Alaska: That Great Big Jewish Land

The 49th state was built by Jewish people, Jewish money and Jewish know-how. And although their numbers are small, Jews are still disproportionately prominent in commercial and public life.

In 1938, as the Nazis laid plans to annihilate European Jewry, a few desperate Jews dreamed of escaping to the other side of the world: Alaska. Joachim Hein, from Breslau, Germany, was one of many who wrote to the American Department of Interior for permission to immigrate to the vast northern territory with his wife, Anna, and daughter, Henny. “We shall in no way [be] a burden for the country,” he wrote in a letter now in the National Archives, “because we take our electric machines from here and furnish a manufacture in aprons and linen, like we have had here. But if this business is not agreeable to your Excellency, we are prepared to [do] every work.”

Interior Secretary Harold Ickes and a few others in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration liked the idea of resettling German Jews in Alaska. Despite the isolationist and anti-Jewish sentiments prevalent at the time, they proposed to establish “a haven for Jewish refugees from Germany and other areas in Europe where the Jews are subjected to oppressive restrictions.”


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