Monday, November 12, 2012

Operation Torch freed the Jews 70 years ago


The restored buildings of the European quarter of Casablanca (Photo: AP)

Seventy years ago almost to the day,  the Allied invasion - Operation
 Torch - saved North African Jewry from the Nazis.  The Jews of Casablanca
 declared 2 Kislev (11th November) the Hitler Purim, the anniversary of
 their deliverance, and commissioned the writing of a  scroll or Megilla
David B Green continues his 'On this day' series in Haaretz 
(with thanks: Lily):

France’s colonies in North Africa – Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria – had come under indirect German control, via the Vichy regime after the occupation of France in 1940 (Wrong - Tunisia had come under direct German control for six months - ed). (...) 

“Megillat Hitler” is today on display at Washington, D.C.’s U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Written in Hebrew, its text mimics the language of the original Scroll of Esther, as it describes the rise of “Hitler the painter,” who rose to become the ruler of all of Germany, and who decided, on the advice of his chamberlain Himmler, to destroy the Jews.

The author of the scroll, P. Hasine, a Hebrew teacher from Casablanca, tells how Hitler’s plan to deport the Jews of North Africa was foiled at the last minute by the decision of President Roosevelt, “who could not sleep,” and so “commanded that these states be rescued and given protection.” Thus the feelings of the Jews “went from mourning into happiness because the Americans established their rule.” The scroll declares that every year, on the 11th of November, “we are obligated to establish this day of rescue,” a “fixed and grand festival.”

Unfortunately, as historian Rafael Medoff has noted, the Allied liberation of North Africa in 1942 was not absolute. Despite despite the promises of President Roosevelt, and although the deportation of the Jews had been averted, the anti-Jewish measures that had been in place in places under Vichy control were not automatically canceled.

Specifically, the 1940 decision of Vichy France to cancel the application of the Cremieux Decree, by which Algerian Jews were offered full French citizenship, was not reversed. Not only did thousands of Jews continue to languish in forced-labor camps, but the Roosevelt administration, according to Medoff’s research, was loath to restore full rights to the Jews of North Africa for fear of stirring up the local Arab populations. General George Patton even warned General Eisenhower, supreme Allied commander in Europe, that steps taken to “favor the Jews” could “precipitate trouble and possibly civil war.”

Pressure from Jewish organizations in the U.S. mounted on the administration to insist on the elimination of French racial laws, but it was only in April 1943 that the labor camps were shut down, in May that Tunisia’s anti-Jewish racial laws abolished, and not until October 20 of that year that the Cremieux Decree was reinstated in Algeria.

Read article in full


suzy pirotte vidal said...

Let me tell you something very pessimistic:
The rest of the world will only be happy when they extinguih us
However they want to renovate our buildings to say how wonderful their state is!
Sorry for those bitter words!
sultana latifa

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

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.