During World War II, if there had been no RAF Wing Commander Meyer Rassin, stationed in Nassau, to be in charge of the Royal Air Force Hospital, there would have been no Rassin Hospital later on.
If there had been no Rassin Hospital, founded in 1955, there would have been no Doctor’s Hospital today.
Dr. Meyer Rassin helped to shape the history of private health care in the Bahamas. It is then so very surprising that his application, to continue to practice medicine, in the Bahamas, after the war had ended, was refused by the House of Assembly sometime between late 1945 and early January 1946.
Rassin’s application, many surmised at the time, was refused on the grounds of racism. This is what many suspected as the Government, in 1946, could give no clear explanation, why a much needed doctor from England, was refused a work permit.
Was a much needed surgeon’s application to live and work in the Bahamas, refused, simply because he was Jewish?
(Photo of Dr. Meyer Rassin and Mrs. Rassin courtesy of Doctor’s Hospital website)
The Plight of the Jews
The plight of the Jews of Europe, after World War II, was no easy road. The liberation of the concentration camps of Germany, and the uncovering of the full extent of the Holocaust, left the world stunned, but not entirely sympathetic. Anti-semitism was rife.
Many places in the world were reluctant in offering asylum. Even before World War II began, as Jews tried to escape the growing menace that was the Nazi regime, refugees desperately seeking shelter, in safe countries, faced enormous obstacles of prejudice.
(The Star News, Wednesday, July 17, 1940)
In late 1938, some 125,000 applicants lined up outside US consulates hoping to obtain just 27,000 visas offered under the existing immigration quota. By June 1939, the number of Jewish applicants for US visas had increased to over 300,000. Most visa applicants were unsuccessful.
At the Evian Conference in July 1938, only the Caribbean country of the Dominican Republic stated that it was prepared to admit significant numbers of refugees. Bolivia would admit around 30,000 Jewish immigrants between 1938 and 1941.
1946 – Dr. Meyer Rassin’s Application To Remain In Bahamas After World War II Refused – The Tribune Wanted To Know Why!
Meyer Rassin had only been in the Bahamas for the duration of the war. Few battle casualties passed through the islands, so Rassin was assigned to general medical duties where needed.
Seeing the opportunity and the need for more local doctors, Meyer Rassin applied. It is not known when he would have received the refusal letter from The Bahamas Government, but Meyer left the Bahamas on 1945, just a few months after the official end of hostilities in Europe.
By January 1946, as questions began to asked why this promising young surgeon would not be returning, the Tribune, took the issue of Dr. Meyer Rassin to the front page of its daily paper.
Anti-Semitism wasn’t really in the local island vernacular in the 1940s. Yet it seemed to many, to have played a role in governmental affairs.
Governor, the Duke of Windsor, was sent packing to the Bahamas, for the head position, primarily because of his, and Wallis Simpson’s seemingly too close for comfort relationship, with top Nazi, Adolph Hitler. Many erroneously think that it was because of his marriage to Wallis Simpson why he was sent to the Bahamas. This is not true in the slightest. The Duke of Windsor had abdicated his high position on 11 December 1936, almost four years before coming to the Bahamas. Windsor’s tenure as governor of The Bahamas lasted from 8th August 1940 to May 2, 1945.
The reason for this move was purely political. And if the now Bahamas Governor, the Duke of Windsor, in 1940 had German sympathies, did he also share Germany’s attitude towards the Jews?
“When his father George V died in January 1936 Edward started meddling in government policy.
He took to calling the German ambassador directly – a clear breach of constitutional protocol.
When Hitler made it clear he meant to send his forces back into the demilitarised Rhineland, the British government expressed opposition and Edward should have stepped back.
Instead he threatened to abdicate if Hitler’s advance was stopped, even phoning the German ambassador to tell him he had done so. “
Meyer Rassin came to the Bahamas sometime in 1942 as R. A. F. field doctor.
Dr. Barry Rassin, son of Dr. Meyer Rassin, recalls that the family left Nassau and returned in 1947:
“Barry Rassin always felt he was supposed to go into medicine. It was his heritage. His father, Meyer, a notoriously brusque orthopedic surgeon, had arrived in the Bahamas from England during World War II to oversee the medical care of the Royal Air Force troops there. Except for some submarine activity, the Bahamas was outside the theater of war. Nassau’s Oakes and Windsor fields provided flight training for would-be RAF pilots destined to return to the fighting over Europe.
With little in the way of military medicine to occupy him, Dr. Rassin spent time ministering to local residents, including treating people with leprosy who had been exiled from society. This work endeared him to the populace. After the war, he returned to England, but in 1947, a few weeks after the birth of his son Barry, Rassin père returned with his family to Nassau to work in the government hospital. In 1955, he and his wife, Rosetta, a surgical nurse, opened Rassin Hospital to better serve their patients.”
Did orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Meyer Rassin have to leave the Bahamas because the House of Assembly refused his application?
Did the House of Assembly only change its mind after public pressure, and negative press by the Tribune newspaper, highlighting that the only reason a much needed doctor like Rassin’s application was refused, was because, he was Jewish?
“The House of Assembly will meet on Monday evening when Mr. Braynen will ask further questions about the refusal by the Government of a licence to Squadron Leader Dr Rassin, R. A. F. to practice medicine in the Colony.
People who are against Dr Rassin coming here say that the Government’s decision was taken with good reason—but the reason has not been revealed.
People who are for Dr. Rassin coming here to declare that the decision is based on racial prejudice—Dr. Rassin is a Jew—- and that it is indicated by selfishness without regard for the needs of the community.
We don’t know Dr Rassin—- we’ve never seen the man—- but the whole position is too incredible to believe.
One’s intelligence suggests that Government must have had a mighty good reason to turn down the application of a man in uniform—- the hero soldier, the saviour of his country, the martyr to freedom’s cause—- and so on, and so forth.
If the Government has a good reason—- which we firmly believe it must have—– then the sooner the public is told the truth the better.
Government in this colony is always getting into trouble with the public because it takes the attitude that the public business is not the business of the public. Government is merely an offshoot of the public and, as such, nothing should be kept from the public when the public wants to know.
And the public, apparently, wants to know all about this affair.
We hope for the sake of all concerned, the Government will be able to justify its position.”
(The Nassau Daily Tribune, Saturday, January 26, 1946)
JEWS IN THE BAHAMAS
By 1970, there were no more than 50 Jewish families, in the Bahamas, out of a population of 100,000. One black Bahamian lady, a straw vendor, Mrs. Margaret Johnson, was one of 25 active members of the Nassau Hebrew Congregation.
(The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, September 25, 1970)
Dr. Meyer Rassin, M. B., F. R. C. S. Born 13 March 1909 in Riga, Latvia
Family emigrated to Great Britain shortly after he was born.
Became Naturalised British Citizen
Dies 1989 in Nassau, Bahamas
Buried in the Jewish Cemetery, Nassau, Bahamas