A short account of the Atlit detainee camp, given by your Israel & Jerusalem private tour guide
Over 40,000 illegal Jewish immigrants were detained in this camp that was in use between 1940 and 1948 by the British authorities.The detainees were people who had escaped from Europe during World War II, and couldn’t get entry certificates to Palestine. Thus, they were forced to enter the country illegally
With the growing numbers of illegal immigrants at the end of the 1930’s, the British decided to open the Atlit camp for all illegal immigrants. Their major targets were the ships which carried these illegal immigrants to the shores of Palestine. Between 1939 and 1941, many ships were seized, and thousands of detainees were kept in the camp for periods of a few days to two years. The peak period of Atlit was after World War II. When the camp reached its capacity in 1946, the British opened a new camp in Cyprus.
Most of the people who stayed in Atlit were released shortly after the Jewish Agency secured legal entry certificates for them. The last detainees left the camp in May of 1948, when the State of Israel was established. Atlit was later used by the State of Israel as one of the new immigrants’ absorption centers during the first years of statehood.
Today, the site is kept as a National Heritage Site. The museum presents the story of the illegal immigration, and details the daily life in the camp.
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