Jews marched off to labour camps during the Nazi occupation of Tunisia
Jews from North Africa are fighting for space in Holocaust memory. For some years now, a high-profile ceremony in France has been taking place to remember the 9 December ‘rafle de Tunis’ : the Nazis, who had occupied Tunisia in November 1942, rounded up over 5,000 Jews, damaged the great synagogue in Tunis, and looted Jewish property.
Daniel Lee, of the University of Sheffield, described this and other wartime episodes in the history of the Jews of North Africa in the New Generation Thinkers series on Radio Three on 20 November 2016. The segment begins at 21: 18 and lasts about 20 minutes. (It will be available on the BBC website for the next month or so.)
The French protectorates of Morocco and Tunisia, and Algeria, part of France proper, came under the pro-Nazi Vichy government from 1940. Libya was a colony of Fascist Italy.Vichy racial laws were introduced expelling Jews from schools, universities and jobs in the public sector and the professions. There were 30 labour camps on Moroccan soil for ex-servicemen of the defeated French army.
Among those interviewed is Casablanca-born Sydney Assor, whose British father was arrested as an ‘enemy alien’. Assor himself was abruptly removed from his state school and transferred to the Alliance Israelite. This was run by Turkish Jews. ” If you had any orifice, they would put knowledge through it,” he says.
A Tunisian Jew marched off to the railway station on his way to a labour camp told how his familiar and nurturing world had exploded. A Libyan Jew describes her experience of Bergen-Belsen: 900 Jews of British nationality were deported there.