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The early French connection to Israel

Alan Swarc

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 43, 2011 The early French connection to Israel ALAN SWARC One often hears of the Golden Age of Franco-Israeli relations in the period 1953 to 1965, during which France supplied nuclear know-how and modern weapons to Israel. However, there is far less mention in the historiography of an earlier period when the bonds of this relationship were originally forged. This goes back to the postwar era when the illegal immigration campaign was in full swing and French ports provided an outlet to the Mediterranean for thousands of Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) determined to reach the shores of Palestine. Jews could not simply walk out of German or Austrian DP camps and tak a train to Marseilles to board one of the liners serving the Middle Eastern ports. On the contrary, it was more probable that they left their camps in secret led by members of the Mossad VAliyah Bet (Institute for 'Parallel Immigration'). This was a secret body set up in Palestine in 1938 by the Jewish Agency, and staffed, in the main, by Labour Zionists from the kibbutz movement. While this organization maintained only a functional link to the Jewish Agency's paramilitary forces, the Haganah, its leader, Shaul Meirov, was one of its the Haganah's top officers. He was a close associate of David Ben-Gurion, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. In later years, the name 'Mossad' was attributed to the external intelligence service of the State of Israel. Legal entry to Palestine was subject to restrictions set in place by the British Mandate authorities, so no regular liner would take on board Jews without proper entry certificates. In 1945 a quota of only 18,000 Jewish immigrants per annum was available and at this stage no entry certificates were granted to DPs. By late 1946 there were some 200,000 displaced Jews in the American and British Zones of Germany and Austria, who had refused repatriation to their former homes and were looking for a haven elsewhere. There were others in camps in Italy. The goal of the Mossad was to breach the British naval blockade along the shores of Palestine and land the immi? grants onto the beaches undetected, from where they would be integrated into existing Jewish settlements, quota or no quota. Although Italy was the Mossad's preferred route to the Mediterranean and the Adriatic, it was in France that the Mossad decided to set up its European operational headquarters. Here it did not work alone. It relied on 159</page><page sequence="2">Alan Swarc the assistance of four distinct groupings: former Jewish resistance members (PArmee Juive, AJ), official Palestinian emissaries, leading French Zionists and, by far the most significant, Socialist ministers and their officials in the various French coalition governments after the war. The contribution made by this last group to Aliyah Bet forms the main focus of this article, and illus? trates how wide-ranging was the support given to the Zionist cause in France.11 start with the contribution by the former members of the AJ. L' Armee Juive This specifically Jewish resistance movement had been set up at the begin? ning of 1942 in the Free Zone of France. Ties with the Jewish Agency already existed, as Avraham Polonski, one of the AJ leaders, had signed an agree? ment with Eliahu Dobkin in Barcelona in July 1944, under which the move? ment accepted the authority of the Agency. The first accredited representative of the Jewish Agency in France was David Shaltiel, who arrived on 27 November 1944.2 His official task as Director of the Palestinian Office of the Jewish Agency was to organize legal Jewish immigration to Palestine. Within a month or so, Shaltiel had a first contact with the former leaders of the AJ. Despite ShaltiePs warm words, in which he expressed his respect for their work during the war, this initial contact was not immedi? ately fruitful. It is suggested that the leaders of the AJ were hesitant to commit themselves, particularly because of the political strains existing at the time between the President of the Jewish Agency, Chaim Weizmann, whom they greatly respected, and David Ben-Gurion, its Chairman.3 In February 1945 Shaltiel was joined in Paris by Ruth Kluger, who was to act as his co-director of the Agency. Within Mossad circles she already had a formidable reputation for her work in extracting Jews from Eastern Europe before and during the war. The pioneering work by these two Jewish Agency representatives in Paris represented the first phase of direct Palestinian activ? ity in France. With the arrival of Ben-Gurion in May 1945 in Paris, to which he was no stranger, a new and more intensive phase was set in motion. In this capital city Ben-Gurion had one close confidant, the ardent Zionist Marc Jarblum, the head of the Federation des Societes Juives de France (FSJF). Once he had arrived, Ben-Gurion set about re-establishing contact with his old 'Parisian Friend' and meeting other French Zionist leaders in order to 1 This article forms the background to the paper presented to the Society on 19 March 2009. 