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Cuba Offered RefugeFrom Nazi Europe

November 10, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 45

I read with interest the C&EN Talks With Hessy Taft (Sept. 8, page 30). As a child, Taft escaped Nazi Europe and lived for seven years in Cuba before immigrating to the U.S. in 1949. She became a chemist and ultimately a professor at St. John’s University.

I have known Hessy for several years as a result of her interactions with Latin American chemists and promotion of chemistry in the region. I do not recall her mentioning her childhood in Cuba. I attribute her generous disposition to her welcome and safety in Latin America at a time when even the U.S. closed its shores to Jewish escapees from Nazi Europe.

Similar feelings of gratitude as well as professional and personal success stories can be found from other Jewish escapees from Nazi Europe who spent many years in Cuba. These include George Rosenkranz (one of the founders of Syntex, which developed numerous steroidal drugs including the first combined oral contraceptive pill) and Ernest Eliel (former ACS president and chair of the ACS Board of Directors and a Priestley Medalist).

Eliel also was a founding member and president of the U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Science and participated in many activities to improve chemistry and chemical education in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Eusebio Juaristi
Mexico City


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