"Empowered by its own martyrdom and the legacy left it by the dead, the Sh’erit ha-Pletah—in the name of the everlasting awful majesty of one and a half million martyred children, two and a half million martyred mothers and wives, two million fallen fathers and brothers, a quarter of a million DPs still wasting away in the camps—demands of the Jewish people a single and united national-political attitude. This is the basic foundation of the Zionism of the survivors. It is no party Zionism; it is an historical-philosophical Zionism felt as an historical mission, as a debt to the dead."

--Solomon Gringauz, Commentary

Zionism (the movement to return to the Jewish homeland in what was then British-controlled Palestine) was perhaps the most incendiary question of the Jewish displaced persons (DPs) era and it demonstrated the plight and will of the Sh’erit ha-Pletah. In numbers that steadily increased from 1945-48, Jewish survivors chose British-controlled Palestine, out of ideological desire and pragmatic will for a haven, as their most desired destination. In doing so, the masses of Jewish DPs became an influential force in the Zionist cause and in the political debate about the creation of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. They condemned British claims that open immigration to Palestine would upset diplomatic balance.

Evidence of many Jewish DPs’ identification with the Zionist cause was abundant. Hachsharot and kibbutzim (agricultural training farms and communes that prepared members of the Sh’erit ha-Pletah for the principles of Zionism and the rigors of the pioneering life) were founded in many DP camps. Zionist youth groups like Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'ir instilled an affinity for Israel among the young DPs. David Ben-Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency in Palestine (the representative body of Zionist organizations) and leader of the Zionist cause, visited DP camps several times in 1945 and 1946, addressing the DPs not as victims, but as comrades in a new struggle. His visits raised the morale of the DPs and helped rally them politically on behalf of a Jewish state. The Jewish Agency and Jewish soldiers from Palestine further consolidated the alliance between the Sh’erit ha-Pletah and the Zionists, often assisting illegal immigration to Palestine. Mass protests against the British policies of closed immigration and tight rule of Palestine became common occurrences in the DP camps, giving the Sh’erit ha-Pletah a central rallying cry. Sh’erit ha-Pletah leader Abba Kovner urged fellow survivors to "transform the Jewish tragedy from a sea of tears and blood into a form of revolutionary strength."

With the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948, the doors of immigration to Israel were thrown open and more than 100,000 Jewish DPs immigrated there, achieving the dream of a Jewish homeland.

 

Exodus 1947 passengers are transferred from trains to trucks, on the last leg of their journey back to German displaced persons' camps.
Marc Jarblum, Zionist leader, addresses a crowd of DPs at a demonstration protesting the forced return of the Exodus refugee ship to Europe in 1947.
Jewish youth at the Harishona Zionist vocational training center in Fano, Italy engage in the construction of a fishing boat.
DPs at the Neu Freimann camp march in a demonstration advocating unrestricted immigration to Palestine.
Betar meeting in Schlachtensee displaced person's camp.
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