2 The National Archives (TNA), FO 371/42885, Note from Air Ministry to Transport Command, 24 Nov. 1944. 3 A. Grynberg, 'France 1944-1947, ouvrir les portes de Sion: de la resistance contre le nazisme ? la solidarite avec Israel' Les Nouveaux Cahiers XVI (Autumn 1990) 509-30. i6o</page><page sequence="3">The early French connection to Israel explore the possibilities of setting up a range of Haganah activities on French soil.4 In his meetings with Kluger and Shaltiel, Ben-Gurion insisted that henceforth they work closely with Jarblum, whose contacts in the French administration, particularly with the Socialist ministers, were second to none. While they would keep Jarblum informed on immigration matters, he in turn would disclose to them all his political activities.5 It was Kluger who, anxious to deflect the scepticism about Ben-Gurion demonstrated by the AJ leaders, arranged an hour's meeting between Ben Gurion and Polonski on 18 May 1945.6 After this meeting Ben-Gurion noted in his diary that of the original two thousand operatives in the AJ, eight hundred had remained in contact and could be very useful. With the British Labour Party's accession to power in July 1945, Ben Gurion and the members of the Jewish Agency executive felt that at last their hopes would be realized. This illusion was shattered later in September, when Clement Attlee indicated that the White Paper restricting Jewish immigration would continue to be maintained until his government had finally determined its policy for Palestine. Returning to Paris on 29 September 1945, Ben-Gurion, determined to cir? cumvent the restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine, ordered his col? leagues in Palestine to despatch to Paris both Meirov, the head of the Mossad, and his second in command, Ehud Avriel, to organize Aliyah Bet operations.7 Next, Ben-Gurion sought out Polonski to determine the sort of assistance he could render the Haganah in France. By then the AJ had over? come its earlier misgivings about Ben-Gurion and was eager to be of service. As a first gesture Ben-Gurion was invited to inaugurate the first transmission of the AJ's secret radio station in Paris, dedicated to the future needs of the Mossad.8 Polonski also informed Ben-Gurion that he was now fully prepared to put at his disposal the skills in forgery, transport and weapons which his Resistance organization had acquired fighting the Germans. Given that, at this stage, no effective Haganah infrastructure existed in France, Ben Gurion saw the AJ as providing the means to kick-start operations. Later in October 1945, writing his report in London, Ben-Gurion expressed his hopes for a fruitful collaboration between the Palestinian 4 I. Zertal, From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors and the Emergence of Israel (Berkeley, California 1998) 77. 5 T. Hershco, Entre Paris et Jerusalem: la France, le sionisme et la creation de Vetat a"Israel, 1945-1949 (Paris 2003) 59 6 Grynberg (see n. 3) 16. 7 I. Zertal, 'Le Cinquieme cote du triangle: la France, les juifs et la question de la Palestine, 1945-1948', in I. Malkin and J. Brill (eds) La France et la mediterrannee: vingt-sept siecles d'interdependances (Leiden, Netherlands 1990) 414 8 Grynberg (see n. 3) 17. i6i</page><page sequence="4">Alan Swarc emissaries and the AJ.9 As a follow-up, on n November 1945 Ben-Gurion chaired a conference in Paris of ex-AJ men, members of the Jewish Brigade and of the Haganah. Jarblum and Kluger were also present, as well as three hundred delegates. Subsequently, in April 1946, Polonski was appointed the Haganah Commander for France and North Africa. Later that year Ben-Gurion had an enforced stay in the French capital. This arose out of fear of arrest if he attempted to return to Palestine after the events of 29 June 1946, when British forces in Palestine launched a concerted action against the Jewish Agency and all paramilitary forces. On that 'Black Saturday' Ben-Gurion was at his usual hotel, the Royal Monceau in Paris, preparing to return to Palestine. His response to events at home was to demand an increase in the illegal immigration traffic. He called for the arrival, off the shores of Palestine, of at least one ship a week.10 From this date until the end of 1946, those members of the Executive of the Jewish Agency who had escaped arrest held their meetings in Paris. Polonski