Against a background of rumba, salsa and photography of old Havana, eyewitnesses tell the story of 12,000 Jewish World War II refugees in “Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana.”
“We escaped just by a hair” and “It was a time of complete uncertainty” are typical comments in the film.
During the Battle of Dunkirk, French and Belgian Jews made it to Spain and then were able to get visas to Cuba. American doors were not open to them.
In contrast to Europe, Cubans had an unusual acceptance of foreigners. The Jews found a warm and welcoming people in Cuba but were not permitted to work and initially were detained in camps.
They were assisted by the American Joint Distribution Committee, but life was poor and challenging until they developed their own industry polishing diamonds.
Jewish refugees established Havana as the diamond-polishing capital of the world on equipment they built themselves. Making a deal with the government, almost all Jews were able to work in this thriving industry.
The story of the Jewish refugees and the hospitality they found in Cuba is fascinating one and worth knowing.
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival screenings with “Iom Romì”: Feb. 3, 4:15 p.m., Springs; Feb. 4, 11:10 a.m., Springs