Cypriot Memories Forgotten: The British Detention Camps in Cyprus, 1946-49
May 2008 Israel is celebrating the 60th
anniversary of its birth. (May 14, 1948). As the 60th anniversary of the State
of Israel approaches, a shared chapter in the struggle for independence and statehood is being explored in a documentary project
entitled “Cypriot Memories Forgotten: The Jewish Detention
Camps in Cyprus: 1946-49.” This
documentary film is being produced by Gary Gumpert, Professor Emeritus, Queens College & Susan Drucker, Professor of Communication, Hofstra
53,000 Jewish Holocaust
survivors on their way to Palestine were incarcerated in British detention camps on Cyprus from 1946-49. These events have been well documented
in Israeli history but relatively untold in the history of Cyprus.
The camps played a role in both the independence movement of Cyprus and
the creation of the state of Israel.
The detention policy was
part of an effort to deter Jewish immigration to Palestine
under the British mandate. The Jews imprisoned in the camps lived under severe conditions behind barbed wire. While the British
administered the camps, humanitarian aid from the Jewish community in the United
States was essential. Of particular note was the Joint Distribution Committee which helped
administer the camps.
Emissaries from Palestine lived with the refugees in the camps as representatives of various Zionist movements including
the underground strike force of the Haganah, the military organization which trained the detainees in the camps to prepare
them for military service when they ultimately arrived in Palestine.
Internees and freedom fighters received clandestine training in those camps.
On February 10, 1949 the
last Jews finally were freed from the confines of the camps—267 days after the establishing of the state of Israel and the evacuation of the British on May 14, 1948.
As celebrations are planned throughout
the world, the 60th anniversary of the closing of the last detention camp on Cyprus is also approaching.