was an essential figure in assisting the various branches of the Haganah to set themselves up in France. His many contacts with former Resistance members, then in official positions even within the DST (the French counter-espionage agency), greatly assisted this process. Also, prob? lems which had arisen because Meirov (who had finally arrived in May 1946) and the Palestinian emissaries did not know the language, culture and customs of France were easily resolved by Polonski's participation and his perfect knowledge of Hebrew.11 (Meirov changed his name to Avigur, 'Father of Gur, after the death of his son in the War of Independence in 1948.) Meirov's first postwar visit to Europe was to Italy where he inspected some of the DP and training camps. His subsequent move to Paris and the Hotel Metropole, to establish the European headquarters of the Mossad, was but a return journey as he had lived there before the war.12 Initially, Ehud Avriel assisted Meirov, and then in June he was joined by Venia Pomerantz, another experienced member of the Haganah from the Labour Kibbutz movement. On Avriel's return to Palestine in the spring of 1947, Pomerantz succeeded him.13 In later life he adopted the Hebrew name of Ze'ev Hadari and it is under this name that he wrote a series of books about the Mossad's 9 R. Posnanski, 'L'heritage de la guerre, le sionisme et la France dans les annees 1944-1947', in B. Pinkus and D. Bensimon (eds) Actes du collogue international: lesjuifs de France, le sionisme et V etat dy Israel (Paris 1987) 258. 10 E. Avriel, Open the Gates: A Personal Story of'Illegal1 Immigration to Israel (London 1975) 288-92. 11 Y. Ben David, HaHaganah Ba Europa: The Haganah in Europe (Tel-Aviv 1995) 264. 12 A. Boaz, Olam Vnochet Becol: Hayech Shaul Avigur (Unseen yet always present: the life story of Shaul Avigur) (Tel-Aviv 2001)194. 13 Ibid. 204. 162</page><page sequence="5">The early French connection to Israel activities, concentrating on France.14 A pomerantz in Yiddish can be trans? lated as an orange, whereas hadari in Hebrew refers to a grove such as an orange grove. Meirov instilled in the emissaries who reported to him the necessity to observe a modest lifestyle and absolute probity when dealing with the sub? stantial sums placed in their care for operational activities. This included the purchase of ships, equipment and 'greasing payments' (bribes) for shipping agents, customs officials and military and police officers in various parts of Europe. They also received strict instructions to avoid being conspicuous, not to compromise civil servants or complicate the political and diplomatic moves of the French government.15 From his headquarters in Paris, Meirov also supervised the Mossad leadership in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany and Italy. Although Hadari insists that the Mossad in France kept few written records, the existence of the Paris log of radio transmissions with ships at sea, with Palestine and other Mossad centres in Europe comprises at least one documentary record of the Mossad's daily activities.16 It consists of partially coded messages dealing with ships, ship refurbishment and equipment, numbers of immigrants, fuel supplies and financial matters. Some of the more extensive radio traffic between Paris and Marseilles concerned the last minute difficulties over the departure of the President Warfield (later renamed the Exodus) in July 1947.17 Leading French Zionists, as privileged intermediaries, were set the task of assisting the Jewish Agency in its attempts to influence government policy in its favour. Their effectiveness was largely due to their tactful exploitation of the bonds established with Socialist members of the Resistance who, after the liberation of France, became highly placed government ministers and officials. It is arguable that, without such ministerial cover, the Mossad's activities would not have been regarded as benignly as they were by the French security services. French Zionists Among a number of intermediaries there are three whose contribution was outstanding. They were Andre Blumel, Marc Jarblum and a priest, FAbbe Alexandre Glasberg. A resume of their respective backgrounds and interests helps to explain their motivation. 14 Interview with Philippe Boukara, Paris 6 Oct. 2004. 15 J. Derogy, La Loi du retour: la secrete et verkable histoire de VExodus (Paris 1969 ) 91; Z. Hadari, Hamossad VAliyah Bet: Yoman Mevaziim-Paris 1947 (Beer Sheva 1991) 16. 16 The operations log book was given by Polonski to Zertal before his death in 1990. 17 Hadari (seen. 15) 108-14. 