Leslie Maitland, former New York Times reporter and author of a new and much-lauded memoir about her mother, has written a beautiful blog post for the Jewish Book Council about JDC and the debt she owes to the organization for saving her family during World War II. It was only by conducting research for her recent book in the JDC Archives that Maitland realized the full extent of the agencys life-saving role in her mothers life. By scrutinizing internal organizational memos, the journalist learned for the first time of the significant aid JDC provided when her family left France in 1942.
The refugees left France on the S.S. San Thome. At the 11th hour, the Cuban President revoked the ships permission to land on Cuban soil. The gripping fear was that the ships passengers would be turned back to face Nazi Europe, as the infamous S.S. St. Louis had three years ago. JDC rushed to the passengers diplomatic aid and ensured their disembarkation in Cuba. When the Cuban government locked the refugees into a detention camp, JDC provided food and supplies, and fought successfully to win the refugees release.
The blog post detailing the harrowing journey includes an interview with Linda Levi, Director of the JDC Archives. The post also appears in The Arty Semite blog of the Forward and My Jewish Learnings Author Blog Series.
To learn more about the flight of refugees in World War II, check out our Topic Guide on the S.S. St Louis.