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New Novel Tells Little-Known Palmach History

Rescuing refugees from a Mandate-era detention camp

Sara Ivry
October 02, 2009

Author Anita Diamant talked to about her new novel, Day After Night, which tells the story of four women freed in 1945 from a detention camp in the town of Atlit, near Haifa, during British Mandate Palestine by members of the Palmach, the pre-state Jewish fighting force. While Diamant’s characters are fictional (they are a “Polish partisan fighter, a Parisian woman who was forced into prostitution, a Dutch Jew who was in hiding, and a concentration camp survivor,” according to CNN’s reporter), the camp, which held the illegal refugees, is not. The British had converted a military base to a detention camp because the number of refugees fleeing from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East to Palestine far exceeded the newcomer quota that the British had instated.

Diamant says the Palmach’s role in Atlit is unfamiliar to many history buffs, as it’s overshadowed by other circumstances. “After this they started bombing train tracks and doing more overt military resistance to the British occupation, as it was known then. Part of the reason we don’t know about it is that I think the Holocaust is still such a huge shadow, and it’s still something we focus on. This is a relatively tender interlude. It’s not the founding of the state, and it’s not the Holocaust.”

Day After Night was published last month.

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.

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