Community in Mauritius - World Jewish Congress

 In 1940, approximately 1,600 Jews were denied entry into Palestine and were deported to Mauritius, a former British island in the Indian Ocean. There, the Jewish refugees were detained in a Mauritian prison until the end of World War Two. Today, the Mauritius Jewish Community honors and remembers those Jewish detainees. The most recent survey, conducted for the Republic of Mauritius "Housing and Population Census" report in 2011, says that there are only 43 Jews residing there.

The Mauritius affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is the Island Hebrew Congregation.

WJC Affiliate
Island Hebrew Congregation

+230 670 69 16 or +230 626 28 43

President: Owen Griffiths

Three Greek vessels – the S.S. Atlantic, the S.S. Milos, and the S.S. Pacific – departed from the Romanian port of Tulcea in May of 1940, carrying 3,500 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Upon arrival at Haifa, the ships’ passengers were denied entry into Palestine, and began to transfer them onto the S.S. Patria, a French cargo ship previously detained by the British. All the passengers from the Milos and the Patria were transferred to the Patria, but during the transfer of passengers from the Atlantic, the Patria was sunk by explosives placed on the Patria by members of the underground Jewish Haganah army in an attempt to prevent the ship from leaving Haifa. Two hundred of the refugees drowned. The survivors from the Patria were allowed to remain in Palestine, while those Jewish passengers who had remained on the Atlantic were deported to Mauritius, a British colony in the Indian Ocean approximately 1800 kilometers off the East African Coast.

In Mauritius, the 1,600 passengers of the Atlantic were sent to the Beau Bassin detainment camp. There, the refugees spent the rest of the war living in inhospitable conditions. Life at the detainment camp consisted of refugees suffering from tropical diseases and inadequate food and clothing. At the onset, men and women were banned from sleeping in the same corridors, but once the ban was lifted, 60 children were born in the camp. Learning that the detainees were being deprived of all basic human rights at Beau Bassin, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and other Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Federation sent aid to the refugees in the form of food, medicine, clothing, and religious material. The Zionist Association of Mauritius spearheaded the efforts for the release of the refugees and for them to be resettled in Palestine. At the end of World War II, refugees were given the option to either return to their homelands or make Aliyah. Israel became a new home to 1,320 Jewish Mauritian detainees on August 26, 1945.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies gained ownership of the Mauritius Jewish cemetery under the Deed of Grant in 1946. Over the years, the Board along with a few individual sponsors have repaired and even greatly restored the Jewish section of the cemetery. In May 2001, a special ceremony was held in by the South African Jewish community to unveil 66 graves.


Today, the Mauritius Jewish Community consists of 43 members, though they are unrelated to the World War II refugees. Until recently, there were no long-term Jewish residents on the island.

Community Life

The Island Hebrew Congregation Mauritius is the first formally constituted communal organization in the history of the island, and acts as the representative to the government, and works to promote and protect the interests of the community. The Island Hebrew Congregation Mauritius is affiliated with the African Jewish Congress, which is based in South Africa and advocates on behalf of the small and scattered communities of sub-Sahara Africa. It works to ensure that the Jewish community of Swaziland has international representation, including within the WJC, despite the small size of its population. Another active communal organization is the L'Amicale Maurice-Israel, an organization aimed at providing a voice for Israel in Mauritius as well as enhance and sustain the relationship between the two countries in the fields of science, medicine, agriculture, and trade.

Religious and Cultural Life

Mauritius has one synagogue in Curepipe, the Amicale Maurice Israel Center. Services are held once monthly and on Jewish holidays. In 2000, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft officiated the first bar mitzvah in Mauritius since World War Two.

Information for Visitors

The most notable Jewish sites in Mauritius include the Beau Basin Jewish Detainees Memorial Museum and the Saint Martin Cemetery. The Beau Basin Jewish Detainees Memorial Museum was created to honor and remember the 127 detainees who died at the Beau Basin prison between 1940-1945. Situated adjacent to the memorial museum, the Saint Martin Cemetery is the only Jewish cemetery in Mauritius.

Relations with Israel

Mauritius and Israel have enjoyed full diplomatic relation since 1968. Over the years, MASHAV, the Israeli agency for international cooperation, has offered many scholarships and agricultural expert assistance to the island. Israel is represented by its ambassador in South Africa.

Embassy of Israel in South Africa
428 King's Highway
(Corner Elizabeth Grove)
Pretoria 0081
South Africa

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