DOMINICAN REPUBLIC The refuge of jews after the World War II
“Who saves a person, saves the whole world” is the message that the Talmud enthusiastically advocates, the sacred book of the Jews, about laws, traditions, and customs.
A message that was found in events when the Jews who left a Germany besieged by the claws of Nazism sought refuge and protection in the Dominican Republic at the end of the 30’s. Under the shelter of the Sosúa bay, in the northwest of the island, about six hundred men and women of Austrian and German origin found a warm coat. At first sight, the number seems considerable, but it was well below the one hundred thousand people that the dictator Leonidas Trujillo, president of the country at that time, aspired to resettle. A decision he had made after the Evian conference, which was led by President Roosevelt in 1938, and which, paraphrasing Haim Weitzman, reflected the feeling of an international context divided into two sides “one formed by the countries that expel the Jews and the other one of those who refuse to admit them.” An extreme
bipolarity where the countries of the so-called “Free World”, from the United States to Austria, insisted on imposing strict migratory laws but, paradigmatically, the Dominican Republic was the only nation that offered a helping hand.
For those who are drowning, and someone throw them a lifesaver, there are plenty of motivations for this feat. But the reality is that after the Evian conference, the two North American Jewish institutions of charity: “The American Joint Distribution Committee” and the “American Joint Agricultural Corp.”, formed the “Dominican Republic Settlement Association, Inc.”, called the Dorsa, which negotiated with the Dominican government an agreement that guaranteed the colonists the freedom of religion, legal facilities about immigration laws and exemptions from taxes and customs duties. Approximately 23,000 acres of unpopulated land on the north coast, cultivated with plantains and bananas, became home for these immigrants who had no experience in the field. Young people of no more than 25 years old, who arrived in Sosúa with
fear stuck in their bowels and who, as political refugees, received resources to establish a communal agricultural colony, in the style of the kibbutz. Their knowledge of European technology and their entrepreneurial vision led them to create their own community including important technical advances such as aqueducts, health system, clinic, pharmacy, school, synagogue, theater, newspaper, shops and even a bank. In that inhospitable coastal area, the Jewish community was focused on the production of non-perishable agricultural products to market them. This is how the cheese industry and the sausage industry were born. But, above all, the name “Productos Sosúa” (or Sosua Products), which leads the sector with the production of cheese and sausages.
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