The Deportation of Etzel and Lehi Fighters to Africa

On October 19th, 1944, something weird happened in Israel. Something that many of you probably never even heard of. We're talking about the deportation of Etzel and Lehi fighters to Africa.


The British feared that these prisoners, who were being held in Latrun, would run away, so a decision was made - they should be sent to camps in Africa. Over there, escaping was a minor concern, plus it would be an act that would spread fear through the Jewish underground fighters.

A total of 439 detainees were exiled by the end of the British Mandate. They were mostly from Etzel, the rest from Lehi, with a few more exiled on October 19th, 1944. The conditions in the camps weren't as bad as you would imagine, it was pretty similar to what they were used to in Latrun. Some problems they faced were shortages of some basic necessities like toothbrushes, linen, etc. After a short struggle and demands, the prisoners were given Kosher meals, brought over from the Jewish communities in Sudan.


The prisoners were moved to a different camp a few months later. This camp was much worse and was in the middle of the desert. Not only was there was a shortage of water; the heat was excruciating. In March 1947, they were transported to a third camp, this time in Kenya, where conditions did not improve.


On January 17th, 1946, Sudanese guards in the Sambal Prison killed two Israeli prisoners and injured another 12, who had broken down a gate in order to rush another Jewish prisoner, who had been shot, to the hospital. The British refused to transfer the bodies for burial in Israel, and so they were buried in the Jewish section of the Asmara cemetery. It was only later, after the establishment of the State, that the bodies were reinterred in Israel. It wasn't until July 9th, 1948 that the prisoners were brought back to Israel. They were shipped by boat, and after the three-day long cruise, they were sent straight into the battlefields of the War of Independence.

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