Trop­i­cal Zion: Gen­er­al Tru­jil­lo FDR, and the Jews of Sosua

Allen Wells
  • Review
By – January 6, 2012

Allen Wells has com­bined two impor­tant themes asso­ci­at­ed with the Holo­caust: the dif­fi­cul­ties involved in set­tling Jew­ish refugees in an alien place and the more painful issue of find­ing havens for mass­es of unwant­ed, reject­ed peo­ple flee­ing from Hitler’s terrors. 

An accom­plished his­to­ri­an, Wells enjoys the addi­tion­al back­ground of being the son of pio­neers in Sosua, the farm­ing com­mu­ni­ty offered to sev­er­al hun­dred Ger­man Jews in the Domini­can Republic. 

The book opens with a lengthy account of con­fer­ences by major pow­ers on the Ger­man refugee prob­lem. Quot­ing from then-Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt and Jew­ish lead­ers, them­selves sharply divid­ed on sev­er­al ques­tions, Wells builds his sto­ry. Grad­u­al­ly, options nar­row for the Jews, until they point only to their becom­ing farm­ers on trop­i­cal islands of unre­li­able gov­er­nance and demand­ing climate. 

The sub­ject of racism enters here, too. Luck­i­ly for them, the Jews were white, and the Domini­can Repub­lic want­ed to light­en the col­or of a pop­u­la­tion full of black Haitians. 

A valu­able record for schol­ars, writ­ers, and for­mer colonists and their fam­i­lies, the book would be slow going for the read­er in search of diver­sion. Abbre­vi­a­tions, acknowl­edg­ments, bib­li­og­ra­phy, epi­logue, index, notes, pho­tographs, prologue.

Jane Waller­stein worked in pub­lic rela­tions for many years. She is the author of Voic­es from the Pater­son Silk Mills and co-author of a nation­al crim­i­nal jus­tice study of parole for Rut­gers University.

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