Trujillo Accepts Jewish Refugees in Sosúa

The Henderson Daily Dispatch of Henderson, North Carolina, United States on February 3, 1940 publishes the article Dominica Offers Sanctuary to Nazi RefugeeesThe article details some aspects of the plan to welcome European refugees fleeing from the persecution of Adolf Hitler, especially the Jews.

Observations of the Plan

  • The Dominican Republic was willing to accept up to 100,000 European refugees.
  • Trujillo donates 24,000 acres in Sosúa for the establishment of the colony.
  • The refugees would be granted Dominican citizenship upon arrival.
  • The Sosúa colony was composed of Jews and non-Jews.
  • They would be exempt from the entry fee that was applied to all immigrants.
  • They were granted duty free importation of machinery and tools.
  • The city of Santo Domingo is referred as Ciudad Trujillo, the official name of the capital between 1936 and 1961.
  • The Dominican government hoped that the refugees would develop several underdeveloped economic sectors, the mining industry among them. The mining industry was never developed by the refugees, but the dairy industry was greatly impacted by the creation of Productos Sosúa company. The Jewish refugees almost single-handledly developed the Dominican milk and its derivatives market.
  • The Dominican Republic Settlement Association was created with the sole purpose of managing the refugee collection, transport, arrival, and settlement in the Dominican Republic.
  • The article contains one error when it claims that Trujillo first became president in 1934. In reality Trujillo rose to power in 1930.

The Article

Notice that the image presented in the article show, on the left, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo and, on the right, James N. Rosenberg.

DOMINICA OFFERS SANCTUARY TO NAZI REFUGEES

A new life, free of oppression and persecution, has been promised to 500 families from persecuted European minorities by General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, once known as the dictator of the Dominican Republic. Under terms of an agreement signed in Ciudad Trujillo, the refugees will settle immediately on 24,000 acres of land donated by Trujillo near Sosúa, and will be granted full citizenship. The settlers will include both Jews and non-Jews. Not only will the entry fee be waived, but they will be allowed to bring in equipment and tools duty free. The contract was signed in the presence of James N. Rosenberg, New York attorney and president of the Dominican Republic Settlement Association. 

It is proposed that up to 100,000 refugees eventually be granted haven on the island. Economic experts doubt that the republic, equal in size to Vermont and New Hampshire combined, can accommodate that many, but believe that it can accept 25,000 comfortably. 
Sugar, cocoa, and tobacco are the chief products of the fertile island, with 15,500 of its 19,325 square miles arable. The land contains gold, copper, iron, salt, coal, and petroleum, but the mining industry is undeveloped, and it is hoped this is one of the industries which the refugees will help build up. The population of 1,500,000 is a race of mixed European, African, and Indian blood, speaking the Spanish language. Education is compulsory. 

Trujillo was first made president of the republic in 1934 and soon became known as its dictator. Because of his reforms, which put the backward land in the front-rank of Latin American countries, the congress changed his title to Benefactor. At expiration of his second term in 1938, Trujillo decided to rest on that title alone and his selected successor, Jacinto B. Peynado, was elected president by 95 percent of the vote. By law, however, the Benefactor is co-equal with the president and in actual fact Trujillo continues to conduct all the important business of the republic. 

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