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Researcher Example: The Jews of Sosúa

Dr. Marion Kaplan, Professor of Modern Jewish History at New York University and Dr. Allen Wells, Professor of History at Bowdoin College, have both conducted extensive research in the JDC Archives on JDC’s role in establishing the Dominican Republic Settlement Association and its settlement in Sosúa, Dominican Republic in the early 1940’s as a haven for Jewish emigres escaping Nazism. General Trujillo, the President of the Dominican Republic, agreed to accept Jewish refugees. Thus began a unique chapter of Jewish history in which 750 German Jews made their way to the Dominican Republic to create an agricultural colony. JDC played a major role in facilitating and funding this project to save Jews.

The JDC Archives includes a treasure trove of documentation on the rescue and resettlement of European Jews to the Dominican Republic before, during and after World War II. In particular, the collected papers and photographic images of the Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA), the Joint subsidiary that managed the farming settlement and its successful dairy cooperative on the north coast of the island, offer revealing insights into the day-to-day lives of the Central European colonists who had to rebuild their lives after fleeing their homelands. They also provide a window on the workings of DORSA’s management team of colonization experts in New York and on the island, who not only had to oversee the operations of the settlement itself, but represented the philanthropy’s interests vis a vis the Dominican dictator, General Rafael Trujillo, and the U.S. State Department. Especially well-documented in the DORSA collection are the efforts by the Association to rescue Jews from Nazism.

Prof. Wells worked closely with the research staff of the JDC Archives for nine years, culminating in the publication of Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR and the Jews of Sosúa (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

Prof. Kaplan’s research in the JDC Archives over three years led to the publication of Dominican Haven: The Jewish Refugee Settlement in Sosúa, 1940-1945 (The Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York, NY, 2008) and an exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.