Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Difficulties with Venezuela and Latin America Taking in Jewish Refugees in 20s and 30s.

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                              
Goldfoot, Robinson and Oster Fathers and children, c1945. 
The man on the right holding a little girl is my uncle, Werner Oster, who left Boppard, Germany
for the USA on May 4th, 1939 on the ship, Washington.They landed in New York on May 13th.
He was only 23, but was one of the last Jews to get out of Germany in 1939.
He had been a great soccer player in Germany.

He came to the USA, which was hard to do.  He had to have a sponsor (my great Uncle Max Turn,
who had to take all economic responsibility for him.)  Werner was single then.  A butcher and sausage maker, Max got him a job with my father, a fledgling in the business and 31 years old at the time. 
The picture shows that he married my father's sister and these children are my cousins.  I'm sitting on the 
grass of our back yard and am the oldest.  My father is behind me holding my brother. 

Nazism was not only threatening all Jews on this planet,  it was already starting to take lives in the 30s in Germany.  Some Jews, seeing the writing on the wall, sought out countries that would take them in.  Werner made it to the USA, but his parents and 16 year old red-headed sister died in the Holocaust.

It had been difficult to get into the USA if you were Jewish.  There was a bill in 1921 and another in 1924 to cut the numbers of Jews entering.  " The 1921 measure capped the number of immigrants allowed in at roughly 350,000 per year. It also established quotas from  individual countries, derived from their percentage of the U.S. population. This was a rigged system, as those percentages included how many Americans were descended from that group’s original settlers. Some nations therefore received unusually large quotas, despite minimal immigration in the few years before the bill’s enactment. If ten people had arrived in 1750 from Great Britain, the number of that original cluster’s descendants would be huge by the 20th century. The base year, moreover, was set back a decade to 1910 to exclude from the figures all those who had recently arrived from war-torn Europe after the sea lanes were safe again in 1918. It was not immigrants in general who were blocked, but certain nationalities and religions (JEWS).   Fiorello LaGuardia branded the 1924 act “the creation of a narrow mind that was nurtured by a hating heart.”  We Jews remain as 2% of the USA population.  

So, South America seemed like a good place to go, but they found that most of the countries there required a person to show their baptismal certificate to make sure that they were Christians.  They were not anxious to take in Jews.  Many of the South American countries had already been populated by Germans, and many of those followed the Nazi persuasion.  Naturally, after the war, the Nazis became the refugees and they populated the South American countries easily.
Jacobsthal family with aunt and uncle in Amsterdam
 ready to immigrate to Chile February 1938
"These attitudes were reflected in increasingly tight immigration laws introduced throughout Latin America in the late 1930s (Mexico in 1937; Argentina in 1938; Cuba, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay in 1939). The results of these laws were striking. Argentina, which had admitted 79,000 Jewish immigrants between 1918 and 1933, officially admitted 24,000 between 1933 and 1943. Another 20,000 Jews entered Argentina illegally, crossing the border from neighboring countries. Brazil admitted 96,000 Jewish immigrants between 1918 and 1933, but only 12,000 between 1933 and 1941."

After Kristallnacht in November 1938, many Jews within Germany decided that it was time to leave. Though many German Jews had emigrated in the preceding years, the Jews who remained had a more difficult time leaving the country because emigration policies had been toughened. By 1939, not only were visas needed to be able to enter another country but money was also needed to leave Germany. Since many countries, especially the United States, had immigration quotas, visas were near impossible to acquire within the short time spans in which they were needed. For many, the visas were acquired after it was too late.

Saturday, May 13, 1939 these Jews had sailed.
Hopeful to land in Cuba,  from Germany on St. Louis escaping
Nazi persecution
St. Louis in Havana, Cuba's port

In this climate, Cuban authorities denied entry to most passengers on the ship the St. Louis, when it docked in Havana in May 1939. "With a diminishing supply of food and pressures from Hapag to return to Germany, Captain Schroeder ordered the ship to change heading to return to Europe."  They sailed to their deaths.  Before they had left Cuba, about 2 people had jumped into the ocean committing suicide, knowing what would happen to them.  In November 1941, the German government virtually cut off the flow of Jewish refugees into Latin America when it banned all Jewish emigration from territories under its control.
Coro, Venezuela 
"The History of the Jews in Venezuela dates to the middle of the 17th century, when records suggest that groups of marranos (Spanish and Portuguese descendants of baptized Jews suspected of secret adherence to Judaism) lived in TucacasCaracas and Maracaibo."  Marranos would have originally been Sephardim Jews.  

