The ProsenPeople

Tropical Jews

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Seven hundred and fifty Jewish refugees fled Nazi Germany and founded the agricultural settlement of Sosua in the Dominican Republic. Why did dictator General Rafael Trugillo admit these desperate refugees when so few nations would accept those fleeing fascism? In a new book out next month, Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosua, Allen Wells, a noted historian of Latin American, and also the son of one of the original Sosua colonists, examines the story of the Jews of Sosua, combining vivid narratives about the founding of Sosua, the original settlers and their families, and the geopolitical relationships that led to the colony’s founding. Wells also explores FDR’s role in the colony and how his support strengthened U.S. relations with Latin America.

About a year ago, Marion A. Kaplan also came out with a book on the Sosua colony called Dominican Haven; The Jewish Refugee Settlement in Sosua, 1940-1945, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Jewish Book Awards in Holocaust Studies. Her title expands our understanding of the challenges, opportunities and barriers to refugee settlement anywhere in the world and begins to answer many questions about this most peculiar case of refugee migration.The Dominican Haven is a companion volume to an exhibit that was open last year at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Two examples of photographs from the book and exhibit are below:

Dairy Farming. American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Archives [NY14917]

Sosua settlers Rosa and Heinz Lesser on their finca [farm]. Courtesy of Hanni Lesser Thuna