Here is the story of the Dora, the first illegal boat (Aliyah Beth) to leave from Northern Europe with Jewish refugees from Germany - including Toni Katz.

"'Dodenschip Dora; Een oude kolenboot redde honderden Joden ondanks Nederlandse tegenwerking'",
By: Chaya Brasz, Historian, Former Director of Center for Research on Dutch Jewry, Ben-Zion Dinur Institute for Research in Jewish History.

Originally published in Vrij Nederland, may 1, 1993, pp. 38-41. Translation by Erik Post.

Dora: The "Coffin Ship"

In the morning of Sunday, July 16, 1939, the Dora, a small coal ship sailing under Panamanian flag, left the harbor of Amsterdam. The ship was filled with over 300 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and about 20 Dutch Jews.

Officially, The Dutch government knew nothing, turned a blind eye, and let them leave secretly. The Dora disembarked its refugees on the coast of Palestine during the night of August 11/12th, 1939. The first trip of illegal immigrants to Palestine to leave from a Northern European harbor had been successful.

This is the story of the Dora, a ship with "slave quarters" that was almost falling apart - as it was described in a Dutch newspaper - and of how it saved hundred of lives.


The Dora

(Photo from "Dodenschip Dora" in Vrij Nederland, Chaya Brasz)

Since the dawn of Nazism, the Netherlands had taken in about 15,000 Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria. Only a few hundreds of them were Halutzim - young pioneers for Palestine who followed agrarian training ("hachsharah") in preparation for emigration to Palestine.

In 1933, The "Deventer Organization for Professional training Palestine pioneers", with the Organized Jewish Refugee Committee, managed to get visas for tens of young people in the Netherlands. The Deventer Organization took care of individual placement among Dutch farmers.

With support from the Refugee Committee - which was headed by the future chairman of the Judenratt, Prof. David Cohen, a laborer village ("Werkdorp") was set up in the polder of Wieringer. There, a large group of youths was trained for immigration to Palestine and to other places. Religious Jews had their own organization, "Dath Va-Haretz", with its training center in Franeker.

In the 30's, there were almost no possibilities to travel to other countries. Many Jews hoped to go to Palestine, which was under British mandate, but the British only allowed very few Jews to come to Palestine.

The Jewish Agency, when handing out immigration certificates, favored Jews from Germany and Austria, because they were in greater danger.

Jews from other countries, including the Netherlands, went on waiting list. For this reason, a lot of young German Jews stayed with the same Dutch farmers for a long time. They kept the labor opportunities, because their visas were based on that. On the other hand, by holding these labor positions, they prevented other Jews from Germany from coming.

At the end of 1938, there were a little over 1000 young people in hachsharah in the Netherlands. In Poland, Romania, Hungary, young Jews tried to find a way out by arranging fake marriages with Palestinian Jews.

Many illegal immigrants tried to get to Palestine on ships that were barely sea-worthy. Up to the start of WWII, 50 illegal ships had tried to get to Palestine. Until the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, 92 more ships would follow, of which the most famous was the Exodus.

The official Jewish community in the Netherlands didn't encourage these methods. When, at the end of 1938, after Kristallnacht, the Dutch government allowed 150 halutzim to enter the country, on condition that they would move on within a year, Jews from Palestine decided to start illegal immigration from the Netherlands.

Giora Josephtal came to Palestine for this reason, but David Cohen, who headed of the Refugee Committee, refused his proposal. The Deventer Organization run by his brother Ru Cohen did the same - they rejected illegal means. They were, in a way, the precursors of the politicies of the Judenratt.

The Haganah tried to save thousands of European Jews by all means before it was too late. Starting December 38, rumors about possible illegal immigration from the Netherlands kept halutzim anticipating.

Another group of pioneers, staying in the labor village in Wieringermeer (a new polder), was supposed to go to France by train to board an illegal ship. But a few Dutch in the group decided they didn't want to leave because members of their family thought it was too dangerous, or unnecessary. It was safe there. (Only a few of those who stayed behind survived the war). So their plan changed, and eventually the Hagannah decided that they too would leave by boat from Amsterdam.

