Casting of the helm from the Haganah ship "Medinat Ha’Yehudim"

Language of Description
Level of Description
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

overall: | Depth: 2.375 inches (6.033 cm) | Diameter: 37.625 inches (95.568 cm)


Archival History

The helm casting was acquired by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1991.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection

Scope and Content

Painted, epoxy resin casting of the wheel from the Aliyah Bet (clandestine immigration) ship "Medinat Ha’Yehudim" (“The Jewish State”), commissioned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for installation in the museum’s permanent exhibition. The ship was commissioned by the United States Coast Guard in 1927, as the ice cutter “USCGC Northland (WPG-49)”. Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the Northland was refitted for patrol along the coast of Greenland. In September 1941, the Northland achieved the first American naval capture of the war by seizing the German-controlled ship Busko. The Northland was decommissioned in1946, and purchased for $50,000 by the Weston Trading Company (a front for the Haganah, the para-military organization of the Jewish community in Palestine) in 1947. Britain had been given control of Palestine following World War I, and severely restricted the immigration of Jewish refugees, who wanted to establish a new Jewish State. This led many refugees to enter the country via “illegal” or “clandestine” immigration on ships. Under a crew of American volunteers, the Northland sailed to Bayonne, France, for refitting, alongside another former American ship, the Paducah. On August 28, 1947, the Northland followed the Paducah for Burgas, Bulgaria. Overcrowded with 2,664 passengers from Romania, the ship set sail for Palestine on September 26, 1947. As they entered the Mediterranean, the Northland and the Paducah were renamed “Medinat Ha’Yehudim” (“The Jewish State”) and “Geula” (“Redemption”). The Medinat Ha’Yehudim headed for Tel Aviv, but was approached by the British 90 miles from shore. After unsuccessful attempts at evasion, the Medinat Ha’Yehudim collided with one of the British destroyers, which had shadowed both ships during the earlier stages of the voyage, and was boarded by commandos. The British disabled the ship and towed it to Haifa. The passengers were sent to an internment camp on Cyprus. After the state of Israel was founded in 1948, the Medinat Ha’Yehudim was renamed Eilat A16, and served as the flagship of the new Israeli Navy. In 1955, the ship was renamed Matzpen, and functioned as a barracks or depot hulk until May 1962, when it was sold for scrap. The helm was removed and given to the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s "Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum” in Haifa when it opened on September 7, 1969.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Painted, epoxy resin casting of a wood and brass ship’s helm. Both the front and back of the casting are finished, and the wheel is attached to an exhibition mount that positions it away from the wall. Projecting from the gray-colored, circular hub in the center are eight spokes of equal length, resembling turned wood with flat, squared-off ends where it meets the large ring. The outer ends of the spokes attach to large ring that has a peaked outer edge. On the front and back faces, layered over the wheel and spindles, are flat rings resembling wood and brass with brass nail heads. The rings would have secured and strengthened the wheel and spokes. Attached to the ends of the spokes, projecting beyond the wheel, are long, near-cylindrical handles, resembling turned wood. On the face of a spoke, near where it attaches to the handle, is the impression of a carved, six-pointed Star of David.

front face, spindle, near handle, carved: [six-pointed star]


Corporate Bodies



This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.