More about the Constantine pogrom, 1934

 The devastation following the Constantine pogrom, which claimed the lives of 28 Jews

Last week Point of No Return flagged up the 80th anniversary of the Constantine pogrom in Algeria.  Elder of Ziyon has unearthed two more detailed contemporary accounts of what happened. It should be noted that rioting occurred in neighbouring towns as well:

From the Encyclopedia of Antisemitism:

Between August 3 and 5, 1934, Muslim mobs went on a rampage in the
Algerian city of Constantine, attacking Jews and Jewish property. In the
attack, 25 Jewish men, women, and children were killed, most from having their throats cut or their skulls crushed,
and 26 more were injured, according to official statistics. More than
200 Jewish-owned stores were ransacked. The total property damage to
homes, businesses, and synagogues was estimated at over 150 million
Poincare francs. Some 3,000 people, one-quarter of Constantine’s Jewish
population, were in need of welfare assistance in the aftermath of the
pogrom. During the rampage, anti-Jewish incidents were recorded in the
countryside of the Department of Constantine, extending over a
100-kilometer radius. Jews were murdered in Hamma and Mila, and in Ain
Beida, Jewish homes and businesses were looted. In all, 314 Jews left
Ain Beida for good, seeking the relative security of larger communities.
During much of the rioting, the French police and security forces stood
by and did little or nothing to stop the rioters.

Differing analyses of the causes of the Constantine pogrom were offered
by the French colonial administration, by Jews, by Algerian Muslims, and
by later historians. All agree that the spark igniting the violence was
an argument between a Jewish Zouave (infantryman), Eliahou Khalifa, and
worshipers in a mosque adjacent to his home. Eyewitness accounts
differed over the precise circumstances. The antisemitic French colonial
authorities and press reported only the Muslim version that Khalifa was
drunk, urinated on the Arabs, and insulted Islam. A report by the
Jewish authorities claimed that he was not inebriated, that he had asked
the Muslims to close some windows opening onto their ablution hall for
the sake of modesty, and that in the ensuing argument, they had cursed
him and his faith and that he in turn cursed them and their religion.
(“God curse your religion” is a common imprecation in North Africa
freely and frequently used by Muslims and Jews, even between members of
the same faith.) Jewish public opinion at the time blamed the incident
on a conspiracy between European antisemites in the Algerian colonial
bureaucracy and on pan-Arab propaganda. In the official government
account at the time, the rioting was described as a completely
spontaneous event. The antisemitic pieds noirs (colonists) and some Muslims blamed the outbreak on the enmity of the native underclass caused by the arrogance of nouveau riche
Jews, who supposedly flaunted their superiority as French
citizens  under the Cremieux Decree of 1870, and by the alleged
exploitation of Jewish moneylenders.

JTA reported:

A scene of utter desolation and horror, of Jewish girls with their
breasts cut off, of little children with numerous knife wounds and of
whole families locked in their homes and burned to death
, was described by a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent, who succeeded in reaching this city today.

“It will take days before the world will obtain a true picture of all
the atrocities committed by the Arabs during the pogrom on the Jewish
quarter,” the correspondent wired.

“The only comparison I can think of is the Palestine riots of 1929. I
found Jewish girls with their breasts cut off, greybearded Jews stabbed
to death, little Jewish children dead of numerous knife wounds and whole
families locked in their homes and burned to death by the rioters.”

Read post in full 

Lest we forget: Constantine, 1934 

For Jews in France, ‘plus ca change’

2 Comments

  • Les Temps Modernes ran a rather long article about this pogrom in a issue about 10 or 15 years ago.

    Reply
  • thank you! there are some apologists that make excuses even for this massacre, trying to depict the Jew Eliahou Khalifa as the one that instigated the event. Good to read here not only the french-muslim version but also the version of the victims themselvs.

    Reply

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