Some of my family members in Cuba during WWII

I mentioned in another article the fact that Belgian Jews exiled to Cuba during WWII. My relatives also stayed in Cuba. Many of the Jews who lived in Cuba during the War, were Belgian refugees. For more on this topic you may read Jews from Antwerp in Cuba.

Cuba and some of my relatives:
I found in the book “Jewish Community of Cuba – The Golden Years 1906-1958” by Mr. Jay Levinson (ISBN 78-0977620708) a paragraph on page 133 with a reference to the copy of La Voz de Betar:

“Not all the Belgian Jews, however, confined all of their activity to their own closely-knit society. J. Dorf lectured to Betar on Jewish History; Ringler spoke to the meeting of Betar about geography of the Holy Land.”

I found in that copy of La Voz de Betar (Cuba) which appeared in September 1944 (this file is known at the Jabotinsky Institute archives as file 3/239 bet), some names of people belonging to the Dorf family (my great-grandmother Liebe Dorf was married to my great-grandfather Gerschon Lehrer):

  • J. Dorf: This most likely is Joseph Dorf (18 Aug 1909, Biskupice, Poland), son of Isaac Dorf and Sara Szeindle Fischelberg.
    (I found a J. Dorf who was on the board of the Antwerp “Zionisten-Revisionisten” organization (Zionists-Revisionists) which was established in 1926 (see “Geschiedenis van de Joden in Antwerpen in woord en beeld” by Ephraim Schmidt (ISBN 90-5341-242-6))
  • M. Dorf: Danny Lehrer does not think that this is a relative (i.e: Moizesz Dorf a brother of J. Dorf) as he was in hiding in Jambes (Belgium) at that time.
  • F. Grinblat: Danny Lehrer does not think that this is a relative. Sruel Grienblat  is the son in-law of Mina (Offen-Dorf) (married to Paula) and lives in NY,  but was in a concentration camp at that time.

The texts as found in the copy of  La Voz de Betar (Cuba) from September 1944:

Trabajos culturales
Como una organización juvenil hebrea nacional comprendemos que un joven hebreo el cual no posce conocimientos a muestro pasado no tiene capacidad para defender su Patria y su pueblo, poroso nosotros con gran esfuerzo nos dedicamos a enseriar a la juventud hebrea su historia, sus héroes, sus canciones y su pasado. Esos trabajos culturales son llevados a cabo en forma de lecciones cada miércoles y viernes. Estas charlas culturales que ya es como una tradición donde se reúnen muchos jóvenes los cuales estudian y discuten los problemas hebreos. En dicha labor nos ayudan varios amigos destacados intelectuales de nuestra Colonia como el Sr. E. Aranowsky, el cual da lecciones de Tanaj; el Sr. J. Dorf (revisionista de Bélgica) sobre la historia hebrea; el Ktzin Najmen Soloweichik sobre la ideología del Betar; el Sr. Ringler (revisionista de Bélgica) sobre la Geografía Palestinense y nuestro Mefaked D. Shinderman, sobre la Historia des Sionismo.

También organizamos charlas explicando el significado de nuestras tradicionales fiestas y problemas actúalas.

Translation:

As a National Jewish youth  organization we understand that a young Jew who has no knowledge of our past has no capacity to defend his State and his people, therefore we, with a lot of effort, dedicate ourselves to teach the youth their history, their heroes, their songs, and their past. These cultural events take the shape of lessons every Wednesday and Friday. These cultural talks which are already a sort of tradition where a lot of youngsters meet, who study and discuss the Jewish problems. In this endeavor we are helped by several renown intellectuals from our community such as Mr. E. Aranowsky who gives lectures in Tanach, Mr J. Dorf (a revisionist from Belgium) about our Jewish History, the Ktzin Najmen Soloweichik about the ideology of Betar, Mr. Ringler (a revisionist from Belgium) about the geography of Palestine and our Mefaked D Shinderman, about the history of Zionism.

We also organize talks explaining the significance of our traditional holidays and current problems.

