Atlit detainee camp

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Entrance to the museum at the Atlit detainee camp

The Atlit detainee camp was a detention camp established by the authorities of the British Mandate for Palestine at the end of the 1930s on the Israeli coastal plain (what is now Israel's northern coast), 20 kilometers (12 mi) south of Haifa. The camp was established to prevent Jewish refugees from entering Mandatory Palestine. Tens of thousands of Jewish refugees were interned at the camp, which was surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers.

The Atlit camp is now a museum of the history of Ha'apala. Atlit was declared a National Heritage Site in 1987.[1]


The Atlit camp, established by the British Mandatory government in the 1930s, was surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers.[2] Many of the detainees during the 1930s and 1940s were Jewish refugees from Nazi-controlled Europe. In the late 1940s, most were Holocaust survivors. The British authorities, acceding to Arab demands to limit Jewish immigration, refused to allow them to enter the country.

At Atlit camp, the men were sent to one side, women to the other. They were sprayed with DDT, then told to undress and enter the showers. In 1939–1948, tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants were interned here, men and women separated by barbed wire. Some internees stayed as long as 23 months.[3][citation needed]

The Darien II arrived with 800 refugees in March 1941. They were detained at the Atlit camp until September 1942, when the camp was shut down.

The Atlit camp was reopened in 1945 following World War II, as more and more immigrants arrived in Palestine. Most of them were Holocaust survivors from DP camps in Europe who made the journey through the Berihah and Ha'apala ("Aliya Beth") clandestine immigration network.

Some of the German Templers living in the six Templer colonies in Palestine, who openly supported the Nazis, were declared enemy nationals by the British authorities and were detained at Atlit prior to deportation.[4]

In November 1940, the British authorities decided to send 5000 immigrants to detention camps on Mauritius. One of these deporting ships was the Patria. To stop the deportation, the Haganah, the Jewish underground militia in Palestine, exploded a bomb in the ship's hold on November 25. The size of the explosive charge had been seriously miscalculated, and the ship sank quickly. On board were 1800 refugees; 216 drowned in the disaster. The survivors from the Patria were detained in Atlit and not deported to Mauritius. They were released after a few months.

On October 10, 1945, the Palmach (special forces unit of the Haganah) broke into the camp and released 200 detainees, who escaped. Yitzhak Rabin, then a young officer, planned the raid and Nachum Sarig commanded it. Following this event, the British deported immigrants to Cyprus internment camps. These camps operated from 1946 through the establishment of the State of Israel.

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Atlit detainee camp served as a prisoner of war (POW) camp and civil internment camp for local Arabs.[5] Egyptian POWs from the 1967 war and Lebanese citizens were also held there.[6]


  1. ^ "SPIHS – Israel Heritage Sites – Atlit "Illegal" Immigrant Detention Camp". Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  2. ^ Atlit "Illegal Immigration Camp"
  3. ^ The End of the Line, Hadassah Magazine
  4. ^ Adi Schwartz, "The nine lives of the Lorenz Cafe Archived 2008-06-06 at the Wayback Machine", Ha'aretz, 20 January 2008
  5. ^ Morris, Benny, (second edition 2004 third printing 2006) The Birth Of The Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-00967-7 p 467
  6. ^ Red Cross annual Review August 1967
    Red Cross annual Review December 1967
    Red Cross annual Review 1968
    Red Cross annual Review 1970
    International committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and David C. Wills (2003) The first war on terrorism: counter-terrorism policy during the Reagan administration Publisher Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-7425-3129-5 p 90.
    PRISON: Atlit Townsfolk Are Bitter – Atlit Prison—an Israel Fixture – Townsfolk Bitter About Plan to Free 31 Muslims By Dan Fisher Published LA Times 24 June, 1985

Coordinates: 32°42′45″N 34°56′57″E / 32.712543°N 34.949141°E / 32.712543; 34.949141