A while ago I looked on behalf of someone else seek to get more information on why the Cuban authorities allowed Jews from Antwerp to immigrate to Cuba in the 1930’s while they had strict immigration rules.
Although the Internet has got some interesting pieces of information about the Jews in Cuba, I did not really manage to find details about the episode that deals with the Antwerp Jews in the 1930’s.
Therefore I sent a message to a newsgroup that deals mainly with Jewish Genealogy (soc.genealogy.jewish) in the hope that I would get somehow more information.
This post is a means to publish a summary on the responses I got.
Click here if you would like to read the message I posted to the newsgroup»
I received a few responses which replied to me in the Jewish way, i.e.: they replied to my question with another question. The question some asked was: “Why would the Jews not be allowed entrance if everyone knew that the Jews were being chased by bloodthirsty anti-Semites“. A notorious case was the S.S. St. Louis which was not allowed to disembark its passengers in Cuba or the USA. The USA (then INS) agency restricted immigration very severely during 1920’s and thereafter.
From the responses it appears that the Antwerp Jews were accepted into Cuba because of their knowledge in the diamond business. During their stay in Cuba they kept their own community and didn’t become part of one of the communities already present (possibly due to the gap in the language and because they intended to stay there only temporary?). After WWII the Jews left Cuba and went back to Belgium. The Belgian state was of course also interested in the diamond business (it seems that Camille Huysmans was one of the big powers behind this Belgian initiative to get the Diamond business back to Antwerp).
Someone else wrote me that the gangster Meyer Lansky used his connections to the Cuban government, through which he worked out a deal to allow European Jews to land in Cuba. Visa’s were then bought and entry to the US was granted.
If you’d like to read more about the history of the Jews in Cuba (including the Antwerp Jews), the following two books do tell the story:
- Tropical Diaspora: The Jewish Experience in Cuba by Robert Levine, Published by University Press of Florida (Sep 1993) (ISBN 978-0813012186)
- Jewish Community of Cuba by Jay Levinson, Published by Westview Publishing (5 Feb 2006) (ISBN 978-0977620708).
Some general websites about Jewry in Cuba:
I’d like to thank the following people for having replied on my request: Burt Hecht, Judite Orensztajn, Sam Lifsh?, Barbara Mannlein, Irene Newhouse, Stephen Denker, Jill Goodman, Helaine ?, Marcel Apsel, Sylvain Brachfeld, Mona Freedman Morris, Joan Parker, Rabbi Moshe Otero, Judy Turbin, Tineke Sjenitzer, Sue Kriloff, Melody Mayes nee Pinkus
Date: Fri, Jan 21 2011 5:22 pm
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (lehrer)
Does anyone know why the Jews were allowed to immigrate into Cuba
in the 30’s from the previous century?
Why was an exception made for the Jews whilst I heard that the
Cuban authorities were very strict to allow immigration for
white people (does anyone have any source for this claim?)?
I am mainly talking about the Jews from Antwerp that were working
in the diamond industry.
Thank you for your help,
Searching: DORF, ETSIONI, FISZLOWICZ, GERSTNER, GOLDSTEEN, HART,
KALLECH, LEHRER, PA(C)KTER, PAKTOR, S(Y)(I)LBERBERG, SAIL, SANDERS,
SCENIZER, SCHEEN, SJENITZER, SCH(O)NITZER, STORK, TIMBERG, VAN STRATEN