Allen Wells is the Roger Howell, Jr. Professor of History at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine). He has published books and articles on modern Mexican history, the history of commodities, and U.S.-Latin American relations. His most recent publications include: with Steven Topik, Global Markets Transformed, 1870-1945 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014); and Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR and the Jews of Sosúa (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), which has just been translated and published in Spanish in the Dominican Republic.
“Lives in the Balance: The United States, the Dominican Republic
and the Rescue of European Jews during World War II”
At a time when few nations were willing to accept Jewish refugees fleeing fascism, the racist dictator of the Dominican Republic General Rafael Trujillo opened his country’s doors. 750 Jews fled Hitler and founded the agricultural settlement of Sosúa during World War II. So many more lives could have been saved, because the dictator, who wanted Jews to intermarry with Dominicans to “whiten the race,” initially proposed to take in 100,000 refugees. But even as the first settlers arrived in May 1940, the Dominican and U.S. governments were backing away from their initial endorsement of the Sosúa initiative. A succession of German victories throughout Western Europe during the spring of 1940 fed State Department fears of Nazi infiltration into the Americas. FDR’s refusal to take any Jewish refugees from German-occupied territory and his administration’s insistence on vetting each refugee who came to the island placed the settlement in jeopardy from the outset and ensured that the offer of 100,000 refugees would never be realized.
Event Location: Congregation Beth Israel, 49 East Grand Avenue, Old Orchard Beach, ME
Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 04064