Fact Check: Historical Photo Shows Ship of Jewish Refugees Pleading To Be Let into Palestine in 1947?



A 1947 photograph shows a ship full of Jewish refugees attempting to enter a port in Palestine holding a banner reading, "The Germans destroyed our families & homes — Don't you destroy our hopes."


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Rating: True

Following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in early October 2023, social media accounts dedicated to history began posting photos highlighting the geopolitically complex history of the region. One such post, labeled "Jewish refugees arriving in Palestine, 1947," shows hundreds of people on the deck of a ship with a banner reading, "The Germans destroyed our families & homes — Don't you destroy our hopes."

This was an accurate description of the photograph. More specifically, the photo shows a ship named the Theodor Herzl, which was used in a campaign to transport, illegally, Jewish refugees from Europe to a geopolitical entity controlled at the time by the British, known as Mandatory Palestine. The photo shows the refugees detained at a port, Haifa, in what is now modern-day Israel.

That effort, known as Aliyah Bet, saw tens of thousands of Jewish refugees attempt to enter Palestine. Between August 1946 and May 1948, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "the British government intercepted more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors seeking to resettle in Palestine," and "interned these survivors in detention camps established on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus."

The voyage of the Theodor Herzl was one of many attempted Aliyah Bet emigrations intercepted by the British government. Noted Holocaust survivor and memoirist Alicia Appleman-Jurman was among its over 2500 passengers. In her book Alicia: My Story, she described the ship being overtaken by British ships:

Doggedly our ship plowed forward, trying to get as close to shore as possible before the frigates surrounded us completely. But ours was only a leaky old cargo ship: the frigates were the products of modern warfare.

It didn't take long for them to bring us to a halt. I had learned enough English to understand every word suddenly coming on from a bullhorn. I knew they were announcing their intent to board us. A few moments of silence followed the British announcement.

Then we heard the voice of our captain speaking note the loudspeaker. "This is the ship Theodor Herzl," he said in English. The people on board are Jewish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. They wish to return to the land of their ancestors. There are many children on this ship who are sick; most are orphans. They wish to rejoin their people. Let us come home."

Several reports of the Theodor Herzl's detention made international news, and several photos of the banner at issue in the photograph are in the Getty Images library and tie it to the ship's April 1947 detention in Haifa. An April 14, 1947 report in the Manchester Daily News in the U.K. described the event this way:

Refugees aboard the illegal immigrant ship Theodor Herzl destroyed the ship's engines when [their] resistance to a Royal Naval boarding party was useless off the Palestine coast early today. Destroyers had to tow the ship into Haifa.

Six of the wounded refugee Jews interviewed in hospital today said that there was some opposition when they were intercepted by a British destroyer off Tel Aviv. The refugees tried to throw the first two British sailors climbing up to the captain's bridge back into the sea but they did not succeed.

The boarding party, they added, used tear gas and fired several shots which wounded some of the refugees. They said they believed two were killed, but this was not confirmed from other sources.

After a brief detention in Haifa, the refugees were taken to Cyprus. "No matter what the British called it, although it was not a Nazi camp, it was a concentration camp and it was a prison," Appleman-Jurman wrote in her memoir.

The formation of the State of Israel brought an end to the Cyprus detention camps. "For most of those survivors interred on Cyprus, the experience only served to strengthen their resolve to reach Palestine," the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum wrote, "which they almost all did following the creation of Israel in May 1948."

Because the picture genuinely shows a well-documented instance in which Jewish refugees pleaded for entry into Palestine in 1947, the claim is True.


Appleman-Jurman, Alicia. Alicia: My Story. Random House Publishing Group, 2011.

British Soldiers Force Jewish Refugees from Aliyah Bet (“illegal” Immigration) Ship "Th... https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/photo/jewish-refugees-from-the-aliyah-bet-ship-theodor-herzl. Accessed 10 Oct. 2023.

Cyprus Detention Camps. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/cyprus-detention-camps. Accessed 10 Oct. 2023.

“Refugee Ship Theodor Herzl Prepares to Dock.” Alicia Appleman-Jurman Photographs, Apr. 1947, https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/alicia_appleman_jurman/9.

“Refugees Destroy Ship’s Engines.” Manchester Evening News, 14 Apr. 1947, p. 3. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/article/manchester-evening-news-refugees-destroy/133220730/.