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Nearly the New World: The British West Indies and the Flight from Nazism, 1933–1945

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Nearly the New World

The British West Indies and the Flight from Nazism, 1933–1945

Joanna Newman

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320 pages, 27 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-333-2 25% OFF! $150.00/£107.00 $112.50/£80.25 Hb Published (September 2019)

ISBN  978-1-78920-649-4 25% OFF! $34.95/£24.00 $26.21/£18.00 Pb Published (September 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78920-334-9 eBook

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Nearly the New World is a richly researched book that addresses a key gap in the historiography of World War II—the forced migration of Jewish refugees to the British West Indies. It is a timely work that will make an invaluable contribution to the scholarly literature on Jewish refugees from the Nazis, Jews in colonial spaces, and the Jewish Caribbean in particular.” • Sarah Phillips Casteel, Carleton University

“Joanna Newman’s Nearly the New World is a remarkable achievement. It is the first full study of Jewish refugee movements to the British Caribbean and for that alone it is of immense value. But the significance of this book is much greater. In the field of Holocaust studies it acts as a model, bringing together perspectives from the British imperial government, Jewish refugee organisations, local responses and the experiences of the refugees themselves. It is also a wonderful example of a historian creatively curating sources, ranging from Colonial Office minutes through to the rich resource of Trinidadian calypsos, to explore the history and memory of this neglected topic. For those in refugee studies it is also an important intervention, with the persecuted at the forefront of her study. The author makes clear the connections between the refugees at sea in the Nazi era to find a place of safety and those on migrant boats today. This is a compelling story, beautifully told.” • Professor Tony Kushner, Parkes Institute, University of Southampton and author of Journeys from the Abyss: The Holocaust and Forced Migration from the 1880s to the present (2017).

“This book offers an unusual angle of vision on the tragic history of Jews in flight from Europe before and during the Second World War. Joanna Newman shows how British officials and West Indians as well as refugees themselves reacted to the forced emigration of victims of Nazi oppression. She tracks the miserable record of the colonial bureaucracy through a multitude of archives. For the first time, she exposes the scandal of deliberate under-utilization of available refugee camp facilities in Jamaica during the war. Throughout, she injects a human dimension with evidence from letters, memoirs, and interviews. We learn how Jews disembarking in the West Indies were greeted with calypsos, some expressing sympathy at their plight, others resentment at their uninvited arrival. Admirably researched, deeply thoughtful, and wonderfully readable, this book has a vital message for the worldwide humanitarian crisis of our own time, as a new generation of asylum seekers knocks desperately at our doors.” • Bernard Wasserstein, University of Chicago


In the years leading up to the Second World War, increasingly desperate European Jews looked to far-flung destinations such as Barbados, Trinidad, and Jamaica in search of refuge from the horrors of Hitler’s Europe. Nearly the New World tells the extraordinary story of Jewish refugees who overcame persecution and sought safety in the West Indies from the 1930s through the end of the war. At the same time, it gives an unsparing account of the xenophobia and bureaucratic infighting that nearly prevented their rescue—and that helped to seal the fate of countless other European Jews for whom escape was never an option.

Joanna Newman is Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities ( and a Senior Research Fellow in the history department at King’s College London. She was Vice Principal (International) at King’s College London and a Commonwealth Trust Commissioner and was awarded an MBE for services to British higher education in 2014. She is a regular speaker on issues relating to higher education and internationalization.

Subject: Jewish Studies Genocide Studies WWII History
Area: Europe


List of Illustrations


Chapter 1. The Contextual Drivers: The British West Indies, the Colonial Office and Jewish Refugee Organisations


Chapter 2. Jews Seeking Refuge, 1933–1938
Chapter 3. Panic Migration: The British West Indies And The Refugee Crisis Of 1938/39


Chapter 4. Boat People
Chapter 5. Internment, Camps and Missed Opportunities


Select Bibliography

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