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Polish Refugees to Mexico in 1943
Introduction by Peter Landé
In 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland, many fled eastward only to find themselves under Soviet control. In 1941 after the German attack on the Soviet Union, there was another eastward human wave. The Soviet Union had no use for these refugees and collected them in camps with miserable conditions. The situation was even worse for those Polish military officers and men who fled eastward, as many were murdered by the Soviets at the infamous Katyn site.
However, in 1941 the situation changed with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Suddenly, Polish officers and men became useful. General Anders was released from prison and was allowed to assemble military units. Of course, the Soviets was careful not to employ them on the westward side where they might have illusions about the postwar situation. Instead, Jews and non-Jews were sent to Iran, with the soldiers, and then on to Palestine where they were trained by the British. These Polish units fought valiantly in Italy and there is even a book listing their casualties.
Anders had apparently insisted that family members be released and also sent southward to Iran, and then often southward. There are only partial lists of these people and many were reportedly sent on to Africa. However, at least two groups ended up in British India, one group in Karachi, the other in Bombay.
This would have been the end of the story except that General Sikorski, the leader of the Polish Government in exile in London, happened to make a visit to Washington and was allowed to meet with Roosevelt. I know of no record of that meeting but, whatever took place, an order went from the White House to military transport officials, in the middle of the war to send two ships and evacuate women and children (and a few men). And, so it happened in June 1943 that transport ships arrived in Bombay and Karachi and took these woman and children via, Australia, New Zealand, Bora Bora to Los Angeles.
There was, however, another problem. US authorities were unwilling to waive immigration restrictions and let these persons enter the country. So, trains were sent to the docks to transport them to Mexico, whose government was willing to accept them. (There is a report that the United States Government lent Sikorski $2 million dollars to pay for the facilities and maintenance of these refugees, but I have not been able to document this). In any case, the 1,500 were happily installed in Santa Rosa in central Mexico for the remainder of the war. Not surprisingly, there was human interest in these Polish women and children suddenly turning up in Mexico and there was considerable press coverage. At the end of the war the Polish Government urged their return to Poland, but, reportedly, few were willing to do so. A sad footnote to this otherwise happy story is that on the ships and in Santa Rosa the relatively few Jews were often treated badly by their fellow refugees. The Council of Jewish Women in Los Angeles and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee attempted to help them.
This database includes 1,481 records of Polish refugees that ultimately went to Mexico. The fields for this database are as follows:
The information contained in this database was indexed from the files of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Special thanks to Peter Landé who compiled the list.
In addition, thanks to JewishGen Inc. for providing the website and database expertise to make this database accessible. Special thanks to Avrami Groll, Warren Blatt and Michael Tobias for their continued contributions to Jewish genealogy. Particular thanks to Nolan Altman, Vice President of Data Acquisition and Coordinator of JewishGen’s Holocaust Database files.
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Last Update: 6 Mar 2019 by WSB