It is not widely known that Jews were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from Libya. Barely three years later, the Jewish community of Libya was ethnically cleansed. The lessons of Bergen-Belsen were not learned in 1945, and still have not been today, with the proliferation of Nazi-inspired, anti-Jewish Islamist groups. Lyn Julius writes in the Jerusalem Post:
Holocaust survivors returning from Bergen-Belsen to Libya
On April 15, the world marked the 70th
anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Bergen-Belsen
More than 50,000 prisoners, mainly Jews, died there
– of starvation, overwork, disease or following gruesome medical
experiments. Anne Frank was probably the most famous victim. She and her
sister perished of typhus in the camp just one month before
Among the prisoners liberated on that glorious day in
April were several hundred Libyan Jews, deported to Bergen-Belsen via
Italy. A photo exists of these survivors, dangling their legs out of a
railway carriage on which they had scrawled, “Going home” and “Back to
According to The Jews of Libya by Professor Maurice
Roumani, some 870 out of the 2,000 Jews in Libya with British passports
were deported to Italy as part of the “sfollamento” policy to send
away foreign nationals. Members of the same family could be dispersed
to Morocco, Tunisia or Algeria – then under pro-Nazi, Vichy French
Two transports of 300 Jews, and another 120, were shipped from
Libya to Naples on cargo trains to Bergen-Belsen and arrived on May 25,
1944. Jews arriving from Libya in Bologna were taken by train to
Innsbruck- Reichenau, part of the Dachau camp system, in July 1943.
Bergen-Belsen relatively late in the war, the Libyan Jews survived.
Some were exchanged for German POWs. They received packages from the
Red Cross and obtained some relief in their working conditions. They
even managed to keep kosher, exchanging cooked food for dry bread. One
Jew, Zion Labi from Benghazi, started a school.
of Jews from Libya to the northern shores of the Mediterranean gives
the lie to the widespread misconception that the Holocaust touched only
Although their suffering cannot be compared to
the horrors inflicted on the Jews of Eastern Europe, Jews in North
Africa were not spared the impact of the war. Some 2,500 Libyan Jews
were shipped by the Italian Fascist regime to the notorious Giado labor
camp. One fifth died of typhus or starvation.
Tunisia came under direct Nazi control for six months. Some 2, 000
Tunisian Jewish men, wearing the obligatory yellow star, were
frog-marched into labor camps. Jews were used as slave labor in
Algerian and Moroccan work camps. And all the while, thousands of Jews
died in aerial bombardments as the Allied and German armies wrestled for
Arguably, North African states, having not yet
achieved independence, were not responsible for the anti-Jewish
measures adopted by the Vichy regime and the Italian fascists. But
apart from individuals who saved Jews, the sympathies of the Arab
masses broadly lay with the Germans.
Iraq, independent since
1932, was the scene of a pro-Nazi coup in 1941, leading inexorably to
the Farhud, the Iraqi-Jewish Kristallnacht. In this two-day orgy of
murder, rape, mutilation and looting, up to 600 Jews were killed,
according to British archival records. The exact figure will never be
The Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem played a central
role in plotting the pro-Nazi coup in Iraq. In exile in Berlin from
November 1941 until the end of the war, he broadcast anti-Jewish
propaganda to the Arab world.
He proved more zealous than the
Nazis in promoting the “final solution” to the Jewish question. The
mufti is thought to have been directly responsible for 20,000 European
Jews murdered in the Nazi Holocaust.
At the end of WWII, the mufti should have been tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg.
was indicted, judged and convicted by Yugoslavia for crimes against
humanity, arising from his pivotal role in the Handschar and Skandeberg
SS divisions which deported Balkan Jews from Kosovo, Macedonia and
Thrace. But the Allies shrank from offending the Arabs. The mufti
remained a hero for tens of thousands.
Nazi Germany lavished
money and propaganda on the Arab world in the hopes of fomenting an
anti-colonial uprising. It funded the Muslim Brotherhood, established
in Egypt in 1928. Its founder, Hassan al-Banna, made the Nazi concept
of the Jew as the epitome of all-embracing evil, overlaid with
traditional anti-Jewish Koranic prejudice, the core of the Brotherhood’s
ideology. By the war’s end, the Brotherhood had a million members.
after the Belsen survivors had returned to Libya, the Jews of Tripoli
and outlying villages suffered a vicious threeday pogrom, which claimed
the lives of 130 and made thousands of Jews homeless.
this possible barely six months after news of the terrible extermination
of the Jews of Europe had reached the Arab world? The November 1945
Libyan riots were a spillover from disturbances in Egypt in which five
Jews were murdered. While some blame the clash of Zionism and Arab
nationalism, historians report that the rioters in Libya did not shout
anti-Zionist slogans. The mob did not even know what Zionism was, a
Jewish Agency report stated. It is noteworthy that the Egyptian
rioters, incited by the Muslim Brotherhood, targeted Coptic, Greek
Orthodox and Catholic institutions as well as Jews.
It is common
to view the mass exodus and spoliation of a million Jews from the Arab
world as revenge for the displacement of Palestinian Arabs in 1948. A
more plausible explanation is that Nazi-inspired blood-andsoil
nationalism, and xenophobic Islamism, which had entrenched themselves
in the Arab world over the preceding decade, aimed to destroy, or at
best, exclude non-Muslim minorities from public and political life.
1947 the Arab League drafted a plan to treat their Jewish citizens as
enemy aliens, before a single Palestinian Arab had fled.
three years after the end of WWII, Arab League member states emulated
Nazism with their Nuremberg-style laws, criminalizing Zionism, freezing
Jewish bank accounts, instituting quotas, imposing restrictions on jobs
and movement. Violence and the threat of violence did the rest. The
result was ethnic cleansing of age-old Jewish communities in a single
The ghost of Nazi-inspired, anti-Jewish bigotry was
never exorcised: after WWII, the Arab world gave safe haven to Nazi war
criminals on the run. They became military advisers and spin-doctors
Adolph Eichmann, Nazi architect of the “final
solution,” hoped his “Arab friends” would continue his battle against
the Jews, who were always the “principal war criminals” and “principal
aggressors.” He hadn’t managed to complete his task of “total
annihilation,” but the Muslims could still complete it for him.
only has the virus of Nazi anti-Semitism never left the Arab and
Muslim world, it has grown exponentially. Muslim immigrants have
carried the virus of Jew-hatred back into European countries. Saudi
petrodollars have financed the spread of Islamism, with its implicit
Eichmann would have been pleased to see
that the Arab world is effectively judenrein: there are no Jews in
Libya, and no more than 4,000 in the rest of the Arab world today. The
Muslim Brotherhood, and its local Palestinian branch Hamas, al-Qaida,
Islamic State and assorted Islamist groups still carry the torch for an
ideology born in the Nazi era.