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Het Saramacca project. Een plan van Joodse kolonisatie in Suriname

25 November 2010

PhD ceremony: Mr. A. Heldring, 14.45 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Thesis: Het Saramacca project. Een plan van Joodse kolonisatie in Suriname

Promotor(s): prof. D.F.J. Bosscher

Faculty: Arts


From 1946 until mid-1948, an American-Jewish organization called the Freeland League negotiated with Dutch and Surinamese authorities about the possible resettlement of Jewish displaced persons from Central and Eastern Europe in Surinam. The displaced persons would become Surinamese nationals while simultaneously retaining their own Jewish culture and Yiddish language as much as possible. For the Freeland League, Palestine was not an immediate option because, unlike the Zionists, it did not aspire towards creating an independent Jewish state.

At the end of June 1947, the Surinamese parliament agreed in principle to admit 30,000 Jewish immigrants in Surinam. They would settle in the Saramacca District, west of Paramaribo. There was much opposition from the Zionist side. As long as Palestine was under British Mandate and the British impeded mass Jewish immigration from Europe, Surinam might well serve as an acceptable alternative for a sanctuary for Jewish displaced persons. Also the Creole National Party of Suriname (NPS) was opposed to the plan. The NPS was afraid of possible political and economic dominance by the Jewish immigrants. After an initial positive attitude, the Dutch government decided that the project should not be implemented. The government feared that among the Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, there would be many "communist infiltrators". Shortly after the founding of Israel (May 1948) and under Dutch pressure, the Surinam parliament decided ’to suspend’ the negotiations regarding the Jewish immigration. In effect this meant ‘to discontinue’ them. Until early 1956, the Freeland League attempted to resume the negotiations, but to no avail.

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