The small minority of Jewish refugees who succeeded in escaping from Nazi occupied Europe had a hard time finding refuge. Many sought to make their way to Palestine, which at the time operated under a British Mandate. British policy was to strictly limit immigration into Palestine, not wanting to provoke Arab unrest.
Three ships carrying mainly Austrian, Polish and Czech Jewish refugees were permitted to leave by the Nazi regime. They were intercepted by the Royal Navy and held in the port of Haifa. Around 1800 refugees were transferred to the old French liner the SS Patria, with the intention of making the refugees proceed on to Mauritius.
On the 25th November 1940 a bomb was placed on the SS Patria in attempt to prevent it leaving. Unfortunately, when the bomb exploded, it proved to be a great deal more powerful than needed to simply disable the old ship – and she sank within 15 minutes. It was estimated that 267 people lost their lives, including 50 of the mainly British crew.
Munia Mandor who had planted the bomb on behalf of the Haganah, the Jewish resistance group, did not reveal his role until the 1950s when he claimed:
There was never any intent to cause the ship to sink. The British would have used this against the Jewish population and show it as an act of sabotage against the war effort.