163</page><page sequence="6">Alan Swarc Andre Blumel (i 893-1973), a journalist and lawyer, was an ardent Socialist militant in the prewar era. When Leon Blum came to power at the head of the Front Populaire in 1936, Blumel became the Director General of his office. In the first provisional government set up by General de Gaulle in September 1944, Blumel was appointed Director General of the Office of the Minister of the Interior, but a year later he left government service to take up his profes? sion at the Paris Bar. It was in his capacity as 'Maitre Blumel' that he was often asked to represent members of the Haganah and other Palestinian paramil tary organizations when they were caught by the French police in illegal oper? ations, frequently connected with the hoarding of weapons for shipment to Palestine or operating clandestine radio transmitters.18 It is clear that, as a result of his close and ongoing relationships with Socialist ministers, Blumel was always in the best position to use his influence whenever the Mossad or other Palestinian groups upset the French bureaucracy. Marc Jarblum (1887-1972) - totally unlike Blumel - was a Yiddish-speak? ing Jew from Warsaw who spoke French with a heavy accent. Nevertheless, he became one of the foremost Zionist personalities on the French scene, a member of the executive of the World Zionist Organization and in 1937 pres? ident of the FSJF. In 1907 he moved to Paris and took up journalism and the law. When Bloom took over as leader of the Section Francaise de 1' Internationale Ouvriere Socialist Party (SFIO) in 1920, Jarblum entered his circle. His relationship with Blum became long-standing and enabled him to arrange discreet meetings between him and Zionist personalities such as Weizmann, both of whom developed a high regard for each other and met on many occasions, often at Jarblum's flat.19 In 1940, with the arrival of German troops in the capital, Jarblum moved south into the Free Zone. He became the representative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (The Joint) and conveyed its funds to various Jewish relief organizations and also to members of the SFIO. At the end of 1942, after the occupation of the Free Zone, he was asked by the Jewish Resistance Movement to cross the frontier into Switzerland for his own safety.20 Soon after his return to Paris after the war, Jarblum was requested by both Weizmann and Ben-Gurion to be the Agency's representative to the French authorities.21 Subsequently, he coupled his membership of the Paris Political 18 Central Zionist Archives (CZA), Blumel Papers, A426/49, translation of an article in Maariv (Israel) by Dr David Lazare, 14 July 1961. 19 Interview with Boukara, 6 Oct. 2004. 20 Yad Tabenkin Archives (Ramat Efal, Israel), Avraham Polonski Files, report on POrganisation Juive de Combat (Armee Juive). 21 CZA, A303/20/21 Letter from Weizmann, London, to Jarblum, 16 Oct. 1944, and telegramme from Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem, to Jarblum, 20 Oct. 1944. 164</page><page sequence="7">The early French connection to Israel Committee of the Jewish Agency with the presidency of the Federation des Sionistes de France with its twenty thousand members.22 In July 1947 Jarblum's close friendship with Edouard Depreux, the Minister of the Interior, enabled him to intervene effectively at the time of the Exodus affair (on which more later). The third man was PAbbe Alexandre Glasberg (1902-81). As a Catholic priest, he was possibly the most unlikely recruit to the Zionist cause. A Ukrainian Jew converted to Catholicism, Glasberg came to France at the age of thirty to study at a Catholic seminary.23 His adherence to Zionism was brought about by Jarblum, who introduced him to Avriel, as an individual who was particularly concerned for the welfare of refugees and was noted for his war-time work in the Resistance. Glasberg's initial contact with foreign Jews arose out of his work with Jewish welfare organizations in Vichy's internment camps in southern France. Thereafter his efforts during his time in the Resistance were directed towards the rescue of Jewish children. The Germans, failing to apprehend him, condemned him to death in his absence. Among other code-names he was referred to, in the Mossad's secret radio transmissions, as HaKomer ('the priest'). He used his influence with Marcel Pages, the head of the Direction de la Reglementation et des Etrangers (Aliens Office), to convince him to facilitate the Mossad's work in illegal immigration. Pages's reverence for biblical stories concerning the destiny of the Jews is suggested as having been the key to Glasberg acquiring the support of this particularly well-placed French civil servant.24 Aside from matters concerned with illegal immigration, with which it denied any official connection, the JA in Paris also pursued a more strictly political agenda. In this respect, in addition to calling on the good services of Blum, Jarblum and Blumel, it could involve other heads of the community acting as a Zionist lobby whenever French government policy was vacillating on issues of direct concern to the Agency. In Jewish circles, according to Philippe Boukara, these three gentlemen were known collectively in Yiddish as di drei blumen ('the three flowers'). This brings me to the fourth and most important group which supported the activities of the Mossad, namely certain Socialist ministers and their officials. 