An unintended haven : the Jews of Trinidad 1937 to 2003 / by Alisa Siegel
Includes bibliographical references (p. 361-375)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
This is a study of the Jewish community of Trinidad. While Trinidad had brushing contacts with Jews throughout its long history, there were almost no practicing Jews in twentieth century Trinidad until the mid-1930s. At that time anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and Nazism in Germany drove many of Europe's Jews to seek shelter in any corner of the world willing to take them. Often the search was in vain; around the world doors were closing to Jews. In an atmosphere of increasingly panicked migration, about a thousand Jewish refugees found asylum in Trinidad. This is their story. If Trinidad was entirely foreign to the Jews from Poland, Roumania, Germany and Austria who landed apprehensively on its shores, it turned out to be a relatively comfortable and welcoming haven. This thesis explores the pre-war policies that enabled Jews to enter Trinidad even after most of the world, including the British colonial world, was closed off to them. It goes on to discuss the impact of the war on these Jews, especially Trinidad's internment of German and Austrian Jews along with other enemy aliens. The thesis also explores the nature of Jewish life, organization and identity formation on the island, including intra-Jewish community divisiveness and how Jews responded to and interacted with local Trinidadians, and conversely, how an ethnically and racially diverse Trinidad responded to the arrival of the Jews. Among issues considered are the extent to which Jews adopted local habits and sensibilities and the extent to which they retained a clear sense of themselves as Europeans and more importantly as Jews. When the war ended, Jews began an exodus out of Trinidad, an exodus that would eventually empty the island of almost all of its Jews. This study reviews the reasons Trinidad turned out to be a temporary rather than permanent diaspora and what became of their former community. While this is primarily a study of the Trinidad Jewish community, it also speaks to broader issues of two-step migration, British colonial policy, international refugee movements before and during World War II, Jewish identity, and Holocaust studies.
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