Viernes Video: Dominican and Jewish teens work together recreating little-known chapter of Holocaust history

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LatinaLista — The Holocaust was a horrific chapter in global history but it wasn’t a time without its heroes or heroic moments. Most of those moments have remained hidden from history but every once in a while, those stories reach a broader audience. Such is the case of one of the strangest chapters of the Holocaust era.

Hundreds of Jews were resettled from Nazi Germany to the Dominican Republic under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. What keeps Trujillo from being recognized as a grand statesman for his actions is that at the same time he was rescuing Jews, he was slaughtering Haitians.

According to Wikipedia:

The Parsley Massacre; also referred to as El Corte (the cutting) by Dominicans and as Kouto-a (the knife) by Haitians; was a government-sponsored genocide in October 1937, at the direct order of Dominican President Rafael Trujillo who ordered the execution of the Haitian population living in the borderlands with Haiti. The violence resulted in the killing of 20,000 ethnic Haitian civilians during approximately five days.

Yet, Trujillo had no problem allowing up to 100,000 Jews to resettle on an abandoned banana plantation in Sosua in the Dominican Republic. Historians believe Trujillo’s motivation for this kind act was two-fold: It would distract the global powers from his massacre of Haitians; and it would be an opportunity to ‘whiten’ the Dominican race if Jews and Dominicans intermarried.

Trujillo’s gesture has been largely unknown outside Dominican and Jewish history until a group of Jewish and Dominican teenagers from New York City’s Washington Heights put on a musical about the Dominican rescue. However, it’s a film, Sosua: Make a Better World, about the making of the musical, that has inspired people to see how differences can be put aside and people can work together for a common goal.

In Washington Heights, Dominicans and Jews live side by side but don’t interact with one another. Coming together for the musical, forced these young people to set aside their bias of one another and learn who the other really is.

The film serves as a window through which the audience watches “a disparate group of young, untested, talented Dominican and Jewish kids who through dancing, singing, crying and creating theater together, form new bonds forged on old ties.”

The film is available on DVD and was recently acquired by the World Center for Holocaust Research, Education, Documentation and Commemoration, Yad Vashem, for its permanent visual library.