Ben-Gurion, David

(1886-1973), the first prime minister of Israel. As head of the Jewish Agency in October and November 1945, Ben-Gurion made a tour of the DP camps in Europe. He encouraged the survivors to join in establishing a Jewish homeland in Israel and calling world attention to their plight.

Ben-Gurion's attitude toward European Jewry during the Holocaust has been the subject of controversy. As one of the leaders of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) Ben-Gurion's actions appear to have been based on the conviction that the Yishuv would not be able to rescue many Jews from the Nazis. In conflict with many members of his own political party, he opposed broad-based rescue programs and public demonstrations. He supported small scale and what he regarded as more realistic rescue plans.

In May 1939, Jewish immigration to then British Palestine had been severely restricted by a White Paper issued by the British Government. The White Paper prohibited refugees from Hitler from seeking refuge in Palestine during the war. When Ben-Gurion spoke to the DP camps in 1945 the White Paper still prohibited the survivors from starting new lives in Palestine. The state of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948.

Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.

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