Sunday, April 27, 2014

How the Shoah affected N. African Jews

Libyan Jews returning from Bergen Belsen camp

Tonight is the start of Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. Awareness is growing that the Holocaust not only affected European Jews, but also communities in North Africa. If they were largely spared, it is because the Nazis ran out of time.
Here is a detailed account of the impact of the Holocaust on North African Jews on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

The Jews of North Africa were relatively fortunate because their distance from German concentration camps in central and eastern Europe permitted them to avoid the fate of their coreligionists in Europe. They were also fortunate not to have had to live under German rule. The Germans never occupied Morocco or Algeria. Though they briefly occupied Tunisia from November 1942, after the Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria, until May 1943, the Germans never had the time or the resources to subject Tunisian Jews systematically to the measures implemented in areas under direct German rule in Europe.
Nonetheless, attacks on Jews and Jewish property by local European antisemites and native Muslims, which had taken place before the war in all three countries (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia), continued unhindered by the Vichy authorities.
Even before World War II, the French government had set up internment camps in the French Pyrénées region to hold Spanish Republicans who had fought against Franco's fascist rebels in the Spanish Civil War, persons suspected or convicted of political crimes, and Jewish refugees who had sought refuge from Nazi Germany in France.
After the armistice with Germany was signed, Vichy authorities sent foreigners (including Jews) who had volunteered for and fought in the French army against the Germans in 1940 and foreign Jewish refugees to work camps in Algeria and Morocco. Upon their arrival, the Jewish refugees received aid from local Jewish committees, as well as from the Joint Distribution Committee and the HICEM, an international Jewish migration organization. These organizations also tried to obtain visas and organize travel to the United States for the refugees.
The Vichy administration sent other Jewish refugees to camps in southern Morocco and Algeria to work as forced laborers on the pan-Saharan railroad line. There were approximately thirty camps, including Hadjerat M'Guil and Bou-Arfa in Morocco and Berrouaghia, Djelfa, and Bedeau in Algeria. Conditions were extremely harsh for the over 4,000 Jewish labor conscripts working on the railroad.


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

The article reproduced on PoNR does not mention that the Vichy anti-Jewish laws were imposed in Algeria, and in apparently milder form in Morocco and Tunisia. However, the same author, Sarah Sussman, has another article on the Holocaust Museum website which does discuss application of the Vichy anti-Jewish laws in the French territories.

What she does not discuss, and this does not surprise me, although she may regret not being in a position to do so, is the refusal of Pres Roosevelt to have the Vichy anti-Jewish laws cancelled or to help the Jews imprisoned in Algeria for being Jews or crossing the regime, such as Jose Aboulker, the main leader of the coup d'etat in Algiers, who was jailed after the American landing.

It is one thing in America to talk about the Holocaust but it is another to blame the USA itself for inaction or refusal to help the Jews. Especially one must not blame the Liberal Saint FDR for his inhumanity to Jews. Rafi Medoff wrote about FDR's callousness to the Algerian Jews after the US takeover in Algiers, and PoNR has reproduced that article in part. When Jan Karski, a representative of the Polish underground, a non-Jew [author of The Story of a Secret State], came to the White House and told FDR about the death camps in Poland, FDR became rather cold to the whole matter of Jews. Karski's important book is now being published in Israel for the first time. As I said, FDR has this sacrosanct status among many American Liberals --including Jewish leaders-- and cannot be put in a bad light.

BTW, Gitta Amipaz-Silber who wrote a book about the Algiers insurrection (available in Hebrew, French & English), told me that she came from Belgium and found refuge in Morocco during the war and the Jews there were very kind to her. She later came to Israel and served in the Foreign Ministry.

Anonymous said...

YES IT IS TIME TO MAKE THIS KNOWN! No one will do it for us; (when you want a thing well done do it yourself

Anonymous said...

on this yom ha shoah, I think of all those who were slaugtered and my heart bleeds for them!