Eli Leon writes for Israel Hayom:
Files reveal Bolivian ‘tin baron’ saved 9,000 Jews from Nazis
Decomposing documents discovered among trash shed new light on history of previously vilified mining tycoon Mauricio Hochschild • Files show he made efforts to save as many Jews as possible, including paying out of his own pocket for travel and housing.
More than 50 after his death, the extraordinary story of Mauricio Hochschild, a German Jewish immigrant and mining magnate who helped thousands of Jews escape the Nazis in the late 1930s, has been revealed in documents recently found in La Paz, Bolivia.
The cache of decomposing files and photographs mixed with trash was found in a storage unit in the Bolivian capital, and details Hochschild’s prominent role in saving at least 9,000 lives. The documents show that in many cases Hochschild paid out of his own pocket for Jews to travel to Bolivia and for their initial residence there.
The discovery surprised many, as Hochschild had been previously vilified as a ruthless tycoon in the local mining industry.
“These papers are going to change many things in Bolivian history; the political ramifications are yet to come,” said Edgar Ramirez, the archive director of the Mining Corporation of Bolivia.
Hochschild was born in Biblis, western Germany, in 1881, and migrated to Bolivia in 1921. He made his fortune mostly from tin mining, and had an empire that stretched from Peru to Chile. Hochschild is known as one of Bolivia’s “tin barons,” and was an influential figure in political circles in the 1930s.
In 1938, he used his considerable political clout to persuade Bolivian President German Busch to issue special visas to Jews who were fleeing mounting Nazi persecution in Europe. He argued that they could contribute to the country’s workforce, particularly in agriculture.
Among the documents found was a letter from a kindergarten catering to Jewish children in La Paz asking for Hochschild’s help to expand the facility “in view of the number of children who are here and others who want to come.”
The papers show that Hochschild established two organizations directly relating to the aid effort: the Society for the Protection of Israeli Immigrants, dedicated to obtaining funds for Jewish families, and the Colonization Society of Bolivia, which managed an agricultural project in Nor Yungas, where he procured three estates to house Jewish immigrants.
Ramirez told Fox News that the old documents, which were found in rotting condition and in complete disarray, were revealed after a long process of organization and filing.
In the 1940s, the government enacted a law demanding additional taxes from mining corporations. Hochschild refused to comply and was sent to jail. After his release in 1944, he left Bolivia for the United States and never returned. He died in Paris in 1965.