So the representative of the Halutzim, Uri Koch, transfered them from Wierinermeer and hid them in secret hiding places in Beverwijk, Assendelft and Heemskerk (villages near the Dutch coast, not far from Amsterdam). They would wait there until they could board.

Gideon Ruter, a representative from the Hagannah, came from Palestine to Amsterdam to organize this illegal trip. (His name is now Gideon Raphael, and he lives in Jerusalem. After the war, he was secretary general of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Representative to the UN)

The center for illegal immigration was in Paris. Sjmarjahoe Sameret (Shmarya Zameret), who worked there, received the order to organize the immigration of 300 halutzim from Holland, 150 from Belgium, and another hundred from France. Sameret (Zameret) traveled under the pseudonym of Mr Grey, with an American passport that gave him entry to European countries. He first went to Copenhagen to arrange to buy a boat.

He chose the Dora, a ship from 1898, relatively small but very strong and stable. With the help of a family of Greek sailors, the brothers Pierre and Kosta, he bought the boat which would sail under Panamanian flag.

They installed 175 iron bunk beds, a kitchen, lavatories, and showers, cleaned the motors, and got life-vests onboard. The Greeks got an advance in Denmark for their help, and would be paid the rest later.Originally, the plan was to man the ship with Greeks from Marseilles, but eventually a Danish crew manned the boat.

At this point, Mr. Grey was getting cries for help from the Netherlands everyday. He had to assure the Dutch government 3 or 4 times that the Palestine pioneers would really leave Holland, but they had to delay the trip several times.

Not everybody in the Refugee Committee knew about the illegal immigration project. The chairman, Prof. David Cohen, didn't know anything; Gerturde van Tijn-Cohn and other members of the committee knew, but didn't think they could trust the Hagannah.

The halutzim who were stationed in the different places would ususally stay there only for a couple nights, but now that they'd been there already for a couple weeks, they didn't know what would happen; people would wonder why they were there. There was a growing risk that the plan would become known.

In Antwerp, the situation was worse. 150 people who had crossed the Dutch/Belgian border illegally had already been there for more than 6 weeks. The police arrested them every day, after which they were released, because they promised they would leave the next day, as soon as the ship would enter the harbor.

Just around that time, the Belgian government passed a law that illegal refugees had to be sent back. In France, the situation was not much better.

When the Dora left Copenhagen, Kosta and Grey took the train to Antwerp to welcome the Greek crew that would replace the Danish crew, to hire more sailors and to buy more lifeboats. Gideon mentioned that in Amsterdam, the people were ready to go. In Amsterdam, they would get more coal and more food. Everything could be arranged in a couple hours and they could come and go without being noticed.

The boat arrived in the Coenhaven (in the Amsterdam harbor). Gideon Rufer needed the help of someone who spoke Dutch fluently. He met Flip Cohen in the harbor, and Flip didn't really know who Rufer was. Rufer told him: "if they ask you who sent you, just tell them 'Kipper'." Flip Cohen went to the cargadoor (?) on the Geldersekade (canal in Amsterdam) where he had to make contacts to get the goods. He went there with Rufer, and paid for everything with English pounds. Uri says "I was sent to the bakery, and I had to make them bake special kosher bread that would stay good for a long time. We ate that aboard until it became moldy. After that we switched to biscuits"

The goods were brought to the Dora on a big motorboat, from the canal to the harbor. That's where he saw for the first time the Dora. He saw someone watching down from the ship. Later he understood it was Amiram Shochat, one of the three people from the hagannah who had organized the trip of the Dora. He told him in Hebrew: "Do not talk to any member of the crew". The Danish didn't know anything about the illegal nature of the trip, and they were not supposed to know.

Everything went fine until people from the Dutch Refugee Committee visited the boat. They came at the worst moment, just as the coal was being loaded, so the ship was under a black film of soot. They'd expected a luxury passenger boat.When they saw this, they refused to let the Halutzim board the boat.

