Did the wartime sultan of Morocco protect the Jews? For some years now historians have been gnawing away at the myth that the sultan prevented the deportation of the Jews to death camps and even wore the yellow star.
French historian Georges Bensoussan, speaking on the Israel (French) channel Kan. affirmed that the King may have shown his sympathy for Jews in private, but he signed every single anti-Jewish dahir promulgated by the pro-Nazi Vichy regime in 1940/1. Deportation was never on the cards. The yellow star was never mandated in Morocco and only in Sfax in Tunisia.
In fact Bensoussan says that the Bey of Tunisia was more liberal towards his Jews than the sultan of Morocco, who made sure that Jews were banned from employing young Muslim girls as maids.
The historian Michel Abitbol says that the sultan had no choice but to comply with the anti-Jewish decrees, or risk being deposed. The decrees mainly concerned the relations of Jews with the French administration (dismissal of Jewish officials, expulsion of Jewish children from French schools and property inventories) . The order forcing Jews settled outside the Mellahs of major cities back into Mellah, the ban on the practice of certain liberal professions or any press or cinema-related profession concerned a limited number of Jewish people and were generally not applied.
So how did the myth arise? When the future Mohamed V met Roosevelt and Churchill in January1943, Roosevelt promised to work for Moroccan independence. According to Bensoussan, because he believed that the Jewish lobby controlled US foreign policy, the sultan made protecting the Jews a badge of his authority. According to Abitbol, the sultan was then free to express his support for all his subjects. The myth has been spread by Moroccan Jews themselves when faced with the hardships of resettling in Israel, where most of them went.