Running the Palestine Blockade: The Last Voyage of the Paducah

Rudolph W. Patzert, Author
Rudolph W. Patzert, Author US Naval Institute Press $29.95 (223p) ISBN 978-1-55750-679-5
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In 1947 Patzert was the captain of the Paducah , one of the 60 ramshackle rescue ships enlisted by the Jewish underground to smuggle Holocaust survivors past the British blockade and into Palestine. The author was 35 years old, a New York City gentile. His orders--to sail his ship from Brooklyn to Bulgaria--supplied no clues to the purpose of his mission. The condition of the ship made the trip risky; its old steering system often broke down and the voyage was subject to harassment by British authorities and shakedowns from harbor officials, who charged Patzert with commanding an unseaworthy vessel. In Bulgaria he took on 1400 passengers and was thereafter shadowed by destroyers and reconnaissance planes. By the time the British took custody of the ship, off the Israeli coast, Patzert's identification with the Holocaust survivors who were his passengers was so strong that he adopted the name Mendel Levey and willingly joined them in a British internment camp. This unusually vivid memoir provides a fresh look at the massive migration of Jewish ``illegals'' to Palestine between the end of the war and the founding of the state of Israel; it is, as well, a suspenseful seafaring tale. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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