A tropical story of diamonds and Holocaust survival in ‘Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels’ – by Larry Luxner (Times of Israel – August 14, 2017)


New film explores the forgotten era when the Caribbean island became a temporary gem hub after opening its doors to thousands of European Jews fleeing the Nazis

HAVANA, Cuba — On a hot and steamy Shabbat afternoon in early July, 50 or so Jews gathered in the social hall of Cuba’s largest synagogue to relive a little-known piece of their own history.

The island’s premiere screening of “Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana” didn’t disappoint. This poignant 46-minute documentary by co-directors Judy Ann Kreith and Robin Truesdale tells the obscure story of thousands of European Jews who not only escaped extermination by the Nazis during World War II, but also brought Cuba a thriving yet short-lived diamond cutting industry.

The movie is a counterpoint of sorts to “Voyage of the Damned,” a 1976 drama starring Faye Dunaway and Orson Welles that chronicles the tragic voyage of the SS St. Louis — a German steamship that in 1939 sailed from Hamburg to Havana carrying 937 Jewish passengers.

Those on board the St. Louis had no idea the Cuban visas they had purchased from corrupt officials were invalid, and only 28 were allowed to disembark upon arrival in Havana. The ship — denied permission to dock in Miami and other US ports — eventually returned to Nazi-controlled Antwerp after a month at sea. About 250 of the St. Louis’s passengers later died in concentration camps.

For the rest of this article: https://www.timesofisrael.com/a-tropical-story-of-diamonds-and-holocaust-survival-in-cubas-forgotten-jewels/