Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Maghreb Jews survived Holocaust too

 Libyan Jews who survived deportation to Bergen Belsen

After decades of suppression, it is becoming more acceptable to acknowledge that Jews in Arab countries suffered persecution, internment and even extermination. The stories of those who survived the Holocaust of World War 11 in North Africa are slowly coming to light, writes Eli Hazan in Israel Hayom. But is it enough?

For most Israelis, the words "Holocaust," "concentration camp" and "extermination" refer solely to what happened to the Jews of Europe.
This was the general perspective among academics too, until recently. A shift began a few years ago, although only time will tell whether this will become fundamental and slowly integrate new stories into the existing canon of Holocaust literature.

The new stories cover persecution, murder, extermination and the internment of Jews from mostly North African countries during World War II. Author Yossi Sucary's recently released book, "Benghazi Bergen-Belsen," a collection of stories recounted by Jewish victims of Holocaust policy in Libya, is an important compilation that joins the research and publications that seek to completely change the fundamental way in which we remember the Holocaust. Other examples of such literature include Robert Satloff's "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands," and Martin Gilbert's anthology, "In Ishmael's House: A History of the Jews in Muslim Lands," which covers several generations of Jews living in the lands of Islam and devotes a significant chapter to the hardships suffered by the Jews of North Africa during World War II. 

This shift could be added to a list of changes. Indeed, it took the state until its second decade to pass a law legislating a remembrance day for Holocaust victims and survivors. Unforgettably, during the state's first few years of existence, the Zionist founders, especially David Ben-Gurion, found identification with the Holocaust problematic because it did not serve the Zionist ethos they were seeking to promote. This was why Holocaust survivors from Europe encountered a wall of silence, a wall which also silenced their horrible stories -- stories whose significance was only minimally discovered by Israelis during the Kastner and Eichmann trials. 

Even so, during the nearly six decades that followed, it was still not acceptable to mention that labor camps were also built for the Jews of North Africa while extermination and concentration camps in Europe were underway. Survivors from these camps, Jews from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, the grandfathers and grandmothers of young Israelis, had to keep their histories to themselves, resulting in the gradual, cross-generational discovery of their pasts.
At first, Holocaust survivors from Europe had to keep their suffering to themselves. Only two decades later did their stories become acceptable and proper to remember. Meanwhile, the survivors of camps in North Africa continued to withhold their own secrets. Currently, in an increasingly pluralistic country, the stories of these other survivors are also becoming acceptable.

Read article in full


Anonymous said...

111All things considered, Egypt was not so bad!
We have to ackowledge that at least.
No Egyptian Jews fed the Nazi torture chambers but let us also acknowledge the fact that we were under the British mandate and unlike Italy with the fat Mussolini did not deliver its Jews to the gas chambers!

Anonymous said...

It wasn't for at least some Egyptians wanting, though Sultana, as the Muslim Brotherhood were pretty active supporters of the Nazis.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the brothers were there waiting for the right moment. But can we say they are worse than the nazis?

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

There were some Egyptian Jews in Germany before the war who got stuck there. However, the British let them be exchanged, with a number of Brit subjects, for German prisoners of the British, such as the Templars who had settled in Israel.

Yet, haj amin el-husseini scolded the Germans for letting these Jews escape the death machine.

Anonymous said...

What I conclude is that we Jews are like feathers in the wind! Depending on every goodwilling country to save us.
Therefore I stand by Israel and will always do that.

Sylvia said...

One of the most shrill opponents of recognition of Tunisian Jews as survivors was Tommy Lapid. I might have said that already - I am still shocked thinking about it - but I heard him say about them on TV that ""they" want to jump on the Holocaust bandwagon".
Tunisian survivors finally received heir reparation money, too late for many of them.

Anonymous said...

I am disturbed by this idea that Israel only discovered the Holocaust with the Kastner Trial and Eichman trial.
It's a myth IMO, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was made up by some annoying left wing history professor.
My Mother says that she clearly remembers the family welcoming her survivor aunt when she got to Israel after it's establishment. She grew up in the 1940's and 50's and remembers no ill feelings or suppression towards survivors. Perhaps the subject wasn't blazed on the media as much because the first 10 years of Israel's existance was spent trying to survive wars and tzena shortages.

In any case, Kastner's trial only started less than 9 years after the state of Israel's independance.
I'm ashkenzy BTW, but enjoy your blog.

bataween said...

You are welcome to my blog and all are welcome, even Ashkenazim! :)