Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana


In 1941 it was almost impossible to escape the horrors of Hitler’s regime. This was the year when fourteen year-old Marion Finkels joined the thousands of Jewish refugees desperate to flee Nazi-Occupied Europe. With her family, she escaped by ship across the Atlantic Ocean to one of the few countries open to them: Cuba.

In Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana, Marion and other survivors reveal a little-known story in Jewish-Cuban history where diamonds become the currency that sustains them and merges two distinctly different cultures. On this small island, the refugees initiate a diamond polishing industry and build it to rapid success. Marion foregoes school and works as a diamond polisher to help support her family. In the factories, women work beside men, Jews beside Cubans. Refugee children grow up safe in a world far from war-ravaged Europe, but they are still marginalized.

When WWII ends, most of the refugees leave Cuba, returning to Europe or migrating to the U.S., and the Cuban diamond industry disappears almost without a trace. Yet its influence trickles down through current generations.

Filmmakers Judy Kreith and Robin Truesdale merge interviews, photos, passages from a memoir, and a teen’s diary to illustrate this story of perseverance. It reveals a fusion of cultures and customs with rhythm and fluidity as the refugees navigate their new lives influenced by the lifestyle and motion of Cuba.


About the Filmmakers


Judy Kreith is a professional dance educator and choreographer. She received her MA Degree from Stanford University. Her mother, Marion Finkels Kreith, is the key inspiration for this film. Judy has extensively studied Cuban dance and while in Cuba, began research into the Jewish refugees’ diamond polishing industry that flourished in Havana during the Second World War, working on-site with Cuban historians. Judy contributes her extensive research and knowledge, along with her personal connection and passion for this project and its potential impact. She has spoken on this topic to many groups, including a recent conference at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.


Robin Truesdale is a documentary filmmaker and the founder of Two Hands Films. She has directed, produced, and edited films that have screened at festivals and conferences worldwide, including A Beautiful Equation: Einstein, Bohr and Grandmothers, a 2015 Platinum Remi Award winner. Robin began her career as a news editor for a Denver television station. After years of constructing news and educational stories through video, she was introduced to documentary film’s powerful potential to communicate deeper stories about people, cultures, and issues of the times. Her work deals primarily with social justice, cultural, and humanitarian issues. Robin received her MS Degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado.

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