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Dominican Republic Settlement Association Anniversary Scrapbook and Photographs

 Collection
Identifier: MSS 0398

Scope and Content

This group of material belonged to either James N. Rosenberg, president of DORSA, or more likely to Robert T. Pell, Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs, State Department. The anniversary scrapbook was probably made by Alfred Wagg for Robert Pell as a final record and memory of their work together establishing Sousa in the Dominican Republic. There is a presentation inscription on the front pastedown of the scrapbook reading, "To the 'Chief' with deepest affection faithfully Alfred Wagg 3rd April 17th 1941". Wagg served as Secretary to the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees and was Pell's assistant. However, there are letters addressed to Rosenberg (including a letter from Trujillo) laid down in the scrapbook which might indicate him as owner. Rosenberg's varied career combined work as a lawyer, playwright, artist and art patron. He attended Columbia College and Columbia Law School.

The collection includes a scrapbook documenting the 1st Anniversary of the founding of the Jewish refugee settlement. Included in this scrapbook are programs, invitations, dinner menus, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other material documenting the anniversary commemoration and its various festivities. Of special interest is a report written by James N. Rosenberg to the Dominican Government about the status of the settlement and a letter from Generalissimo Trujillo addressed to Rosenberg. There are also photographs (likely publicity shots) depicting daily life in the settlement.

Also included are 15 photographs of various Latin and South American diplomatic groups visiting the Pan-American Union in Washington, D.C. during the 1940s. Most include Dr. Leo Stanton Rowe, Director General of the Pan American Union. It is unclear how these may be related to the Dominican Republic Settlement Association. It is likely that whoever owned the scrapbook, also possessed these photographs.

Dates

  • 1941-1947

Language of Materials

Includes materials written in English and Spanish.

Access

The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

In the wake of the German Anschluss of Austria in March 1938, President Roosevelt convened a 32 nation conference at Evian-les-Baines, France to discuss the resettlement of German and Austrian Jews. The participants created an Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees (IGCR). At the first IGCR meeting, Generalissimo Trujillo offered to admit into the Dominican Republic up to 100,000 refugees from Europe. Promptly, the Refugee Economic Corporation and the President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees, under Executive Secretary George L. Warren, launched feasibility studies on settlement prospects. Other studies followed, notably one by Dr. Joseph A. Rosen, President of the Agro-Joint. He recommended the tract of Sosua, with its 26,000 acres on the north shore of the island, as a desirable location.

In October 1939, Generalissimo Trujillo announced that 500 refugee families would be admitted immediately under the auspices of the IGCR in the wake of discussions conducted with the President's Advisory Committee and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Accordingly, it offered a commitment of $200,000 from its residual assets towards the launch of a settlement undertaking in the Dominican Republic under the auspices of the Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA). DORSA was incorporated in New York State; James N. Rosenberg was elected President and Joseph A. Rosen Vice President. Over the years, DORSA received other large-scale allocations from the Agro-Joint.

An agreement was signed with the Trujillo government on January 30, 1940. The contract read in part: "The Republic hereby guarantees to the settlers and their descendants full opportunity to continue their lives and occupations free from molestation, discrimination or persecution, with full freedom of religion, civil, legal and economic rights, as well as other rights inherent to human beings." The uptake was slow, initially only 50 Jews made it across the Atlantic arriving in May 1940. They were given eighty acres of land and ten cows and received instruction in farming from kibbutzim in Palestine (only 13 of the refugees had farming experience). The population peaked in October 1941 at about 500 before the Third Reich suspended Jewish emigration and additional problems were encountered with submarine warfare in the Atlantic. A meat processing plant and cheese factory were soon established. However, the settlement performed significantly below expectations. Conditions were difficult, morale was poor and in early 1941 the Vice President of DORSA even considered freezing the project.

Extent

.38 Linear feet (2 Boxes)

Abstract

A scrapbook commemorating the 1st Anniversary of the founding of a Jewish refugee settlement at Sousa, in the Dominican Republic, in January 1940. Also included are 15 photographs of various Latin and South American diplomatic groups visiting the Pan-American Union in Washington, D.C. during the 1940s.

Arrangement

The collection has been divided into two series. The first contains the scrapbook and the second contains the Pan-American Union photographs arranged chronologically.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Purchased in 2016.

Related Material

The Records of the Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA), are held by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives.

Bibliography

Sources consulted by Matt Kruse while writing this finding aid:
Title
A Guide to the Dominican Republic Settlement Association Anniversary Scrapbook and Photographs
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid created by Matt Kruse
Date
July 2017
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Latin
Sponsor
Funding to acquire this collection was provided by a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

Contact:
George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America
352-273-2755