The Arandora Star
The S.S. Arandora Star was a luxury cruise ship converted for troops. It was destined for Canada when, on July 2, 1940, it was torpedoed by a German submarine. Of the 805 drowned, 452 were Italian civilians and 151 were “Category A” and “B” internees, including Jewish refugees. The victims included many prominent anti-fascists who had escaped from Germany, Austria and Italy.
Horrifying stories of ineptitude on the part of the British crew and panic among the internees shocked the public. One survivor recalled: “The stern of the ship was high in the air, the men were fighting over lifeboats, of which not all could be put afloat. I found a beam, sprang after it into the sea and held fast. … Many lifeboats were lost. Bodies were washed away by the waves. Old people drowned almost without exception.”
The backlash against the British government was formidable. As the threat of invasion receded and Churchill admitted that the internment of refugees had been a mistake, Category C Jewish refugees in Britain began to be released. By March 1941, 12,500 internees were again free and in August only 1,300 refugees remained in British camps. By July 1942 only three or four hundred refugees were still interned in Britain.
The story of the British internments and deportations came to a close just as the tale of Canada and the interned refugees began.
A collection of images relating to the S.S. Arandora Star.