Ruth Obernbreit Glass, of Larchmont, would never have been born – if not for a Dominican dictator who took in 700 European Jews during the dark days of the Holocaust and placed them in the agricultural community of Sosua.
On Sunday, December 13, the Westchester Jewish Center, in Mamaroneck, opens an exhibit of photographs and text that tell the story of Sosua. The exhibit opens Sunday in the Irving and Marly Koslowe Judaica Gallery at the Westchester Jewish Center with a program at 7:30 pm. Ilona Moradorf, curator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage of a major exhibit on Sosua in 2008, will present, along with Ms. Glass, a Westchester Jewish Center member, whose father, Kurt Obernbreit, was one of the original Sosua settlers along with her grandfather. Below is an excerpt about her grandfather:
….but my sixty-five year old Victorian grandfather, in his tie and jacket, came unprepared. The children were no longer obedient German children. The language he heard was no longer a familiar Viennese. The culture was rural, libidinous, Latin. The trauma of Europe was reflected in his blue eyes now and my grandfather in his starched shirt and dapper suit saw that these city kids, now planting potatoes and cohabiting with each other and native women, no longer under the watchful eyes of any parents, had no idea what had become of their homes in their absence…
from “Paradise 1943″ by Ruth Obernbreit, as published in The Westchester Review, 2007
What Led to Sosua
In 1938, President Roosevelt organized a meeting of over 30 nations to discuss what was to be done to help Europe’s Jews, who clearly were at peril. Hitler had marched into Austria several months earlier and was determined to do the same in the rest of Europe, designating the Jewish people for extinction, as the world was later to find out. Concerning this time, the Obernbreit’s would say there were only two kinds of countries in the world: those that wanted to get rid of you and those that wouldn’t take you. Not a nation, including the United States, changed one quota or resolved to find some way to help – with one exception.
What most people today do not know, is that the one leader who did help, was the dictator of the Dominican Republic, General Raphael Trujillo. He offered to rescue 100, 000 Jews.
Why did this man, who was considered a tyrant in his own country ( murdering anyone suspected of disagreeing with him, enforcing policies of brutal racial discrimination, killing 27,000 Haitians because they were black), why did he stand up to the Third Reich when all other political leaders did not?
The motivations are interesting and complex as was the interface of this Jewish community on Dominican soil.
What developed during those years in this settlement?
What became of the Jews who left and those who remained?
Against all odds and logic, 700 Jews were saved. Their story is told in the exhibit running from December through March, 2010 in the Sanctuary Lobby of The Westchester Jewish Center, Rockland and Palmer Avenues, Mamaroneck, New York, 10543. For more information, 698-2960