The Atlit detainee camp was a detention camp established by the authorities of the British Mandate for Palestine at the end of the 1930s in what is now Israel’s northern coast, 12 miles south of Haifa. The British built the camp in an old military base for the Jewish illegal immigrants who tried to escape Nazi persecution in Europe and move to Palestine. Tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants were interned at the camp, which was surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers.
The detainee camp in Atlit is a declared Israel National Heritage Site. At the camp we were able to visit one of the original barracks. The British put the immigrants in these barracks before deporting them to Cyprus.
There is a replica of a boat on site that simulates an illegal “immigration ship”. We were able to tour the boat with a group of observant Jewish women, which is probably a good subject for another blog.
The structure where the immigrants were sprayed with DDT was reconstructed. As we walked around the room, looking at the shower stalls, the huge red laundry canisters, and the mikvah (woman’s ritual bath) I couldn’t stop thinking of what it must have been like, fleeing the holocaust, making it to the holy land, and when you arrive you’re taken to a ‘detainee camp’ before being sent to Cypress. Wow!
The Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS) says “between the years 1934-1948 some 122,000 Illegal Immigrants, most of them from the holocaust and pogroms in Arab countries, were brought to the shores of Palestine in 92 boats, hastily refitted to maximum capacity. These immigrants ran the British Mandate blockade in defiance of the infamous white paper limiting Jewish immigration to Eretz Israel.”