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MEMORY OF THE WORLD REGISTER

Collection of the Center of Documentation and Investigation of the

Ashkenazi Community in Mexico (16th to 20th Century)

(Mexico)

 Ref N° 2008-11

PART A

1.- SUMMARY

The Center of Documentation and Investigation of the Ashkenazi Community of Mexico keeps, preserves and disseminates the Ashkenazi culture, the culture of the Jewish people that was on the verge of disappearing during the Nazi era. It also safeguards the historic memory of the Jewish minority in Mexico that arrived from Central and Eastern Europe.

Introduction.

From the end of the 19th century the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe decided to emigrate towards America so as to find better living conditions. At that moment, large groups of Jews cut their ties to the lands in which they had developed a way of life, a language (Yiddish) and a manner of being: the Ashkenazi.

Their former life ended violently and forever. At first, because of the pogroms unleashed by the Cossacks and Ukrainians, at the dawn of the 20th century by the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, but mostly from the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 30s that led to the loss of six million people and thus to the disappearance of the Jewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe.

At that moment, the Ashkenazi culture was threatened with extinction once the study centers and places for creating culture were wiped out during the Second World War. The few survivors of the Holocaust bore upon their shoulders the difficult task of rescuing themselves and their Jewish identity that had been so heavily menaced during the six years of war, the ghettos and the concentration and extermination camps. The responsibility for rescuing that culture fell on the shoulders of the Latin American communities that took over the job of safeguarding the culture of their ancestors.

When the religious and cultural centers disappeared because of the Holocaust, there was only a remnant of material which was rescued by the Allied Army in 1945 in the city of Offenbach, Germany. Thousand of books that had been confiscated by the Nazis had been stored there. Returning them to their original libraries was out of question because their caretakers had all been killed. It was decided to resort to the already established Jewish communities in Latin America and Mexico was one of the depositories that received 1,000 of those books rescued by the Allies which were lodged at the library of the Ashkenazi community.

Immigration to Mexico.

     Immigration to the New World had begun from the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. The most important treasures brought by those immigrants were their most valuable books, many of which would later disappear in the ashes of the Holocaust.

The migratory flow swerved towards Latin America due to the quotas that were instituted in the United States beginning in 1921. During the war, the doors into the United States were closed off to refugees, as happened in most of the Latin American countries as well.

Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela and Costa Rica were among the countries that attracted the first immigrants in the 20th century. People of Ashkenazi origin arrived in these areas looking foremost for a place to survive economically and to continue with their Jewish identity, culture and traditions.

Thus, in the first two decades of the last century, Jews coming from countries such as Russia, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and France settled in Mexico. Their store of knowledge was very important since most of them were familiar with their own culture and

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