Copies of some pages from the issue of La Voz de Betar):


13 thoughts on “Some of my family members in Cuba during WWII”

  1. My comment revised – My father’s immediate family came from Amtwerp to via the ship the Isla de Tenerife and they founded one of the diamond cutting and polishing plants in Havana. My uncle thinks there were 14 but articles have indicated it at 24 plants. My father made a close friend on the ship coming to Cuba and they stayed friends for 5 years in Cuba. When my family came to the U.S. they went to NYC but the familyof my father’s friend Freddie went to Miami. They found each other decades later – long aafter my father moved to south Florida and they remain friends in South Florida. The ship they came on to Cuba has an interesting story. Its captain was allegedly a nazi collaborator who provided the nazis with British troop ship movements and he was responsible for the sinking a a major British trip. That is why the nazis did not sink the ship. So they irony is that a ship of jews survived because the ship’s captain was a nazi collaborator. I have only found one letter online from a fellow passenger on Isla de Tenerife. I am a Board member of the major PBS channel in South Florida covering the tri-county area, WPBT2, and I have proposed that the Channel do a documentary about the Jewbans and Cuba’s having saved perhaps 25,000 jewish lives and overlooked story possibly due to the sad story of the St. Louis. My father and brother loved living in Cuba during its “golden years” – in fact my grandfather became a Cuban citizen. Any information or useful links you can provide about the jews in Cuba in the 1940s would be appreciated.

    1. Hello,

      I came across this website while trying to find more information about the voyage of the Isla de Tenerife. I have been told that this boat was turned away from the U.S. and many of the passengers were sent back to Europe, but have not been able to confirm this.

      My parents and brother (from Germany) were in Cuba from February 1942 to March 1946. At first they lived in the main part of Havana, later in Vedado. They were at first supported by the Joint, and later my father supported the family by giving private lessons to Jewish children. (He also worked for a while at a diamond factory owned by the father or one of his students). He had been a Lehrer (profession, not last name) in Germany. His name was Erich (hebrew name: Gershon!) Jacobs, and he wrote a memoir, which also discussed their time in Cuba. Is there anything specific about the “Jews of Cuba” during these years that you wanted to know?

      1. Dear Fredel,

        Thank you very much for your comment.

        What an interesting coincidence it is re. the name of Erich or Gershon who was a Lehrer :-).

        I would be very interested in getting as much extra information as possible, so I hope that you are able to share with me and the other readers interesting information, stories, anecdotes, etc about that time in Cuba.

        Cheers,

        Gershon

        1. Hello, Gershon,
          I have a 33-page excerpt from my father’s memoirs that deal with their time in Cuba. I would probably want to look through them, since parts might not be relevant — or might be too personal. In any case, I doubt that you would want me to add a 33-page ‘comment’ to your website, so I am not sure how I would get the edited pages to you.

        2. Your info is incorrect on all the Antwerp Jews going back to Antwerp after the Europe part of WWII ended. My family who knew how to polish stones went to NYC. Your info is also incorrect regarding the Jews from Antwerp not getting to know both other Jews in Cuba and non-Jewish Cubans. You should restate your “facts”.

          1. Hi,

            I wrote what I found out based on my sources of back then in 2011. Since then I´ve had the chance to learn more about the subject.

            Gershon
            PS: What´s your name, what are your sources and who is your family.

      2. A previously noted the Isla de Tenerife which sailed from Spain in November 1941 for Havana was NOT turned away. People only focus on the ship with Jews not allowed to stay in Cuba, not on the ships that were allowed in and the thousands of Jews saved by entering Cuba before the war.

        1. Hello Maxine my name is Judy and my mother Marion and her family survived the Holocaust thanks to
          Cuba. We are working on a documentary film about this event in History. I would be great to know if you received this email. I would really like to hear back.

      3. Hello Fredel, I would really like to hear more of your story. My mother lived in Cuba a and I have been researching her story for a film. It would be great to hear from you. Judy

        1. Hello, Judy,
          I had excerpted my father’s story about Cuba into a 23-page document, which I shared with Mr. Lehrer. I do not mind sending it to you privately, but I do not want to publicize my email address. Perhaps Mr. Lehrer can put us directly in touch with each other?
          Mr. Lehrer: You may give Judy my email address. Thank you.

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