The members of the Refugee Committee were mostly very rich, integrated Jews who acted like Dutch people and lived "by the rules". These were the people who represented the Jewish community at the government. Their idea of what a boat should be didn't fit with the reality of illegal immigration.

They were upset by all the delays and the problems this would cause with Dutch Government, to whom they had promised that the halutzim would be leaving in an orderly fashion and without any problems.

They already had a lot of contempt for the "Ostjuden", the people who had organized the trip, and couldn't contain themselves anymore. They said "Ostjuden don't keep their word". They also believed that the papers for the boat were probably faked, bought on the black market.

S. Kramarsky, a Jewish banker from Vienna who had been living in the Netherlands for a long time, along with S.J.Florsheim, and some other members of the Refugee Committee, paid the 115 000 gulden (guilders) that the trip would cost. So they felt responsible for the whole enterprise.

The relationship with the Dutch government was difficult. According to the law, Jews were equal, but the Jewish refugee problem was left up to the Jewish community. For instance, the construction of the Westerbork refugee camp was financed entirely by the Jewish community.

The Refugee Committee blamed the Hagannah for the poor quality of the boat, as they felt responsible for the immigration. In case the British captured the Dora, it was clear that the Dutch government would claim knowing nothing about the whole trip, and they would be fully responsible.

Sameret (Zameret) was astonished by these assimilated, law-abiding Jews who, with their haughty attitude, made decisions regarding the halutzim. In his report to the mossad, he noted that those people were so far removed from the problems of the Jewish people. After the remark about the OstJuden, he pretended to be an American and would only speak English.

He convinced Gertrud Van Tijn, whom he described as a woman from the committee with great capacities, to go to Kramarsky.Grey explained to her that the Dora was a good ship. He also explained to her why the trip had been delayed so many times.

Everything was inspected by the specialists, and the insurance papers turned out to be in order too, so the Committee decided to let the trip continue.

But then, new complications arose. It turned out that the workers who had brought the coal aboard were Communists. They noticed that there were beds aboard. Not meaning any harm, they called the editors of the party's newspaper, and so, a day after the arrival, there was a big article in the Communist Volksdagblad (the people's daily), where the Dutch government was attacked for letting such a bad ship with "slave traders quarters", with hundred of refugees aboard. They were sure the people would drown.

Other newspapers started to write about the "Ship of the dead" ("Dodenschip"). Photographers were circling around the boat in the Amsterdam harbor in little boats, so the harbormaster received the order to go and inspect the boat.


The Dora, July 15

(Photo from "Dodenschip Dora" in Vrij Nederland, Chaya Brasz)

Grey talked to the harbormaster and explained the real reason of the transport, and the harbormaster approved everything, although he did make a list of improvements that had to be made. Because there were only 350 beds and 300 people were already supposed to board from Amsterdam, Grey told the harbormaster that there would only be 50 more people to board from Antwerp. The people from the Refugee Committee heard this, which caused the Dutch government to officially declare the following day that they weren't expelling any refugees, and that everybody would leave from their own free will. (?)

Jacob Oppenheimer came to Holland in 1936 from Frankfurt am Main. He said: "the Dutch immigration police wanted to get rid of us, but they were afraid of the publicity. The relationship with England wasn't too good, and the British of course didn't want any immigration. So in 1939, all of a sudden we were brought to Heemskerk (15 miles from Amsterdam), where we had to wait for a couple of weeks. Of course we knew where we were going. On July 14th, I was brought to the house of Dr. Pinkhof in Amsterdam. I was very religious and couldn't travel on Shabbat. Dr Pinkhof's house wasn't far from the harbor, so on Saturday, they came and picked me up and they took me straight to the Dora.

It was a small ship, full of people, but we never felt unsafe on the ship. The only danger we feared would come from the British." (Jacob Oppenheimer eventually worked for the Israeli ministry of.... and lives in the moshav Kvar HaRoeh)

Flip Cohen too remembers very well leaving. He was with another group of Halutzim in Beverwijk (about 15 miles from Amsterdam). "On Saturday, I ordered some taxis. We went with the whole group. That evening, I was home for a just little while. My mother said, "are you leaving today?" We said: "See you in Eretz Israel"

I took my backpack and left. Apart from my younger brother Samuel, I never saw them again. I came back to the Netherlands in 1945 as a soldier with the Jewish Brigade. I found Samuel in the Portuguese-Israelite hospital. He was just back from Bergen Belsen. All the others had been murdered."

