According to academic Eric T. Jennings, the route to Martinique was initially encouraged by the Foreign Ministry of the collaborationist government of German-occupied France, known as Vichy. The ministry was eager to expel refugees, especially Jewish refugees. Jennings describes it as a policy “in the face of Janus”, “alternating humanitarian and xenophobic imperatives”. In the grim realities of war, the anti-Semitism of the expulsion saved some from the anti-Semitism of the extermination.
But while the Foreign Ministry wanted to get rid of more people, the Vichy Colonial Ministry did not want more refugees to be “dropped” on them. They feared that the German and Austrian anti-Nazis, Spanish Republicans and Jews would mix with the black population of Martinique and find common ground to oppose the Nazis. In the worst case, this would lead to anti-colonial synergies.
The luckiest refugees would continue on their way to North, Central and South America, wherever they had obtained visas. Anna Seghers and her family rebounded in the Caribbean before heading to New York, where they were denied entry. they eventually found refuge in Mexico. Others, however, would languish in camps in Martinique, some until the island was taken by Free French forces on July 14, 1943.
The route to Martinique was closed by the Allies in the summer of 1941. The British and Americans wanted to stop shipping at Vichy for two reasons. They feared that Nazi spies, “fifth chroniclers” and other “undesirables” would use French ships to infiltrate the Western Hemisphere. They also didn’t want boats full of Caribbean supplies dating back to the Nazis.
Although not officially at war until December 1941, the United States worked with the British to sever “all maritime, commercial and even postal links between the French Caribbean and the metropolis. [France]In the summer of 1941, according to Jennings. The thousands of people still waiting for help in Marseille were collateral damage, left to the mercy of the Gestapo and the Vichy police.
The last refugee ship to leave Marseille was the Arica late May 1941.
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