Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosúa

In This Review

Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosúa
By Allen Wells
Duke University Press, 2009
480 pp. $99.95
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Some 700 Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe made it to the resettlement colony of Sosúa, on the northern beaches of the Dominican Republic. After searching the globe for vacant spaces for desperate Jews, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt pressured Latin American governments to admit more immigrants. Sensing an opportunity to curry favor with Washington and to balance the influx of black Haitians with white Europeans, the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo offered to accept up to 100,000 central European refugees. Only a small fraction made it, in part because anti-Semites in the U.S. State Department blocked transit visas, but those who did established a successful dairy cooperative (with subsidies from American Jewish philanthropists). Today, the remains of the Sosúa settlement are a tourist destination in a much more modernized Dominican Republic. Wells, the son of a Sosúa settler and a historian at Bowdoin College, captures with admirable clarity the historical ironies and personal dramas at this intersection of European tragedy, U.S. diplomacy, and Caribbean caudillos.