Israeli history photo of the week: Young recruits

JPost special feature: A Library of Congress collection of photographs documenting pre-state Israel.

Recruits  (photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)
(photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)
The Library of Congress has recently digitalized a collection of over 10,000 photographs, taken by the "American Colony" in Jerusalem, a group of Christian utopians who lived in Jerusalem between 1881 and the 1940s. The photographers returned to the US, and bequeathed their massive collection to the Library of Congress in 1978. The collection includes Winston Churchill's visit to Jerusalem, Jewish expulsions from the Old City during Arab riots, and the building of Tel Aviv.

The British "White Paper" approved by the House of Commons on May 23, 1939, severely restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine precisely when the Jews of Europe were under threat of annihilation by the Nazis. The British were reacting to three years of the Arab Revolt which demanded an end to Jewish immigration. One year ago we featured an essay and photographs taken by the American Colony Photographic Department of the thousands of Jews who poured out into the Jerusalem streets to protest the British policy. Similar demonstrations took place in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Along the route of the demonstrations, "census stations" were set up to recruit young Jewish men and women, and the Library of Congress collection contains pictures of the recruitment campaign. According to one newspaper account at the time, "All men and women between the ages of 18 and 35 have been asked to voluntarily register and place themselves at the disposal of the Jewish authorities for any duties in order to defeat the new policy." Presumably, they would later serve in the Jewish militias such as the Haganah or Irgun, and many would join the British army to fight the Nazis in Europe and North Africa. An estimated 30,000 Jews of Palestine fought in the British Army in World War II.Coincidentally, as the White Paper was issued, 937 Jewish passengers were sailing on the SS St. Louis from the German port of Hamburg seeking refuge in Cuba and the United States.Their entry was denied. The ship and its passengers were forced to return to Europe because the gates to Palestine were also shut.One newspaper provided an account of Lithuanian Jews in Kaunas delivering a protest against the White Paper to the British legation and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry. Tragically, the Lithuanian Jewish community was wiped out by the Nazis. More photos can be viewed at