The People on the Beach
Journeys to Freedom After the Holocaust
A vivid history tracing Holocaust survivors who risked everything again for a new life in Palestine.
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.
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 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
‘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