Dominican Haven: The Jewish Refugee Settlement in Sosua, 1940-1945

Museum of Jewish Heritage  2008

 

“I have heard of the persecution of the Jews in several European states and I venture to inform you that there is a country, the Dominican Republic, which has every prospect for the future. There your co-religionists will be received with open arms.” With these words by the Dominican leader General Gregorio Luperon, a safe haven was created. The small refugee agricultural settlement on the isolated northeastern corner of the island welcomed Jews who fled from Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provided passage to the island along with continual assistance. The Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA) provided a model for other Latin American countries that harbored refugees during and after the war. Although many of the people did not stay in the DR, choosing to immigrate to countries whose cultures were more familiar, their stories offer example of what refugees face. The Dominicans did not discriminate and warmly accepted the settlers. Those readers looking for a unique, positive story focusing on the goodness of people should consider this book. (Interestingly, Trujillo, the Latin American dictator, supported the project.) A bilingual (Spanish and English) exhibition held at The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City accompanied the launching of the book.

Marion A. Kaplan, author of Beyond Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany, organizes her history into seven well defined chapters in chronological order. The photographs of life on the farm emphasize the role of agriculture in the endeavor. Indeed it was farming that was the driving force of the settlement, giving Jews a new vocation that enabled them to exist and even thrive in this haven. If the story of the Jews of Sosúa is a model for implementing a resettlement program, Marion Kaplan’s concise, organized history serves as an ideal way of telling such a story. Bibliography, endnotes, index, photos, timeline.



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