The First Stage (1934-1939): Hitler’s Rise to Power
The first stage of the illegal immigration started after Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and continued until the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939. Several different bodies took part in the illegal immigration operation: The Pioneer which became the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet and worked within the Haganah, the New ןWorld Zionist Organization of the Revisionist Movement and private bodies that worked as “contractors”. They organized the escape of Jews from Europe to the Land of Israel for large sums of money. During this period, more than 50,000 people reached the shores of the Land of Israel. Approximately 2/3 of them arrived under the auspices of the Revisionist Movement and private bodies, while 1/3 came through the Pioneer and the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet.
The Second Stage (1939-1945): The Holocaust
The illegal immigration did not stop during World War II, and despite all the difficulties 16,000 illegal immigrants managed to arrive in the Land of Israel. Some of the boats did not succeed in reaching the shores of the Land of Israel because they were in such bad shape and they were overloaded. They sank or were sunk. That was the fate of the Patria (Moledet), which sank in 1940 and the Struma, which sank in 1942.
The Third Stage (1945-1947): After the Holocaust
After the Holocaust, the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet decided to renew its activity and to help the refugees reach the Land of Israel. They worked to bring more than 85,000 people, Holocaust survivors, from tens of ports all over Europe, to the Land of Israel. Despite the fact that the enormity of the tragedy of the Holocaust became clear, the British still did not relax their restrictions on the entrance of Holocaust survivors to the land of Israel. Most of the boats carrying survivors were caught and the passengers were deported to Cyprus. The captured immigrants often used physical force to oppose their arrest. The British sent reinforcements and more weapons and sometimes the survivors were even fired at.
1947 was the year of the greatest number of illegal immigrants. About 25,000 people arrived in the Land of Israel. Between the years 1946 and 1948, about 70,000 refugees arrived from Europe. About 5000 people came overland from different countries in the Middle East, including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. They entered the country using forged entry visas.