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Jewish immigration to Argentina from 1880 to 1920 has been described as a “downpour,” with the most significant period of immigration occurring just after the end of World War I. Argentina was one of the first Latin American nations to receive a large number of European Jewish immigrants, as Brazil, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic did not see notable entry until the mid-1920s and 1930s. Organizations such as the Jewish Colonization Association assisted Eastern European Jews in difficult economic situations with immigration to many countries, including Argentina. The European Jews that came to Argentina were incredibly diverse in both their political and religious beliefs, which ranged from secular to Orthodox. Many who arrived in this period were involved in socialist, communist, or Zionist political activism.

Atlas des colonies et domaines de la Jewish Colonization Association en Republique Argentine et au Bresil, 1914,
Atlas des colonies et domaines de la Jewish Colonization Association en Republique Argentine et au Bresil, 1914, Gift of the Gallery Educator Friends of the Museum, 2009.A.153.

The Blum family is one example of Eastern European Jews who immigrated to Argentina prior to World War II. Isaac Blum was born in Buenos Aires in 1922 to a Polish Jewish family.(Editor’s note: Isaac’s name was spelled Isak on his birth certificate.) His father, Shaya Henryk Blum, worked as a furrier, and his mother, Perla Blum, was a housewife. Isaac had two older siblings, Esther and Moshe Hersh.

In 1929, when he was 7 years old, his parents made the decision to move from Argentina to Tarnowskie Góry in southern Poland. The Jewish community in Tarnowskie Góry was small and Isaac had to learn Polish and German. He was attending vocational school in 1939 when the Nazis invaded Poland. The night of the invasion, he and his family fled to Proszowice in order to get further from the German/Polish border. They later went to Częstochowa to be with Isaac’s older sister and her children. Isaac met his future wife, Roza Gluck, in Częstochowa in 1940, as they lived in the same building.

It was at this time that Isaac attempted to get an Argentinian passport, writing to the Argentinian consulate in Berlin to state his case. The response from the consulate said that it appeared that Isaac was indeed eligible for such a passport, but that he would need to come to the consulate in Berlin to obtain it. Isaac sought special permission from the German authorities in Częstochowa to travel to Berlin, but was denied.

A ghetto was created in Częstochowa in April 1941 and inhabitants were forced to work producing armaments in HASAG factories. Częstochowa Ghetto was liquidated in September 1942, and about 40,000 people were deported to Treblinka. Isaac and Roza were among the 5,000-7,000 who were determined fit enough to continue working in the HASAG factory. What had been the larger Częstochowa Ghetto was condensed down to the “Small Ghetto.”

Częstochowa Ghetto, c. 1941.
Częstochowa Ghetto, c. 1941. Unknown photographer.

Isaac and Roza were married in the Small Ghetto in 1943. Concerned about how much longer they were going to survive, they wanted to be able to be together as much as possible, as housing was divided into single men, single women, and married couples. Roza came down with a high fever the day that they were to be married. Isaac suggested that they postpone the wedding, but Roza insisted that they get married that day anyway. She wore a black dress, coat, and kerchief on her head, all lent to her from friends in the Ghetto. In January 1945, the couple listened to the radio with a friend of theirs in secret, and heard from the BBC that the Russians were close to Częstochowa. They hid in the HASAG factory as the Nazis fled the city, emerging the next morning through the now open gates.

The HASAG factory building in Częstochowa, 1941-1943.
The HASAG factory building in Częstochowa, 1941-1943. Unknown photographer.

Out of their immediate family members who were in Europe, only Isaac and Roza survived. They spent some time at the Displaced Persons camp at Bad Gastein in Austria.

Certification for Rosa Blum as resident of Displaced Persons camp, 1946,
Certification for Rosa Blum as resident of Displaced Persons camp, 1946, Gift of Roza Blum, Yaffa Eliach Collection donated by the Center for Holocaust Studies, 5050.88.

Isaac was able to establish contact with his brother, who had remained in Argentina. He helped Isaac get a copy of his Argentinian birth certificate, which made it easier for Isaac to obtain a temporary passport from the Argentinian Consulate in Paris.

Certificate of Identity in Lieu of passport of Isak Blum, 1946
Certificate of Identity in Lieu of passport of Isak Blum, 1946, Gift of Isaac Blum, Yaffa Eliach Collection donated by the Center for Holocaust Studies, 5145.88.

Isaac was able to find refuge in his birth country of Argentina, where he had not been since he was 7 years old. He and Roza immigrated to Argentina in December 1946, where they would remain until 1963.