Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Dagmar Herzog

Subject Categories

History | Jewish Studies


Holocaust, Jewish, Joint Distribution Committee, Laura Margolis, Refugees, Shanghai


Traditionally, pre-modern Jewish communities sensed an obligation to bind together to provide aid to Jews who found themselves in catastrophic situations; however, with the advent of modernity and the dissolution of Jewish communal authority, the fragmentation of Jewish communities, and the unprecedented stresses of the Holocaust, communal dynamics grew far more complex. The Jews of Cuba and Shanghai were two small and relatively remote communities overwhelmed by Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. At their request, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee stepped in and provided both the funding and leadership that both of these locations so desperately needed.

The Jewish communities of Cuba and Shanghai provide an enlightening case study in Jewish communal dynamics in a time of catastrophe. The unrestrained menace of the Holocaust, rather than bringing these Jewish communities together to provide aid to those fleeing the Nazi terror, further fractured tenuous inter- and intra-communal relationships. Differences in national origin, religious observance, class, age and political views became more pronounced as communities fragmented, making it more difficult to provide the aid that was desperately needed. Yet in spite of their differences, the Jews who sought refuge in these remote locations managed eventually to create transitory communities united by thriving cultural, educational and literary pursuits. It is this complexity in Jewish communal interactions in Cuba and Shanghai during the Holocaust that will be explored in this study.