Cooper-Clark’s nonfiction debut tells the story of two camps in Kingston, Jamaica, where Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe were interned during World War II.
In careful, meticulous detail, Cooper-Clark looks at Gibraltar Camp II and Up Park Camp and refugees’ experiences there—a tale that’s largely unknown even to some WWII history buffs. Using a wide array of primary sources, the author reconstitutes the tales of dozens of Jewish refugees, many of whom only reached the comparative safety of Jamaica after long and harrowing flights from their homelands and dangerous border crossings on their way to Lisbon, known as “the refugee capital of Europe.” In addition to tracing the life stories of individual inmates and their families, the author also outlines the history of Jewish life in Jamaica before the war and renders with precision and narrative flair the complete story of the camps’ existence. “The skeins of history that link the British, the Jewish refugees, and Gibraltar Camp II require disentanglement,” she writes at one point, and this well-organized tome, generously illustrated with photographs, accomplishes this, laying vital groundwork for all future studies of the subject while also making for engaging reading. The stories of the refugees’ flights are, predictably enough, the most gripping parts of the narrative, depicting desperate families hastily grabbing whatever possessions they could before fleeing into unknown futures. The drama of these stories is heightened by Cooper-Clark’s abundant use of immediate, firsthand oral histories. Overall, these testimonies bring the difficult life in the camps into clearer focus.
A highly detailed and readable exploration of war stories that other histories largely overlook.