Dreams of Re-Cre­ation in Jamaica: The Holo­caust, Intern­ment, Jew­ish Refugees in Gibral­tar Camp, Jamaican Jews and Sephardim

Diana Coop­er-Clark
  • Review
By – March 21, 2018

Help­ing to both pre­serve and sup­ple­ment lit­tle-known Holo­caust nar­ra­tives, Diana Coop­er-Clark tells the sto­ries of sev­en­teen Holo­caust sur­vivors who escaped to Jamaica from Nazi-occu­pied Europe. Draw­ing from eye­wit­ness accounts, arti­facts, and oth­er his­tor­i­cal source mate­ri­als, Dreams of Re-Cre­ation in Jamaica pur­veys infor­ma­tion about the inter­ac­tions between Jamaican Jews and the refugees liv­ing in the Gibral­tar Camp and the Uptown Intern­ment Camp on the island. Coop­er-Clark notes that her expe­ri­ence grow­ing up in Jamaica influ­enced her deci­sion to write about this sub­ject. Shed­ding light on the his­to­ry of both Sephardim and Ashke­naz­im sur­vivors, this book brings togeth­er sto­ries about World War II, Jew­ish refugees, and Jamaican Jews — nar­ra­tives that might have oth­er­wise escaped pub­lic notice.

The first sto­ry Coop­er-Clark presents belongs to Dr. Rudolph Aub, a Ger­man Jew who traced his fam­i­ly his­to­ry in Ger­many back eight cen­turies. He was bare­ly able to escape the Nazis after Kristal­nacht. His sto­ry, first record­ed as an unpub­lished man­u­script in 1988, was copied and passed down to Coop­er-Clark in 1998 by Ernest de Souza, a con­tact of hers from Sha’are Shalom Syn­a­gogue in Kingston, Jamaica. Aub, his wife, Jula, and their chil­dren sur­vived the war. Oth­ers, how­ev­er, were not as lucky.

Draw­ing from pho­tographs and per­son­al effects pro­vid­ed by sur­vivors and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, the book high­lights inter­est­ing details about the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of Jamaica and its inhab­i­tants. Jen­ny Grishaver, a sur­vivor who shared her mem­oir with Coop­er-Clark, explains how she man­aged to hide the yel­low Star of David Jews were forced to wear behind an arm­load of school books. She also explains how she hid dia­monds, giv­en to her by her father, in a brown bead­ed neck­lace. Pho­tographs of both the Star of David and neck­lace are includ­ed in the book. Small items some­times belie their significance.

A sub­stan­tial study, writ­ten with a girth of both knowl­edge of and per­son­al involve­ment with the sub­ject mate­r­i­al, the book con­sti­tutes a com­pelling nar­ra­tive of con­sid­er­able import. Cooper-Clark’s use of Mod­ern Lan­guage Asso­ci­a­tion cita­tion might dis­tract some read­ers accus­tomed to read­ing his­to­ry texts, which usu­al­ly use Chica­go or Tura­bi­an style. So too, might the some­what rhetor­i­cal style that intro­duces the study. Despite these tech­ni­cal vari­ances from oth­er his­tor­i­cal accounts, Coop­er-Clark fan­tas­ti­cal­ly weaves togeth­er seem­ing­ly dis­parate nar­ra­tives, cre­at­ing a cohe­sive whole. More­over, she pro­vides excel­lent source mate­ri­als for researchers, schol­ars, and oth­er pro­fes­sion­als inter­est­ed in Holo­caust his­to­ry. More writ­ers should devote time to study­ing the his­to­ries of Jamaican Jews and the Holo­caust, draw­ing inspi­ra­tion from Coop­er-Clark and her work.

Rachael Rose serves as a review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She also works as a lan­guage Instruc­tor at the Berlitz Lan­guage Cen­ter in Oden­ton, teach­ing Hebrew. On the side, she also tutors ele­men­tary school math and science.

Discussion Questions