Cast & Crew
In Warsaw, Poland, immediately after World War II, only a few Jewish survivors of the Nazi holocaust remain, including Sara and Mika Wilner, who met in a forced labor camp. When Sara becomes pregnant, they decide that they would rather rear their child in Palestine, the British-controlled Jewish homeland. However, in 1945, the British, in an attempt to appease the Arab population in Palestine and protect their oil interests in the area, limited Jewish immigration to 1,500 persons per month and are now denying entry to any Jews. The Haganah, an underground Jewish self-defense organization, attempt to overcome the British blockade and aid Jews wishing to emigrate. In Warsaw, an officer of the Jewish Agency directs Sara and Mika to members of the Haganah who have been sent to Europe to set up an underground route to Palestine. Sara and Mika are sent to a kibbutz on the Polish/Czechoslovakian border, from which they are to enter Czechoslovakia. The Czechs allow refugee Polish Jews to cross their country in a sealed train to the Austrian border. However, as they leave Poland, Mika and a guide are arrested and imprisoned. Sara travels on alone and arrives in Vienna, via Bratislava, and is assigned a space in the attic of the Rothschild Jewish Hospital. Sara's group then moves on, but she decides to wait for Mika to join her. After several months, Mika is still imprisoned and Sara is advised to go on and is told that Mika will be sent to her when he is released. Another underground organization, the B'rehau, transports Sara and her group through Germany, where, in Munich, a former S.S. barracks serves as a displaced persons sorting center. Sara soon finds herself on her way to France. Officially, transit visas can be supplied only to Jews supposedly on their way to another hemisphere and not to their homeland. Meanwhile Mika and his guide are released from prison and permitted to leave Poland. When they arrive in Prague, Mika contacts the B'rehau, who arrange for him to get to Munich, where he learns that Sara is about to cross into Italy from a displaced persons camp in Innsbruck. Sara and her group walk through deep snow, over an alpine pass, into Italy. There, the B'rehau arrange passage on a small cargo ship, the forty-fourth to leave for Palestine since the end of the war. Mika arrives as the last of Sara's group boards from dingys and he eventually finds her among the very overcrowded passengers. However, the British are now entirely blocking entry into Palestine and refugees are being diverted to camps in Cyprus. A friend of Sara is also pregnant and close to giving birth as the ship encounters stormy weather. Of the eight hundred people on board, one hundred and fifty are infants. After the Palestinian captain decides to attempt to sail directly into Tel Aviv, under a Turkish flag, he warns everyone that they will need to remain below deck in stifling conditions. However, a British warship appears and threatens to board when the ship enters Palestine waters, and as there are so many women and children on board, the refugee ship offers no resistance and is towed into Haifa harbor to be redirected to Cyprus. The refugees hope, however, that they will soon return to live in their own land. Within weeks, the British give up their Palestine mandate and the United Nations votes to divide the land between Arabs and Jews, thus creating the State of Israel. Sara and Mika know that the day will come when they and their children will live as free people in Israel.
Reviews from 1948 list the film's running time as 75 or 78 minutes. The viewed print, however, ran 51 minutes and the onscreen credits do not match credits as they are listed in a dialogue continuity submitted to the New York censor board in June 1948. The above credits include listings from both the continuity and the viewed print. A title at the start of the viewed print states: "This is a record, filmed in 1947, of the Jewish exodus from Europe. The people filmed are survivors who escaped the Nazi effort to massacre all Jews. With the State of Israel as yet unborn, and the way barred to them, they took the underground route of the Hagana, the secret Jewish defence army of Palestine, to their homeland." Meyer Levin's onscreen credit reads: "A Film Document Made by Meyer Levin." Only Edmond Halpern is credited with the music on the viewed version and that version does not list Bertrand Hesse as the photographer "at sea." The cast, music and songs and production manager credit were taken from the dialogue continuity.
As mentioned in the continuity, funding for the film was provided by the U.S. support group, Americans for Haganah, and presented by "Film Documents." Noted novelist Levin, who was instrumental in having Anne Frank's diary published in the U.S., was involved in another film made in Palestine, My Father's House (see below). Tereska Torres and Levin were married during the film's production. A New York Times news item reported that the film cost $25,000 to make and was post-synchronized in Paris.