Jews came to a country that "is predominantly Roman Catholic and speak Spanish. The majority of Venezuelans are the result of a mixture of EuropeansAfricans and Amerindians. 51.6% of the population are Mestizos of mixed European, African and Amerindian ancestry and 43.6% of Venezuelans consider themselves White of European ancestry and/or Middle Eastern. Another 3.6% is Black African, while 2% is of full Amerindian ancestry and around 1.2% other races "

Venezuela was one South American country that received Jews back in 1850.  They were West Indian Sephardim.  Like with all places with a Christian population, there were anti-Semitic outbreaks of resentment in this country which is situated on the northern part of the continent on the Caribbean Sea.  Such anti-Semitic outbreaks occurred in Coro in 1855 and again in 1902.  "Coro is the capital of Falcón State and the oldest city in the west of Venezuela. It was founded on July 26, 1527 by Juan de Ampíes as Santa Ana de Coro.  As Neu-Augsburg, it was the first German colony in the Americas under the Welsers.  The temperature in Coro for the whole year continues to range in the high 90s and low 100s.  "The Jewish Cemetery of Coro is the oldest Jewish cemetery in continuous use in the Americas Its origin can be located in the 19th century, when Sephardic Jews from the Dutch colony of Curaçao began to migrate to the Venezuelan city of Santa Ana de Coro in 1824."

In the 20th century, eastern Europeans and German Jews (Ashkenazim Jews)  entered the country until barred after World War II  " In 1907, the Israelite Beneficial Society, which became the Israelite Association of Venezuela in 1919, was created as an organization to bring the Jews who were scattered throughout the country together.  Jewish prayer and holiday services took place in small houses in Caracas and towns like Los Teques and La Guaira. By 1917, the number of Jewish citizens rose to 475, and to 882 in 1926." 

.Jews could enter after World War I from 1918 to 1933.   However,  from 1933 to 1945, only 84,000 Jewish refugees were able to come into South America and this was less than half of the number that had come in 15 years before 1933.  Some even managed to enter through illegal channels.
Tiferet Israel Synagogue, Caracas, attacked in 2009
The reason they found such difficulties in entering was of anti-Semitism.  Then, the population feared the economic competition of too many people looking for jobs.  Those that were allowed to come in had to find work in agriculture, but after a while most found there way to cities where they could use some of the business skills.  The populations were made up of a lot of Germans, and they went along with the Nazi's lack of morality.
However, many Jews remained and in Venezuela, they played a leading role in developing the country's trade and in modernizing the capital, Caracas.

By 1990, the Jewish population was about  20,000, and most lived in the capital then.  some 90% of the Jewish youth attended Jewish schools.  "Currently, some 9,000 Jews live in Venezuela, down from about 25,000 in the 1990s. " 

Recently, anti Semitic graffito appeared near a Caracas Metro station: "Be patriotic, kill a Jew." Elsewhere in the city, another reads: "Jewish pigs, another 6 million." this is going on in Venezuela most likely because " Venezuelan President,  Nicolás Maduro,  organized a rally labeled the "March Against Israeli Genocide." There, the Venezuelan president called upon "the Jews that live in our lands" to "stop the massacre, and the murder of those innocent boys and girls."  

He was referring to the Palestinians, which shows he doesn't understand that it's been the Palestinians from Gaza who have been shelling Israel with rockets, mortars and missiles.  These past few weeks the Palestinians in Jerusalem have been stabbing Jews and ramming crowds with their cars.  Just yesterday they stabbed an Uruguayan Jewish  tourist and police.  The Jews in Venezuela are powerless to stop any killings going on in Israel, and this President should knew that.  What he's doing is just instigating more attacks on Jews, both in Israel and in Venezuela.  

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia: Venezuela

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