Dreams of Re-Creation in Jamaica: The Holocaust, Internment, Jewish Refugees in Gibraltar Camp, Jamaican Jews and Sephardim
Click here to access a publication by Professor Diana Cooper-Clark, Dreams of Re-Creation in Jamaica: The Holocaust, Internment, Jewish Refugees in Gibraltar Camp, Jamaican Jews and Sephardim.
The little known story of the Jamaican role in saving Jewish lives includes the creation of Gibraltar Camp, I and II, in Kingston, Jamaica. It is another path on the circuitous refugee trails. When the war with the Axis powers broke out, the British government needed to protect two of its colonies in the Mediterranean: Gibraltar and Malta. Gibraltar, in particular, was strategically placed for marine traffic but in danger of Hitler’s plans to invade The Rock (Operation Felix) (Finlayson 62). The British, the Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Clive Liddell, and the Local Defense Committee, wanted to evacuate “useless mouths” (Finlayson 2). This degrading term referred to civilians who could not contribute to the defense and war effort consisting of about 14,000 women, children, the aged and infirm men. Where could they transport these people? Portugal and French Morocco were possibilities and the United Kingdom was mentioned as “a last resort” (Finlayson 2-3). Between May 21 and June 24, 1940, 13,495 evacuees were sent to Casablanca, Morocco. The conditions were wretched. There were problems with hygiene, minimal access to limited medical staff, little food, and a population who resented the strain that the Gibraltarians put on their meager wartime resources. Accommodations were at best inadequate. Some evacuees were sent to the insane asylum, called the Moors’ Decrepit House, outside of Casablanca and some were housed in the military prison (Finlayson 24-25). By July, after only a month or so the French authorities in Morocco wanted the Gibraltarians out of their country. Neither Morocco nor Gibraltar desired the unwanted evacuees and London was determined not to allow them into the United Kingdom. At this point, the authorities looked around the rest of the British Empire for places to send these evacuees. They were forced to leave Morocco, “brutally herded” onto unclean ships (Jackson 278) and the evacuees were back in Gibraltar by July 11, less than two months since they had left. On their return, Gibraltar would not allow their own citizens to get off the boats.