Jewish Holocaust Victims of North Africa

Jewish Holocaust Victims of North Africa

Gad Shahar and Shushan Cohen

Gad Shahar     Shushan Cohen

“All at once on that day, a vast number of Germans are out on the streets in tanks, in cars, We didn’t know much about them. Also, we knew nothing about what was happening in Europe.”

“There were notices addressing the Jews alone. We were assembled at the Alliance school and Jewish doctors were asked to separate those able to work from those whose health made them unfit for work. We were taken from the school to the train station. On the way something happened that changed my whole life. We passed through the street where I grew up and had my friends – I was 19 by that time and suddenly the neighborhood I thought was open, loving, encouraging, was overjoyed and cheered the Germans for taking us. Here and there one could hear: “Dirty Jew”, etc. My world was shattered.

africa-mapContrary to common perception, the Holocaust was not a strictly European tragedy; the Jews living under colonial rule in North Africa were also victims of the Nazis. When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, Vichy rule was consolidated in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, thus posing an existential threat to the well-being of the Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews who were part of those ancient Jewish communities dating back to antiquity. In Tunisia, Jews were forced to wear Star of David badges, had their property confiscated, and over 5,000 Jews were sent to forced labor camps, where some of the prisoners were tortured and/or murdered, while others were forced to build the Trans-Sahara Railway. The Jews of Tunis were also forced to establish a local Judenrat, with the expressed purpose of selecting which Jews were going to be sent to forced labor camps. The Great Synagogue of Tunis was converted into a horse stable by the Nazis during this period of time as well and Jewish civilians, both male and female, were tortured within the synagogue.

In Libya, thousands of Jews were also sent to concentration camps, where hundreds died of starvation. The Jewish Quarter of Benghazi was also sacked. The Jews of Algeria were stripped of their citizenship, required to wear an identifying mark, and suffered from quotas limiting Jews access to education. Despite the opposition of the Moroccan king, anti-Jewish regulations were also in place within Morocco as well.

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