The Background of the Clandestine Immigration: Both before and after the Holocaust the British Mandate authorities limited the number of Jews that could come to Palestine. This was seen by the Jews both in the country and outside of it as directly inhibiting the fulfillment of the Zionist enterprise. Free aliyah was a central Zionist value both in theory and in practice. Therefore, the Yishuv struggled against this part of British policy (which was spelled out in a number of documents known as Therefore, the Yishuv struggled against this part of British policy (which was spelled out in a number of documents known as "White Papers") actively and without ceasing.
In 1939 the British issued a "White Paper" that stipulated that His Majesty's Government has decided to limit Jewish immigration to 75,000 in the coming 5 years. Between May and September 15,000 "illegals" arrived. As a result, British policy hardened.
During WW II the Jews, for the most part (the Hagana) ceased their struggle against the British and volunteered on the side of the Allies.
The illegal immigration continued during the war. One of the most poignant stories is that of the Sturma, a ship carrying mostly Rumanian refugees. Refused entry by a number of countries, and sent back out to deep water by the Turks, this ship sank in February, 1942, and most of its 770 passengers drowned .
After the War, the struggle continued against the British. On Oct. 10, 1945 the Palmach broke into the illegal immigrant detention camp at Atlit and freed its inhabitants in a bold operation. The Escape from Atlit Before the British established their policy to send most of the Jewish refugees to Cyprus, they often held them at detention camps in Palestine, included Atlit. As mentioned above, the attack here was made in response to British rejection of the call of the Anglo-American Committee to immediately allow 100,000 Jewish refugees into Palestine.
The plan was set and a number of Palmach soldiers were placed in the camp as Hebrew teachers and sports instructors.
At 01:00 on the Palmach entered the camp. Their entry was made with such stealth that many of the Jews who had been warned of the break had to be awaken. Yitzhak Rabin Z"l, acted as a company commander in the operation. (mem-peh )
There were three roadblocks placed to prevent British reinforcements from arriving. At one of them, a squad of three British policemen pul led up and began shooting. The result of the confrontation was classic: The Arab policeman was killed, the British pol iceman wounded, and the Jew -- unscathed.
In any event, the population of the camp, just over 200 inhabitants, was freed and made their way up Nasal Oren near by, on their way to Beit HaOren. A convoy of Palmach trucks which was to serve as a decoy made a navigat ional error and drove right into a convoy of British soldiers. The British thus discovered quickly that the escapees were in K. Belt HaOren, and sent police and army to surround the kibbutz and prevent their continued escape.
Meanwhile, word of the escape reached the Jews of Haifa and the surrounding areas, and many of these came and surrounded the British circle. This caused enough confusion that the former prisoners were able to slip through and make their way on foot, largely through Nahal Yagur to Kibbutz Yagur, 5 kms away.
Again, the psychological and military success were tremendous. The Jews had had no casualties, and had only killed one policeman. The entire camp had been freed. The international press went the distance with the story of the plight of the Jewish survivors of the camps, so that the story was once again international front-page news.