The defence ministers of Cyprus and Israel visited a military camp in Nicosia on Wednesday to unveil a monument dedicated to the children of Holocaust survivors who born in British detention camps in Cyprus in the aftermath of World War II.
The ceremony took place at the present military camp of Lieutenant General Vasiliou Kapota, but it is better known as BMH – from the British Military Hospital – and was the place of birth for many of the 2,200 children who were born to parents held in the camps in the late 1940s.
The camps were run by the British government to halt the number of Jews from Europe who were trying to break the British blockade and enter Palestine before the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948.
The unveiling ceremony formed part of Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya`alon’s visit to Cyprus where he also signed a military agreement. He was accompanied by his Cypriot counterpart Christoforos Fokaides.
One of the children born at BMH, Zehavit Blumenfeld, said construction of the monument had been her dream.
“Sometimes dreams come true,” she said. “I humbly stand before you, in the name of 52,000 illegal immigrants and 2,200 children born in the camps, having one message: Thank you … for everything you did to make the life of illegal immigrants and their children in the camps easier.”
Blumenfeld also paid tribute to the Cypriots, like the late Prodromos Papavasiliou, who put their life in danger to help the Jews.
They were “a solid bridge of friendship between the two countries and the two peoples.”
The Israeli defence minister said BMH was part of the history of the Jewish and Cypriot peoples.
“The history of the hospital that stood here is an integral part of the history of the Jewish people,” he said.
There were a total of 12 camps, which operated from August 1946 to January 1949, holding some 53,000 Jews.