Most of the halutzim were not religious and were shuttled with busses to the Lloyd hotel all day Saturday, which at that time served as a refugee center.

Gertrud van Tijn was there, and so were Florscheim and Kramarski, and Ru Cohen of the Deventer Organization. The heads of the immigration police from The Hague (Meyer) and from Amsterdam (Stoett) came and to control (the proceeding?The boarding?) with 35 civil servants. People sang, not just the people who were leaving, but also members of the Refugee Committee. Some of the civil servants of the immigration police even cried with emotion. The immigration police was amazed that among the halutzim there were also Dutch people, but they didn't ask any questions.

At dusk, the Dora was moved to the Handelskade (the pier). On the pier, there was a police cordon that kept the press at a distance, but the authorities were afraid that the Communists would come and have a demonstration. Everybody knew what this was about, and when a young woman without papers managed to move through the police cordon, they just let her go aboard without any trouble.

Before Grey went from Amsterdam to Antwerp, Gertrud van Tijn came to visit him in the hotel where he was staying. He told her that the Hagannah would let her know as soon as the ship would arrive in Eretz Israel. But she had already thought of this herself. She had given money to Eli Reens, the son of a diamond cutter from Amsterdam, so he could telegraph her once he would arrive. Reens had done some administrative work for the Refugee Committee. Later from Palestine, he volunteered as a soldier in the Brigade Irene (Free Dutch army) and moved in the south of the Netherlands with the liberating army in September 1944. Only a nephew of his mother was still alive. (He now lives in Kfar Pinas, and is the father and grandfather of a large family.)

The goodbyes between Grey and the Refugee Committee were not particularly warm. Kramarsky announced that he too would go to Antwerp to make sure that the life boats that had been demanded by the Amsterdam harbor master were installed, and to make sure too many people wouldn't go aboard. Grey and Rufer tried to make him understand that it wasn't necessary, but to no avail.

Kramarsky arrived in Antwerp even before the Dora had moored, and found out that instead of fifty people, a hundred and fifty people wanted to board the ship.Kosta did buy the lifeboats and brought another extra captain and some extra crewmembers.

Now they were just waiting for the boat. When Kramarsky saw Grey in Antwerp, there was a lot of shouting and threatening. According to Kramarsky, there weren't enough beds onboard. According to Grey, there were. There were beds put side to side, two by two, so that three people could lie there. Grey also explained that these were refugees who were in Belgium illegally and had no other choice but to board the ship and leave like that. If they couldn't board, they would be sent back to Germany. But the Refugee Committee had already given its word to the Dutch government, and threatened to take the Halutzim off in Antwerp and send them back to the Netherlands.

Sameret (Zameret) wrote in his report: "I spoke to a high-level Dutch civil servant who said that he wasn't interested in the plans of the Hagannah, and that the only concern of the government was that the boat would disappear with the refugees as soon as possible." Grey had ordered that the passengers from Antwerp should board the Dora as soon as possible, but didn't tell Kramarsky, and continued the negotiations with people from the Committee. When Kramarsky sent his chauffeur to the harbor to take a look, he reported that the boat was there and the refugees were already aboard. Flip Cohen says: "These people were real refugees, with children, old people, no halutzim like us, who wanted really badly to go to Eretz Israel. These people didn't have a choice. Belgium wanted to get rid of them".

Kramarsky went to the Belgian harbormaster and demanded that one hundred people be taken off the boat. However the Belgian harbormaster, who must have been a "good Christian" and saw the return of the Jewish people to the Promised Land as a Biblical fulfillment, actually turned out as a spokesman for the Halutzim. He told Kramarsky not to worry, and that it wasn't such a big deal if the refugees suffered a little for a couple of weeks, if it meant that they would reach the coast of the Promised Land. Kramarsky however threatened to call the Dutch Governement with a request to take diplomatic action. The harbormaster got so angry over this that he didn't want to talk to the dutchman any longer.

At last, when Kramarsky went to the ship to try to convince the halutzim not to take the trip, it turned out that the passengers were quite fine with the situation. So he left, although nobody knew if he was going to take any further actions.

In the meantime, the Belgian Security Agency took action. Unannounced, a tugboat arrived and picked up the Dora and brought it to Flessingen (Vlissingen).

The lifeboats were installed on the Dora just in time, but Kosta was not aboard at that moment. He was in a café talking to Grey, demanding more money for the trip. One of the engine mechanics also missed the boat.A newly hired Belgian radio operator had found what the actual goal of the trip was and didn't show up. Kosta and Grey had to find a new radio operator and contacted a Spanish Communist who used to smuggle weapons to Spain. His ship was gone and he was in Antwerp without papers. The man really wanted to come along, so they called Paris about the money and it would arrive the next morning in Antwerp.

The Hagannah in Paris also decided that the Dora would not pick up the hundred refugees in France because there had already been too many delays. Grey, who waited for the money, sent Kosta, the Spaniard and the mechanics to Vlissingen by taxi. But they were sent back to the Dutch harbor: the Greek didn't have a visa, and the Spaniard didn't have a passport. They didn't have any other choice with the four of them but to leave the next morning from Antwerp on a motorboat, with some money to Flessingen.

They'd already been on the Schelde (river that connects Antwerp to the north sea) for 8 hours when, in the distance, they saw the Dora coming. The ship was anchored off the coast. By now it was already July 18th, and Grey wanted the Dora to leave. But the old captain had ordered wine and brandy for himself and that wouldn't be delivered until the next afternoon. Grey became really scared that the Dutch press that was in Flessingen would find them out, and that the Refugee Committee would find out that the ship was again in front of the Dutch coast, and that the Dutch government might, perhaps under public pressure, decide to take the ship because there were too many people aboard.So the captain promised to leave the next morning, without wine and brandy.

At five o'clock in the morning, Grey observed the Dora through his binoculars from the Vlissingen dike. The ship was not moving, and it didn't look like it was going to leave soon. There were also fishermen and a little boy from Zealand on the dike. The kid said: "You see the boat? That's a death ship. A ship full of Jewish refugees from Germany that will sink, for sure."Everybody in the Netherlands, even children, knew what the story was with the Dora.

The ship wouldn't move. Finally, around 11, a little boat from Vlissingen, moved towards the Dora. It was the Greek who had waited for his liquor. After the liquor was moved on board, the Dora finally left.

In the meantime, there were a lot of stories about the Dora in the newspapers. While the Dora waited off the coast of Vlissingen, a journalist of the Daily Herald had been aboard. He wrote that the passengers slept on the deck on straw mats, and had told him they were going to Bangkok, or to Siam. This news drew the attention of the British government. The British representative Nevile Bland made inquiries at the Foreign office in the Netherlands, and pointed out that immigration to Palestine was illegal. After some research, the Foreign Office notified the British that the ship had given its destination as Siam, and that they weren't aware of any another destination.

The Chairman of the House of Commons, a member of the Communist Party of the Netherlands, L. de Visser, asked questions at the end of July to the minister of justice, Prof. Gerbrandy. He did this with the best intentions, and felt pity for the refugees. The Communist inquired if the minister had actually encouraged the Jewish Committee to take such action. He said the refugees shouldn't leave if they couldn't secure a place to go. He also tried to plea for the possibility that they could come back to the Netherlands.

At the end of August, the minister Gerbrandy declared that he wasn't aware of the Dora at all. He asked that from now on the Refugee Committee should inform him about this kind of emigration. The government representative for refugees, Mr. B.G.A. Smeets, was not very happy about the Dora's trip. In a secret letter to the justice ministry, dated July 22, 1939, he accused the Jewish Committee of irresponsible behavior. "What I understand makes me ask if the government shouldn't have just stopped the boat from leaving. It was too crowed. Refugees are sleeping under sails on the upper deck, on straw. One storm and they will be gone. There isn't enough safety equipment, four little boats for 20 people each. In Amsterdam the boat was already overloaded, and in Antwerp another 100 refugees were added. The shipping inspection and the camp leader of the Lloyd Hotel can hopefully give more information. You should realize that illegal immigration with ships has already been causing much trouble everywhere. Ships that aren't allowed into harbors, that are at sea for months, that have the plague on board - for example the odyssey with the St Louis - which was actually a comfortable ship, while the Dora...."

The trip of the Dora went pretty well, but was definitely not a luxury cruise. Hundred of people were packed together, they were sea-sick in the Gulf of Biscaye, they had a doctor onboard, but he turned out to be addicted to morphine, and when the ship went through the Straights of Gibraltar, the British ordered the ship to identify itself.At the first signs of danger, the old Greek Captain, waving his revolver, would send the refugees into the "deeps" (?) of the ship. (les calles ?) This time, when the British asked the ship to identify itself, the British believed what he told them. The old Greek said it was a Panamanian ship on its way to Siam. They believed him because ships with illegal immigrants never came through the straight of Gibraltar, but instead usually came from the French Riviera, the Italian coast, and the coast of the Black Adriatic Sea.

When they arrived to the southern coast of Turkey, the Dora contacted by radio the Hagannah in Palestine. The Dora was delayed and was ordered to drop anchor off the Turkish coast at Feniki, because it was full moon by now, which meant that a landing was for now impossible. The only thing that interrupted the waiting was a visit by the Turkish police. Nobody was to go to the coast. The amount of food, water and coal was starting to be very small. The police gave permission to have a ship with watermelon and potable water to go to the Dora.

Eventually, the Hagannah on board lost patience, and, against instructions from Palestine, they decided to move forward. But as soon as the ship started to move, it stood still again. The trip had taken longer than planned, so the Greek crew wanted more money. Under the command of the captain, armed with big kitchen knives, they started a mutiny. They could only just be kept from sabotaging the antenna. Negociations and collecting money from the passengers brought a solution. But to be sure, they locked up the captain for the rest of the trip.

Finally, on August 11, 1939, the Dora received the signal that they could attempt to land. Everybody got really scared when, just a little later, a huge British war ship appeared, 300 meters away, but she left after a little while, without anything happening. Then darkness fell. Looking southwards, they could see the lights from Tel Aviv, and the searchlights of the police boat almost touched the ship. Everybody remained very quiet.

The landing was planned to be in Shfayim. They waded in the water for the last steps. At two o'clock that night, the Dora announced that everybody had unboarded. The hagannah telegraphed Oeri Koch that "the delivery was successful and the mother is healthy". Eli Reens telegraphed the agreed message to Gertrud Van Tijn. She passed the message on to minister Van Boeijen, who could finally breathe again. The Netherlands had gotten rid of 300 refugees without damaging the relationship with Great Britain, and it hadn't cost the treasury a penny.

Three weeks later, WWII started.


map - Dora

The Dora odyssey

The "Dora" - The story of the illegal immigrant ship. Article #2

By Hilel Yarkony. Translation by Liron Katz

Original Hebrew version

In 1939, a big effort took place to rescue as many Jews as possible out of the Northern European countries.

Shipping companies didn't want to take the risk of bringing those Jews into Palestine. The Aliyah activists were looking for a ship owned by people who had smuggled weapons into the Spanish Republic.

They found two Greek brothers, Pierre and Costa Arteshides, the sons of a retired Greek captain, Parisian citizens who had done that sort of operation before. They agreed to take the job for the right amount of money, to buy and take care of the supply, then to bring the boat to Palestine.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, a small ancient merchant ship was found, with the gross capacity of 584 ton. Built in 1898 as a passengers ship, it had been transformed later into a cargo ship that transported, among other things, cattle. Although the ship was old, its mechanics were in good shape.

It was bought after some serious financials difficulties and a long negotiation with the Greeks. The ship original name of "TJALDUR" was changed to "DORA", and she would sail under Panama's flag.

Dora (Tjaldur

The Dora (Tjasldur)

The official chief captain was the elder Arteshides, the officer who would in fact be the active captain during this job was a Danish captain. The rest of the crew was from France, Algiers, as well as one Jewish guy - an immigrant from Russia that was a waiter in the officers' dinning room.

After renovations and transformations needed to use it to carry illegal immigrant, the ship sailed from Copenhagen to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, after some of the immigrants saw the condition of the Dora, a scandal started. The local Communist journalists took advantage of the affair, accusing the Dutch government of deporting Jews in horrendous and unsafe conditions.

Not until the immigration officers were talked into changing their mind, and the ship had gone through a new inspection by the Dutch authorities, could the Dora finally sail to Antwerpen in Belgium, with 300 passengers on board.

There were 120 additional immigrants, members of the "heHalutz" that had been smuggled out of Germany. They had been staying there illegally undercover, and had to get out as soon as possible before they would be caught. (* Toni was part of that group, hiding illegally in Belgium, waiting for the boat to arrive.) 60 additional "Halutzim" were due to join the "Dora" in Belgium. Again, a scandal started when the head of the Dutch immigration committee demanded to offload 100 passengers.

The people of the "Mossad Le Aliyah" who were in charge of the illegal immigration operation didn't give in. With the help of the manager of the harbor, who wanted to get the immigrants out as fast as possible, they convinced the head of the Dutch immigration committee that it was better for the passengers to suffer for a few weeks during the trip, than to be sent back to the German concentration camps.

Because by now the "Dora" and the scandals surrounding it had attracted so much attention of the government and the local press, and due to the poor conditions of the boat, it was decided to abandon the initial plan of having one more stop in Le Havre, France, to collect 100 additional immigrants.

Finally, on July 12th the Dora sailed off for Palestine.

Three "Hagana" members went along: the ship manager, Tzvi Spector, the emergency captain, Amiram Shohat, and in charge of the radio connection, Yekutiel Pekta.

After a storm in the Biscaye bay, the ship entered the Mediterranean Sea on July 29th.

The Lloyd observation station, watching Gibraltar, reported to the Palestine C.I.D (criminal investigation department) on its entry in the Mediterranean Sea.

The ship had entered Marsin in Turkey to get some supply, mainly water and food.

Under the threat of guns, none of the people onboard were permitted to leave the ship.

A rebellion by the Greek sailors took place soon after, but the Danish captain's calm helped restore order.


The Dora

(Photo from "Dodenschip Dora" in Vrij Nederland, Chaya Brasz)

The "Dora" finally reached Sheffaym beach without been caught on August 12th 1939.

Tzvi Spector swam first to the shore to make sure the way was clear. Then, the immigrants were taken down by boats. All reached safely to the shore, they were concentrated in "Kefar Shemariahu", then were distributed within the absorption centers.

They arrived just 19 days before the beginning of WW2.

By the agreement with the Arteshides brothers, the Dora was due to have a second job, but this agreement was not honored. Only after legal battle some of the money that was paid in advance to the Greek family had been paid back.

The Dora was captured by the Germans and was at their service between 1941-1942. On December 21st 1942, it was sunken by a British war ship near the Djerba harbor in Tunis.

Original article in Hebrew

Special Thanks:
Chaya Brasz, for graciously allowing the posting of the Dora article
Erik Post, for translating the Dora article
References and Publications:
Chaya Brasz. "Dodenschip Dora; Een oude kolenboot redde honderden Joden ondanks Nederlandse tegenwerking". Vrij Nederland, May 1, 1993. English translation by Erik Post.
Arieh Avneri. "From Velos to Taurus: The First Decade of Jewish Illegal Immigration to Mandatory Palestine. 1934-1944" (p 126-132). .
Y. Berginsky. "People row to shore" (p 183-203, 259). .
P.H Silverstone. "Our only refuge open the gates". .

This family history project started September 2009.
All photos and documents belong to the author and are © Daniel Abraham, except for maps and where indicated.
This is a work in progress. Please contact me if you have any more information to contribute.

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2018