This presentation will examine the role of networks in DP camps and in the clandestine immigration activities to bring thousands of Jews from post-WWII Europe to Israel. Most Jewish displaced persons (DPs) in post-WWII Europe longed to be reunited with family anywhere in the world, but a strong Zionist influence in DP camps contributed to the desire of building a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel. The restrictive immigration policies of the British government for Palestine that had been in effect since the 1939 White Paper remained in place after the war. These policies, as well as the forced return of the Exodus 1947 passengers to Germany, caused mass protests in many DP camps and contributed to a temporary decline in morale amongst the Jewish DP population. To alleviate this untenable situation and give hope to the Jewish DPs, the clandestine immigration to Palestine that had existed since before WWII was reinvigorated. The Mossad Aljah Bet, which coordinated most of the clandestine immigration activities before the war, became instrumental in organizing an underground network, the Brichah after the war. The Brichah activists, most of them members of the Zionist youth movement, had quickly established escape routes throughout Europe after the war. Between 150,000 and 200,000 Jews embarked on the risky endeavor of escaping Europe by crossing borders without proper papers, often in the middle of the night, by hiking though mountains in the heat or in the snow, and then boarding ships that crossed the Mediterranean without authorization.
Uta Larkey is Associate Professor at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. Her research and scholarship in Holocaust Studies has earned her several prestigious fellowships and culminated in publications. As a Scholar-in-Residence at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute, she contributed to the project entitled Families, Children and the Holocaust. Her book chapter related to this is included in the edited volume Jewish Families in Europe 1939-Present (2017). She was a Fellow-in-Residence at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at USHMM, working on her research project Narrating Horror: Language and Identity in Early Postwar German-Language Interviews and Testimonies. Uta Larkey’s co-authored book Life and Loss in the Shadow of the Holocaust: A Jewish Family's Untold Story (2011) was translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil.