With thanks: Lily S.
Rare photographs showing the entry of the first Allied tank into Sfax in April 1943. Left: evidence that Jews in Sfax wore the yellow star
A few years ago, The Documentation Centre on North African Jews at the Ben Zvi Institute found the photo
you see here in the Imperial War Museum in London. It shows a crowd
rejoicing after the liberation of the Tunisian town of Sfax by the Allies on April 10th 1943.
When they enlarged the photo, they were amazed to see sitting on the tank –
named Roosevelt – a young man with a yellow star sewn on the right side
of his coat. This is the first photographic evidence of a yellow star
being worn in Sfax. (It is thought that Sfax was the only town where Jews were mandated to wear the yellow star under the six-month Nazi occupation.)
One of the Jews sitting atop the tank was the 10-year old beret-wearing David Bar-Rabi, now 85. In this rare clip – aired on Israeli TV – he shares his memories of the war with his grand-daughter, a historian. No Arabs came out into the street to greet the Allies that day, he says. They were almost all pro-German.
He recalls that the Allied bombing eventually forced his family out of the city into a village in the Tunisian countryside. All the young Jewish men – some 5,000 – were sent to forced labour camps. His wife remembers that her brother was sent to one of these camps. Their mother was so embarrassed to admit the fact that she said that he was in prison. Mrs Bar-Rabi also remembers burying their possessions – including a prized radio – in a cemetery. The Nazis were after gold, and David Bar-Rabi remembers that a Jewish woman directed them as to where they might find it.
The Ben Zvi Facebook page has attracted sympathetic and moving comments from Arabs. One even sent a picture of what the street where the tank photo was taken looks like today. Meanwhile, the Institute is anxious to identify the man wearing the yellow star.