The Atlit detention camp is located south of Haifa, close to the coast. It was established by the British in the 1930s to house the illegal Jewish immigrants who had started to arrive from Europe and hoped to enter Palestine. It is here that many of the post war illegal refugees from Europe were processed before being sent to Cyprus for detention. These refugees had travelled by boats that were hardly seaworthy in their quest to reach what was Palestine.
Many of the barack huts are still there. They are set up to tell the story of life in the camp, the arrival and the separation of men and women. Some people carved their names on the wood lining of the huts to tell others who arrived that they had survived.
In one hut are the records of the detainees. One record they showed us on a large screen was of Frank Lowy, who had come as an illegal immigrant after the war. He fought in the in Israel’s war of independence and later joined his Mother and sister in Australia and went on to become one of Australia’s richest men. Frank Lowy has financed a typical refugee boat which is included in the exhibition.
In October 1945 the British were going to send people in the camp to Cyprus. the Haganah decided to stop this. They sent 7 Hebrew teachers into the camps, but in reality they were there to prepare the detainees to escape. Several nights later the 208 refugees quietly awoke and moved out of the camp into the direction of Haifa. In the morning they were met by the British, but also they were surrounded by the people of Haifa. The British did not know who was who so the refugees escaped.