The first group of Jews in Trinidad arrived in 1783 with the Cedula of Population, when Trinidad —an underpopulated Spanish colony— opened its borders to Europeans.
The second group came in when African enslavement was abolished in 1838.
The third wave of Jewish immigration occurred during and after World War II when European Jews were fleeing the the Nazis. Many of them held German and Austrian passports.
During WWII many of the Jewish families were interned in camps, considered as new “enemy aliens.” In 1943, the Jews were freed but with certain wartime restrictions.
About 600 Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe ended up in Trinidad as they sought sanctuary from persecution and violence. Several thousand Jewish refugees came by boat to Caribbean islands, including Barbados and Jamaica, in the run-up to and during the second world war.
British colonies in the Caribbean, such as Trinidad, had no visa requirements, merely charging a landing deposit. The Jews, many of whom had professional qualifications, arrived penniless but willing to adapt to a new life, helped by modest grants from refugee agencies to start new businesses.
At the turn of the 20th century, however, there were just 31 Jews in Trinidad, most of English origin.
Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on January 27 to mark the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, the largest of the Nazi death camps. It commemorates the victims of the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities between 1933 and 1945 by Nazi Germany.
- Dominic Kalipersad.