The People on the Beach

Journeys to Freedom After the Holocaust

September 2020 9781787383777 416pp
December 2024 9781805261629 416pp
EU Customers


One summer’s night in 1946, over 1,000 European Jews waited silently on an Italian beach to board a secret ship. They had survived Auschwitz, hidden and fought in forests and endured death marches—now they were taking on the Royal Navy, running the British blockade of Palestine.

From Eastern Europe to Israel via Germany and Italy, Rosie Whitehouse follows in the footsteps of those secret passengers, uncovering their extraordinary stories—some told for the first time. Who were those people on the beach? Where and what had they come from, and how had they survived? Why, after being liberated, did so many Jews still feel unsafe in Europe? How do we—and don’t we—remember the Holocaust today? This remarkable, important book digs deep and travels far in search of answers.


‘A remarkable story.’ — The Times

‘An important and profound book on the nature of historical memory, and a fascinating exploration of Britain and the Jews. … A gripping story of human drama and historical seriousness.’ — The Spectator

‘Whitehouse’s book radiates human understanding, warmth and above all restraint. She understood what many fail to grasp: The story of the Holocaust survivors needs no embellishment.’ — Haaretz

‘Whitehouse is a powerful storyteller. She tells some desperately moving stories… Through the story of one ship’s journey, Whitehouse has written a book about endurance and survival.’ — Association of Jewish Refugees Journal

‘A fascinating, poignant, exciting and revelatory story, told dramatically yet subtly and meticulously, and filled with colourful and unlikely characters. Part travel writing, part investigative journalism, here is a swathe of world history told through the lives, tragedies, suffering and survival of a boatload of Jewish survivors.’ — Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem

‘This is a story that needed telling and Rosie Whitehouse tells it with warmth, energy and empathy—the story of those who survived the greatest darkness, and dreamed of a new life in the light.’ — Jonathan Freedland, Guardian columnist

‘I could not put this book down. Moving, haunting and utterly fascinating, it tells a story of unlikely heroes who should be far better known: survivors, and those who helped them on their illegal journey to Palestine/Israel. Terrific.’ — Rabbi Dame Julia Neuberger DBE

‘Despite knowledge of the Nazi genocide, Holocaust survivors faced a hostile world of immigration barriers. Uncovering the stories of those who found sanctuary “illegally”, Whitehouse has written a thrilling detective story with ringing resonance for our times.’ — Joanna Newman MBE, Association of Commonwealth Universities, historian of refugees from Nazism

‘Whitehouse’s book will provide much-needed context to the circumstances in which Israel came into being and the ideology of those determined to create a country of their own.’ — Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs


Rosie Whitehouse, a journalist, writes about Holocaust survivors for BBC Online, the ObserverTablet magazine, The Jewish Chronicle and Haaretz. She is the author of Two Sisters and The People on the Beach (both published by Hurst), and the Bradt guide to Europe’s Holocaust memorials, museums and sites.

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