More than 43,000 Moroccan Jews have received reparations as Holocaust survivors. The main reason was that they were forced back into the Mellahs of Moroccan cities. But the Jews were also subject to discriminatory quotas and laws. This article in the Times of Israel, while not as hagiographic as this one, sustains the myth that the king of Morocco ‘saved’ the Jews – or at least prevented the confiscation of their property. But the Jews were actually saved by the Allied invasion beginning in 1942.There is no mention of the labour camps on Moroccan soil, or that Jews with British passports were put under house arrest. (With thanks: Lily)
At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
in Washington DC, there are just a handful of testimonies from
Moroccans — so few, in fact, that the chief of the museum’s oral history
archive wasn’t even aware they existed. In these interviews, Jewish
Moroccans describe the hardships of war that both Jews and non-Jews
endured: bombings, food shortages, and curfews.
“There is nothing like a ‘Wow!’ [survival] story,” said case manager Jbeli, who has Moroccan clients.
But the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany,
also known as the Claims Conference, convinced the German government to
compensate Moroccan Jews for one primary reason — because they were
forced to live in the mellahs, or historic Jewish quarters.
Under German law, forced residence is
recognized as a type of persecution, explained Greg Schneider, the
executive vice president of the Claims Conference. Moroccan Jews who
were already living in the mellahs were not allowed to move out, and
some who were living outside of the Jewish districts had to move into
them, Schneider said.
Edery, whose uncle and cousins were forced to
leave their home and relocate into the mellah in Marrakesh during the
war, suspects that the policy may have been put in place as the first
step to extermination.
“They wanted to contain them in one place. Was
it done for the same reasons [as in Europe]? It wouldn’t surprise me,”
said Edery. “The Germans just didn’t get the time to do it because of
the King of Morocco.”
However, a mellah wasn’t exactly like a Polish
ghetto because the gates were not locked (this is debatable – ed), people were not prevented
from going in and out, and because most Moroccan Jews lived in mellahs
even before the war. In addition, Jews weren’t forced into the mellahs
in all Moroccan cities.
It is indisputable, however, that the conditions in the mellahs were terrible.
Montreal radio commentator Charles
Barchechath, who was born in 1943 in the mellah of Rabat, said that food
was scarce and typhus and cholera were common.
“The epidemics took the lives of a lot of Jews of Morocco. My father caught typhus, but luckily he recovered,” he said.
Between 1940 and November of 1942 when the
Americans landed in Morocco, Moroccan Jews also had to abide by
discriminatory laws: Jewish children were expelled from schools, Jews
were fired from government jobs, and there were quotas on how many Jews
could attend universities or work as doctors, lawyers and pharmacists,
said Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who wrote a book about the Holocaust in Arab countries.
“In general, Vichy laws that were applied in
France, were applied in Morocco,” Satloff said. “The vast majority of
Moroccan Jews were not working in the public sector, were not university
students or university graduates, but the laws were there and they
Vichy officials attempted at one point to make
an inventory of property held by Jews, but Mohammed V met with the
Jewish community and promised to slow down the census, Satloff said. As a
result, Jewish property in Morocco was not confiscated, unlike Jewish
property in neighboring Algeria.
Historians also say that had American troops
not landed in North Africa in 1942, Moroccan Jewry — which numbered
approximately 250,000 during WWII — may have also been sent to the death
According to documents that outline the Final
Solution, Hitler had planned to exterminate 700,000 French Jews – a
number that makes sense only if the Jews in French North Africa are
included, Satloff said.
Worldwide, more than 43,000 Moroccan Jews have
received reparations since 2011, when Germany finally recognized them
as Holocaust survivors, according to data from the Claims Conference.
But in addition to the payments, the
acknowledgement that the Jews of Morocco also suffered from fascist
persecution is helping to preserve history.
The applications filed by thousands of
Moroccans for compensation have become the largest source of information
on the experiences of Moroccan Jews during the war.