the ship. The mayor of Venice spoke to Ada Sereni, Haganah leader in Italy, and assured her that the ship would be protected, repaired and permitted to sail on condition that the Haganah did not take revenge on British warships.

Ada Ascarelli Sereni was born in Rome on June 20, 1905, into one of Italy's wealthiest and most respected Jewish families (the Ascarelli's were descended from Spanish exiles). Ada's father, a lover of history with an extensive library, owned a herd of sheep in Sardinia and produced cheese that was exported to the United States. While still at school Ada fell in love with a fellow pupil, Enzo Sereni, a Zionist and socialist, like herself a member of the Italian Jewish aristocracy. After the birth of their daughter Hannah on July 4, 1926, the couple emigrated to Palestine, where they married on February 19, 1927.

Ada and Enzo spent their first year in Palestine in Rehovot, founding Kibbutz Givat Brenner in 1928 with a small group of Russian–born pioneers. Ada later worked as director of the Rimon juice and preserves factory. Enzo began to engage in communal service within the Labor movement. During World War II, he was among the initiators of a plan to parachute Jewish agents into Europe. He himself parachuted into the German lines on May 15, 1944, as a British army officer. Captured by the Germans, he was killed in Dachau on November 18, 1944. Ada approached Shaul Avigur to help find Enzo, and was invited to return to Italy under the guise of organizing social clubs for the soldiers of the Jewish Brigade. Her real assignment was to assist Yehuda Arazi in organizing illegal immigration to Palestine and to search for Enzo. Arriving in Munich, Ada visited the Dachau concentration camp and discovered proof of her husband's death. Her private mission was over.

Sereni returned to Italy, beginning a period of intensive activity dedicated to the clandestine immigration of Holocaust survivors to Palestine, in direct opposition to British policy. Her task was to purchase ships, fill them with Jews and organize all aspects of the voyage. At first serving as second–in–command to Yehuda Arazi, she replaced him as commander of the operation in 1947. Her fluency in Italian and familiarity with the country enabled her to establish excellent contacts. The fact that she was an Italian war widow opened many doors. She saw to it that the Pan Crescent sailed to Constantsa despite British protests. She continued in this position until May 14, 1948, when the state of Israel was established.


The Pan Crescent or Atzmaut


The Pan York or Kibbutz Galuyot


The British were desperate in their efforts to stop the ships and protested to the Romanian and US governments. British Foreign Secretary Bevin launched a worldwide campaign contending that the ships would carry hordes of Communists who would disrupt the entire Middle East and deprive the free world of oil supplies. The so–called Communist invasion, he argued, had to be stopped. The State Department and the Pentagon were ardently anti–communist. They had always supported British policies in Palestine and were now able to express their views in public. The American government began to pressure the Jewish Agency to cancel the operation. The vote to partition Palestine was coming up at the United Nations General Assembly. But Avigur insisted that the operation continue. Thousands of refugees were on the way, contracts were signed, ships were standing by and nobody knew when the Romanians or the Soviets would change their minds and stop the entire operation. Finally, the United Nations voted for the partition of Palestine. Avigur was notified to proceed.

Shaike Dan received the green light and began intensive final negotiations with the Romanian government, particularly with the Romanian Foreign Minister Hannah Rabinsohn Pauker.

Rabinsohn was born December 13, 1893, in Codăești, Vaslui County in Moldavia, into a poor, religious Orthodox Jewish family. Her father was a ritual slaughterer and a functionary in the synagogue, her mother a small–time food seller. They had four surviving children; an additional two died in infancy. As a young woman, she became a teacher in a Jewish elementary school in Bucharest. While her younger brother was a Zionist and remained religious, she opted for socialism, joining the Social Democratic Party of Romania in 1915 and later the Communist party. She and her husband Marcel Pauker became leading figures in the Romanian Communist Party.


Ana Pauker


She was the unofficial leader of the Romanian Communist Party right after World War II. She returned to Romania in 1944 when the Red Army entered the country, becoming a member of the post–war government, which came to be dominated by the communists. In November 1947, the non–communist Foreign Minister, Gheorghe Tătărescu, was ousted and replaced by Pauker, making her the first woman in the modern world to hold such a post.

The Soviets were determined to blacken the image of Britain and gave the Romanians permission to sell Jews to the Mossad, knowing that they would go to Palestine or Cyprus and further embarrass Britain. Negotiations went on and money was exchanged. Finally, lists of Jews who would be leaving Romania were established. Romania would provide trains that would take the refugees to Burgas where the boarding would take place, since the Soviet Navy would not give permission to use the port of Constantsa. The ships left Burgas on December 26, 1947, and headed to Palestine with British war ships following closely. Meanwhile, the Jewish Agency and the British Navy conducted negotiations regarding the landing of refugees. Finally, the Mossad agreed that the ships would head to Cyprus if British soldiers did not board the ships. On January 1, 1948, the ships and their British escorts arrived at the port of Famagusta in Cyprus. The unloading of the refugees took several days. Mossad–Brichah ships continued to arrive in Palestine and were intercepted by the British and sent to Cyprus. The Jewish population on the island grew and reached about 50,000. The last ship to arrive was the Calimat or Mala, which brought the remnants of the Exodus passengers from Europe to Israel. The ship docked in Haifa, Israel, on July 18, 1948.

The vital role played by the American ships and American sailors is little known[9]. They carried almost 32,000 Jewish survivors from Europe to the shores of Palestine in comparison to the total number of 72,000 Jewish survivors who reached the shores of Palestine between 1945 and 1948[10]. The American Mossad ships carried almost half of the total number of illegal passengers. The numbers are quite large, considering the short period of time that American Mossad existed and all the difficulties it faced. The American Mossad indeed answered the call of the Jewish people and like other American organizations such as the JDC extended all the help it could to the defeat of the blockade and the creation of the State of Israel.


  1. Hochstein, Joseph M.and Greenfeld, Murray S. The Jews' Secret Fleet. Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing House Ltd., p.37 Return
  2. Szulc, Alliance p.174 Return
  3. Bauer, Flight, p.317 Return
  4. Bauer, Flight, p.317 Return
  5. P.318 Return
  6. Bauer, p.318 Return
  7. Bauer, Flight, p.185 Return
  8. Jews, p.139 Return
  9. Hochstein pp.30–310 Return
  10. Ibid., p.171 Return


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