With thanks: Dominique
It is 50 years since Algeria achieved its independence. Much attention has focused on the Jews of Algeria, who took flight en masse along with the French pieds-noirs. Much of the coverage has been through a post-colonial lens, implying that before the 1830 French conquest, Jews and Muslims lived ‘side by side’. The Jews’ acquisition of French citizenship under the Decret Cremieux in 1870 is almost viewed as a betrayal.
But a look at the documents of the time in this Dreuz.info article shows that the lot of the Jews was one of particular oppression and humiliation. William Schaller, US consul general in Algiers in 1826, had this to say about the Jews:
“Special punishments were reserved for Jews: burning at the stake, tearing the flesh from the skin, hanging with spikes, death by drowning for women. The numbers and wealth of Jews continue to dwindle and today I believe the Jews of Algeria are among the most wretched of Israel. Muslims and Christians who walk at night must carry an illuminated lantern, but a Jew must carry a naked flame, as they must always be humilated and treated differently.
“There is no outrage and abuse to which these miserable children of Israel are not exposed. They are prohibited from speaking or reading Arabic, lest they are able to read the divine Koran. They are not allowed to ride horses, only mules and donkeys; they must take their shoes off when passing a mosque; they dare not come close to a well or fountain while a Muslim is drinking thereof; they must never sit before a Muslim.”