The People on the Beach

Journeys to Freedom After the Holocaust

Rosie Whitehouse

Vividly traces the paths of Holocaust survivors who risked everything again to make a new life in Palestine.

Bibliographic Details
The People on the Beach Hardback
September 2020£20
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One summer’s night in 1946, over 1,000 Holocaust survivors secretly travelled to an Italian beach. They waited silently in the moonlight for a ship disguised as a banana boat to collect them. They had survived Auschwitz, hidden in forests and endured death marches—and now they were taking on the Royal Navy, trying to run the British blockade of Palestine.

Through the extraordinary stories of passengers on board the Josiah Wedgwood, Rosie Whitehouse explores the mass exodus of European Jews after the Second World War. The People on the Beach is a journey through history to places where Jews had lived for generations, the camps where they suffered, and the forests where they took up arms. Whitehouse follows the survivors’ routes out of Europe, leading her to those still alive in Israel—some of whom tell their stories for the first time.

Who were those people on the beach? Where and what had they come from? How had they survived? And why, after being liberated, did so many Jews still not feel free in the lands of their birth? This remarkable and important book digs deep and travels far in search of answers, to questions more important today than ever.


Rosie Whitehouse is a journalist specialising in Jewish life after the Holocaust. She writes for BBC Online, the Observer, The Independent, Tablet magazine, The Jewish Chronicle, Haaretz and others. A graduate of the London School of Economics, she is an historical advisor at the Vienna-based Centropa, a Jewish history institute.


‘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