Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How Jews helped Yanks liberate Algiers in 1942

 Panoramic view of Algiers

It is 70 years since Operation Torch - the Allied invasion - began the liberation of North Africa from the Nazis and their collaborators. Point of No Return flagged an article by David B Green in Haaretz on the subject. But our knowledgeable commenter Eliyahu points out that the US liberation of Algeria would not have gone so smoothly, and certainly not without loss of life, had the  Algerian underground,  85% Jewish, not paved the way for their arrival by taking over key strategic points.  David Green's article makes no mention of this fact:

Eliyahu writes:

This article by David Green is OK as far as it goes. But it is woefully incomplete, probably through no fault of the author. In fact, a group of Algerian Jews in the Resistance did a great deal to help Operation Torch succeed. Whereas more than 500 American soldiers died in the landing at Casablanca, none died landing at Algiers because in Algiers the Underground, about 85% Jewish, made a coup d'etat, taking over the sensitive nodes of political/military control in Algiers, the capital of French North Africa, on the eve of the US landing and in coordination with it. This story is missing in most American accounts of WW2 and the war in the Mediterranean, but I can say about the Algiers Underground what Churchill said about the RAF in the Battle of Britain. Seldom have so few saved so many.

The ingratitude of official US institutions and personalities is striking. Official US Army accounts of the war omit mention of help for the US by natives in North Africa but for one book that mentions the Algiers uprising in a few lines without any mention that most were Jews. The US consul in Algiers at the time [the US was not at war with Vichy], Robert Murphy, worked with the Underground up to a point and supplied one rifle or carbine to the resistance fighters [General Mark Clark had supplied another]. Yet in his book of memoirs, Diplomat Among Warriors, Murphy only fuzzily alludes to the resistance, again without mentioning that they were mostly Jews. Moreover, he refused to help Jose Aboulker who was arrested and jailed by the dissident Vichyites who took over Algeria under American sponsorship after the landing. This is part of the background of Rafael Medoff's account which also overlooks the Underground [Knowing Rafi, I assume that he just didn't know of it, omitted as it is from American accounts of the war].

Here are sources on the events in English, French and Hebrew:
Gita Amipaz-Silber, La Resistance juive en Algerie, 1940-1942 [Jerusalem: Rubin Mass 1986]
--(same author in Hebrew)-- מחתרת יהודית באלג'ריה- 1940-1942
[Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publishing House 1983]
--(there is also an English translation. I don't know the title)
--Elliot A Green, "Jewish Anti-Nazi Resistance in Wartime Algeria" in Midstream (New York, January 1989)
--also see articles by David Corcos in Encyclopedia Judaica about Algiers and Algeria.

-- Leon Poliakov writes about the Algiers Underground in his article about the Jews in France [including North Africa] during the Shoah in the Yiddish-language Algemeyner Entsiklopedya, Series "Yidn," vol. zayin, pp 188-191. Poliakov stresses the importance of the Algiers Underground to the success of the Allied landing, that is, the success of Operation Torch. Poliakov thinks that the landing would have ended in catastrophe if not for the Algiers Underground. All things considered, gratitude for the Underground's accomplishment has been less than deserved in France and almost non-existent in America, judging by later publications.


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Here's a favorable account of Jose Aboulker as leader of the coup d'etat in practice. Published in the American periodical Colliers Weekly. It's from 1945 and does not change my previously stated conclusion. How often was the episode referred to after 1945?

Another account of the events:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

another account:

Sultana Vidal said...

We were saved by the Brits in the first place. Then followed by the 'yanks' as you say.
But had it not been for the victory of Mongomery at El Alamein,  that was in 1942 and Montgomery battled the Nazis at El Alamein.
Every day there were raids and we had to rush to the shelters, a horrendous place where we all gathered and waited.
My mother was heavily pregnant about to give birth.
Later it was the Yanks as you called them who who saved my newlyborn sister from death with the Pennicilin they had at their disposal.
For the rest of the war, I got to love these American guys who gave me chocolate and whi shared parcels received from home;
Well maybe all this is out of context but you brought this back to memory.
Gosh i must be terribly old!
suzy vidal

folon23 said...

and at the same time my arab father was beaten by the french colonial army.