22 TNA CO 537/1705 CID report 28 May 1946. 23 Z. Hadari, The Second Exodus: The Full Story of Jewish Illegal Immigration to Palestine, 1945 1948 (Beer Sheva, Israel 1991) 147. 24 Ibid. 149. i6s</page><page sequence="8">Alan Swarc Socialist ministers According to Hadari, it was the newly appointed Minister of the Interior, Edouard Depreux, who in June 1946 laid down the rules for covert contacts with the Mossad. The main conduit was to be the head of the DST, Roger Wybot, and his deputy, Stanislas Mangin.25 Hadari contends that the rela? tionship with the French administration was based solely on mutual respect and not on any written agreement. He claims that without the aid afforded by large numbers of French officials it would have been impossible to bring thousands of DPs to France and set up transit camps for them prior to their departure from ports near Marseilles.26 These officials, controlling as they did the internal movements of foreigners in France and the ports of embarka? tion, were in a prime position firstly to assist the passage of immigrants across France and secondly to keep British Intelligence agents from interfering with this traffic. Beside government ministers such as Depreux, Jules Moch and Daniel Mayer, their mentor Leon Blum, the head of the SFIO, also pro? claimed sympathy for the Zionist cause. Part of the explanation for this friendly attitude was provided by Daniel Mayer, then the General Secretary of the SFIO, during a meeting of Poalei Zion, one of the left-wing Zionist parties in France. From the outset, Mayer was keen to establish that he came to them solely as a Frenchman and in the name of the French Socialist party addressing a fraternal party. He asserted that 'Socialists do not recognize the concept of race'.27 He then related that, during the war, funds provided by The Joint were used by Jarblum for the relief of French Socialists and their families forced to live a clandestine exis? tence.28 This philanthropic act was confirmed by Depreux in his memoirs: 'It was in Lyon that I had numerous contacts with Mr Jarblum, who coura? geously and with great tact brought relief, with the funds at his disposal, to the most needy of the victims of Hitlerite and Vichy racism, particularly fam? ilies of those imprisoned or deported'.29 The other Socialist minister of note was Jules Moch. His tongue-in-cheek revelations in his memoirs are instructive as to his own involvement and commitment. One of his statements sets out clearly the source of his moti? vation: 'In 1946-1947, the Jews were my principal worry, not because of reli? gious solidarity -1 am an agnostic - nor even because of national identity - I am French, descendant of a long line of officers - but because, massacred in 25 Hadari (see n. 23) 144. 26 Ibid. 145. 27 Yad Tabenkin Archives, Polonski files, Minutes of Poalei Zion meeting, 1 March 1945. 28 Ibid. 29 E. Depreux, Souvenirs d'un militant: de la social-democratie au socialisme. Un demi-siecle de luttes (Paris 1972) 173. 166</page><page sequence="9">The early French connection to Israel their millions by Hitler, persecuted in Russia, in Austria or in the Balkans, the Jews were the most unhappy of men'.30 It has been argued that the very nature of the postwar coalition govern? ments, with their internal dissentions and suspicions, enabled individual ministers, often in the interests of their own parties, to develop their own partisan policies without recourse to cabinet consent or supervision.31 Each party 'colonized' the ministries for which it was responsible by placing civil servants with the same political outlook in the most important functions.32 Often these civil servants, highly motivated bureaucrats and technocrats, developed policies of their own to which their ministers gave their unofficial blessing, rather than seeking cabinet approval. This, to some extent, explains the overall political context in which a few determined Socialist ministers, acting in concert with trusted officials, could provide the Mossad with a secure environment in which it could operate effectively on French soil. As previously indicated, one official in the Ministry of the Interior was instrumental, more than any other, in aiding and abetting illegal immigra? tion: Marcel Pages. In December 1944, as part of a ploy to avoid purging former Vichy civil servants, Pages left the