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© Bricha Heritage Association


An overnight shelter on the escape route

There were no mountains high enough or rivers deep enough to stop them on their journey to Eretz Israel. The Alps Crossing was one of the hardest parts of the way, not least because it included trails through snowy passages in the Alps. Italy allowed Jews to be smuggled across the border from Austria and permitted them to stay until they boarded the illegal ships. The survivors were often given moral and practical help by the Italian people. Assistance at the Alps crossing included things such as providing information about the movements of the British Army or sometimes hiding the refugees from English Police.

passage that was once, in the 16th century, a path for cattle thieves to secretly transport cattle from one country to the other. On this Alpine Pass at night, in the snow, the survivors walked towards the Promised Land. If caught by the British soldiers, they would be returned to the camp in Austria. But they would not give up and repeatedly set off on the difficult path until they made it to Italy. Resourcefulness, creativity, cunning, determination, helping each other and despair were their weapons. The assessment is that about 50,000 survivors crossed the borders from Austria to Italy. Most of them immigrated to Israel.

Any Jewish refugee who traveled the routes of Europe was perceived by the British as a potentially illegal immigrant to Israel and therefore must be fought against and prevented from reaching the shores of the Mediterranean. The Brenner Pass, the main Bricha road between Austria and Italy was closed by the British for Jewish immigrants when they realized that this was an important passage for Bricha-lead survivors. It was then necessary to find another way from Austria to Italy.

Home In Italy the survivors waited in Bricha camps for their turn to get on a ship and sail to Israel. They knew that the journey would be long, they knew the British Army frigates would probably stop them at sea. They knew they would be taken to prisoner camps again, on the island of Cyprus, behind barbed wire again. And still they went. They knew that when they would finally make it to Israel, they would have to fight for their oldnew country. Young men were recruited to the army a week after arrival to Israel, and went to war for a country before having seen it. About half of the fighting force of the new Israeli Army were Holocaust survivors. They were also part of the force creating and building the new State. Finally, they were home.

Disguised as friends going on day trips, Abba Geffen, the Salzburg Bricha commander, Marko Feingold and friends set out to look for creative ways to smuggle refugees on to Italy. At the foot of the Alps near Krimml, they found an Alpine



Miri Nehari is a clinicaleducational-health psycho­ logist and the head of the Bricha Association.

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