07 April 2013

Remembering Holocaust: the first British shots of WW II

The subject of the Holocaust is, frankly, too big for me to handle. There are people who made it their life study, there still are some survivors - these are the people who may want to look at the whole picture. For me, reviving a single occurrence, a glimpse of that overwhelming evil at a time, will suffice.

So for today it will be a case of the refugee ship Tiger Hill, briefly and dryly mentioned in the Wiki article on Aliyah Bet:

The Tiger Hill, a 1,499 ton ship, built in 1887, sailed from Constanţa on August 3, 1939, with about 750 immigrants on board. She took on board the passengers from the Frossoula, another illegal immigrant ship that was marooned in Lebanon. On September 1, the first day of World War II, the Tiger Hill was intercepted and fired on by Royal Navy gunboats off Tel Aviv, and was beached.

The quote above is too dry, as I said, and to see the larger picture of the Tiger Hill's demise, here comes William R. Perl, a man whose life story, besides looking as material for several cliff hanger type thrillers, is interwoven with the story of the Holocaust. A quote from his book: The Holocaust conspiracy: An international policy of genocide.
Fighting that 'illegal' escape to Palestine brought the plotters in the Colonial Office together with those in the Foreign Office, and they called for the armed forces to implement their cruel policy. In a House of Commons debate on July 20, 1939, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the Colonial Secretary, had to admit that a 'Division of Destroyers' supported by five smaller launches was being employed to ascertain that those who had escaped Hitler did not escape the British capture as they approached Palestine. [PRO House of Commons Debates, July 20, 1939] Those who had fled the German destroyer and his cohorts were now hunted down by four destroyers of His Majesty's Royal Navy: HMS Hero (flagship), HMS Havock, HMS Henward, and HMS Hotspur. These were among Britain's newest and fastest fighting ships -- all four commissioned just two years earlier. At least one other destroyer, the Ivanhoe was also used in that lopsided warfare. Those conspiring in London to block the saving gate of Palestine really meant business. The ships had been authorized to open fire 'at or into any ship that was suspected of having illegal immigrants on board and that did not obey the warning to stand by. [Palestine Gazette, Extraordinary Issue, April 27, 1939]

They had been authorized to shoot, and shoot they did. Thus it happened that on the very first day of World War II, on September 1, 1939, while German dive bombers rained death on Warsaw and a dozen other Polish cities, His Majesty's ship Lorna opened fire on a rickety overcrowded refugee ship, Tiger Hill, as she approached the Palestine Coast to unload her cargo of misery, 1417 survivors of man's inhumanity against man. She did not, could not, heed the order to turn back toward Germany. The encounter between HMS Lorna and the Tiger Hill ended with a victory for the Royal Navy. Killed in the encounter were Dr. Robert Schneider, a young man who had been a physician in Czechoslovakia before he had been deprived of human dignity and all possessions; and Zwi Binder, a young pioneer from Poland whose hopes to till the land peacefully in a Kibbutz died within sight of the land he had been longing for years to reach.

The first two persons killed by British bullets during World War II were not Germans but Jewish escapees from the German hell.
To make it perfectly clear: this is not being written to complain to the unconcerned or to rub it in the faces of the sympathizers. This story is just a drop in the ocean, but a fitting one for the day of remembrance. Tomorrow, at 10 a.m., when the sirens will start, I will be thinking about the Tiger Hill, Robert Schneider and Zwi Binder.

And does the Tiger Hill story teach us a lesson? Yes, the same old one. They knew it back then, in 1945:

And we know it today:

And this will suffice for this year.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Thank you for this, Snoopy.