wartime Ministry of Labour and was temporarily attached, at his own request, to the Ministry of the Interior. Later this became a permanent appointment. He had clearly benefited from a declaration made by the investigating Comite de la Liberation, set up in the Ministry of Labour, that 'he had been totally opposed to the Vichy regime and was a renowned supporter of General de Gaulle since June 1940'. He was also credited with having helped various Resistance organizations.33 In 1946 the system evolved by Pages with the Mossad was one which, at all times, would satisfy the French taste for bureaucratic efficiency. Consequently, he insisted on the submission of documents which complied with existing French regulations and which would pass scrutiny. In this way he could ensure that his Minister, Depreux, could not be held accountable if a boat, after leaving French territorial waters, set sail for a destination other than that indicated on the immigrants' visas. Pages indicated to the Mossad that where a contingent of Jews was due to cross into France from the French zone of Germany, he would only require a 'collective visa'. This had to be delivered by the consulate of the country of final destination.34 On the strength of this document, Pages's Aliens Office would then issue a collective transit visa, which would enable the immigrants 30 J. Moch, Une si longue vie (Paris 1976) 252. 31 G. Elgey, Histoire de la IVe Republique iere partie: la republique des illusions, 1945-1951 (Paris 1993)162. 32 J.-J. Becker, Histoirepolitique de la France depuis 1945 (Paris 2003) 35. 33 Paris, Archives Nationales, M. Pages, Dossier de Carriere, 19770340, Art. 10. 34 Avriel(seen. 10)266. 167</page><page sequence="10">Alan Swarc to pass through France. The whole administrative process was therefore totally dependent on the Mossad contriving to obtain a consul's official stamp of approval on a list of potential immigrants. Once this was achieved, by one means or another, the rest of the process presented few obstacles. Collective visas from countries as varied as Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, Ethiopia and Cuba were the most easily obtained by the Mossad. Given that, at least on the surface, French regulations were respected, the actual embarkation process could be carried out by the Mossad in daylight hours without any further subterfuge or fear of preventative measures. However, the reality that these boats were being systematically intercepted near the Palestinian coast eventually led to official protests by the British Embassy and confrontations between the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Georges Bidault, and the pro-Zionist ministers, Depreux and Moch. In the case of the 4500 passengers for the President Warfield in July 1947, the frontier crossing presented certain difficulties because of the sheer numbers involved. Pages arranged that for each convoy arriving at the French frontier, the police would telephone the Ministry of the Interior for instructions. Glasberg, who had been specially allocated an office in the Ministry, was automatically passed these calls by the switchboard, on Pages's instructions, so that he could give the necessary instructions and clear the convoy for transit through France.35 That Pages was regularly informed that Jews were leaving France with suspect visas is clear from his exchange of correspondence with the Prefet of the Bouches-du-Rh?ne who was responsible for the Marseilles area. Pages's response to the Prefet's revelation is remarkable for its air of feigned igno? rance. 'In your letter no. 916 of 23 November you indicated to me that Jews are arriving in France with regular transit visas which, according to you, had been delivered in the majority of cases on the basis of fraudulent visas for countries, which claim not to have been consulted. I would be obliged if you would indicate to me the nature of this information and the basis on which you found your conclusions.'36 On the face of it, Pages always managed to keep his own officials from enquiring too deeply into such questions which, if pursued, would have severely embarrassed his ministry and ultimately the operations of the Mossad. However, apart from employing delaying tactics in response to police reports of dubious visas, there was no clear evidence of his involve? ment in illegal immigration. Nevertheless, there is some circumstantial yet compelling evidence, provided by a number of memoranda prepared by agencies within the ministry itself. If nothing else, they are indicative of a 35 L. Lazare, UAbbe Glasberg (Paris 1990) 92. 36 Archives Departementales des BDR, 148W185 Memo from Direction de la Reglementation et des Etrangers to M. le Prefet des BDR, 23 Nov. 1946. 