Tomorrow the UK Jewish Film Festivalwill screen Jacques Ouaniche’s ‘Young’ Perez, the story of a young Tunisian-Jewish boxing champion who survived the Auschwitz death camp only to die on the Death March. Tunisia was the only country in the Arab world to be directly occupied by the Nazis – from November 1942 to May 1943. How many Tunisian Jews shared Young Perez’s fate? Veronique Chemla blogs.
Deportations of Jews from Tunisia took place in April 1943, three weeks before the liberation of Tunisia. Forty prisoners did not return. This is very few compared to the six million Jews killed in continental Europe during the Holocaust. But it illuminates the nature of the genocidal project of the Nazis. Wherever the Germans set foot, whether for 24 hours in Rhodes, or six months in Tunisia*, they persecuted the Jewish population, in order to destroy it.
Among the deported Jews was Victor Cohen Hadria, former President of the Bar Association of Tunis murdered in Auschwitz, Edouard Benjamin Dana, a resistance fighter deported to Auschwitz, sent into the Warsaw Ghetto to clear it and shot while trying to flee.
Arrested in Paris, boxer Victor “Young” Perez (1911-1945), French flyweight world champion in 1931 was deported from France and killed during the death march.
The synagogue in Tunis was transformed into a storehouse for stolen Jewish possessions.
On 7 May 1943, the Wehrmacht fled the advancing Allies. The British liberated Tunis, the free French took Bizerte. Jews could finally remove the yellow stars of their clothes.
*the Germans also occupied the western desert in Libya