168</page><page sequence="11">The early French connection to Israel sympathetic approach to the question of the transit of Jewish immigrants through France, en route, as they clearly inferred, to Palestine. First, there is a Renseignements Generaux (RG, Political Police) report issued in early 1947 which directly concerned itself with illegal immigration. In this report the French cast themselves purely in the role of passive onlook? ers. It noted, without any pretence at ignorance or ambiguity, that from the Mediterranean coasts to the Black Sea, boats of varying tonnage and type set sail for Palestine each week. On the one hand, Polish, German, Austrian and Czech Jews transited through French and Italian ports, while on the other, Jews from Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania transited through Greek and Romanian ports. In addition, RG reflected on the silent war being waged between the 'Jewish organizations' and the British army and intelli? gence services. It noted that while the espionage and counter-espionage serv? ices of the British Admiralty kept watch on boats suspected of covertly embarking Jews for Palestine, the Intelligence Service pursued clandestine networks.37 The contents of this short report to the Ministry of the Interior is particularly significant because it coincides with a period in which the min? istry found itself under severe attack from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MAE). This arose through its alleged failure to verify on the visas the ulti? mate destination of Jewish immigrants leaving from French ports. Later reports date from after the creation of the State of Israel and are more explicit. For instance, a memorandum issued in 1950 reveals the real nature of the relationships with the Zionists in the 1945-8 period. The writer states As you know, the Direction de la Reglementation took over in 1946 the impor? tant problem of the Jewish DPs and refugees who wished to transit through France to sail to a country where they would be welcomed . . . Many Jewish associations in France dealt with this problem, among them the Jewish Agency for Palestine. As the State of Israel did not exist at the time, given the political ramifications of this affair, discreet as opposed to official contacts were main? tained between the interior ministry and the interested parties. A substantial number of Jews from around the world were thus able to get to Palestine and contribute to the State of Israel. The services rendered in kind by our country, albeit little known in France, were considerable . . .38 Given the context of the times, there can be little doubt that 'political rami? fications' referred to British pressure on the French government, that 'inter? ested parties' would have included the Mossad and that 'services rendered' 37 RG report, Paris, 25 Jan. 1947. 38 Archives Nationales, F7/15589 Transit Israelites en provenance d'Allemagne et d'Europe Centrale, to Directeur de la Reglementation et Etrangers from sous-direction des Etrangers et des Passeports, 20 Oct. 1950. My emphases. i6q</page><page sequence="12">Alan Swarc could only refer to illegal immigration. To that extent the memorandum con? tains an implicit indication of the Ministry of the Interior's complicity in Aliyah Bet. In a separate report, also written in 1950, the RG clearly recognized the clandestine nature of the embarkations: 'France, traditional land of asylum, found itself on one of the principal routes towards Palestine. That is why the Zionist leaders approached the government to ask for a right of passage, which it knew, given the humanitarian policy always followed by our government, would not be refused.' It is also worth pointing out that the geographical loca? tion of the port of Marseilles lent itself to departures to Palestine, particularly at the beginning of the emigration, when there were a number of clandestine embarkations. Also, the social climate which existed in France permitted the Jewish leadership to engage in an important organizational effort, both for departures and setting up the necessary transit points.39 Some years later, in 1958, a report again prepared by RG stated categori? cally that France had been favourably disposed to and had aided the immi? gration process as early as 1946, when it was still in its illegal phase.40 These revelations put a different light on assurances given by the Ministry of the Interior to the MAE at the time that the immigrants' visas and other docu? ments were always in order. Apart from the aid provided by the highest levels at the Ministry of the Interior, it is more than probable that many civil ser? vants and minor officials, together with policemen, port employees, dockers and shipping agents, facilitated the process. As to the preparation of the boats, which had to be fitted with hundreds of