Tag: Holocaust in Arab and Muslim lands

Yad Vashem refuses to re-instate Mufti

Before it was re-designed,  Yad Vashem  once displayed a floor-to-celing photo of  Hitler meeting the Mufti of Jerusalem. The photo disappeared.  Shalom Pollack requested that the new chairman of the museum, Dani Dayan, re-instate the photo:  he refused. Read the saga so far on Israel National News:

The famous picture of Hitler meeting the Mufti was taken down

Husseini was the powerful patriarch of the leading Arab clan in Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century. He used his political power and religious influence for his life’s motif – the murder of Jews.

In an attempt to “mainstream” the Mufti of Jerusalem ” the British appointed him to an official position of power and responsibility.It did not work. It only gave him the platform and prestige to pursue his passion of killing Jews.

This he accomplished on numerous occasions, most notably by instigating the barbaric Hebron massacre of dozens of Jewish families in 1929. (Note: in 1929, there was no Zionist “apartheid occupation”, no “occupied territories” nor “settlers”; just Jews of all ages living in Hebron and horriblly killed by their neighbors)

A Nazi sympathizer, he fled British controlled Palestine during the war. He led a Nazi coup in Irag where he instigated the bloody “Farhud” pogrom against the Jewish community of Iraq.

He then fled to Germany where he was made an honorary SS general by Himmler and proceeded to do all he could in helping the Hitler regime kill Jews. He addressed the Arab world by radio from Berlin winning huge support for the Nazis. He raised divisions of Muslim that fought in the Nazi army. One of their tasks was to guard so that Jews do not escape the trains to death camps.

Husseini intervened in a deal that would have saved a train load of Jewish children for a bribe. Husseini would not allow one Jewish child to escape the gas chambers.

Together with Himmler he visited the death camps and drew plans to build a “facility” in the Dotan valley in Samaria where the half million Jews of Palestine would be gassed as soon as Rommel defeated the British. Eichmann was quoted as saying: “I am a personal friend of the Grand Mufti. We have promised that no European Jew would enter Palestine any more.”

After the war, SS general Husseini found refuge in Syria from war crimes judgment. Wherever he appeared in the Arab world he was received as a hero and mentor. His Nazi credentials together with his clerical position were the calling card that opened every door in the Arab world.

Yasar Arafat called him “the father of the Palestinian people”. PA authority president Abbas repeated this accolade.

Yad Vashem, the world’s foremost Holocaust Museum and memorial had a large photo of Husseini with Hitler on one wall. Opposite was a photo of Jewish soldiers from Palestine volunteering in the British army in the “Jewish Brigade” The contrast was clear.

I say had, because when Yad Vashem was refurbished and expanded in 2005, the Hitler – Husseini photo did not make it into the new museum.

As a tour guide since 1980, I have visited the old museum numerous times and remember clearly how my tourists were shocked by the duo in the photo.

In the new museum, instead of the Husseini – Hitler photo there is a far smaller one of Husseini and Himmler, in a dark corner that no one sees. I finally located it.

When I wrote to Yad Vashem and asked why they removed the photo from the new museum, I was told that the new museum “concentrates on the victims and less on the perpetrators”. However just a few feet from the small Husseini – Himmler photo is an entire wall of perpetrators – the architects of the “Wannsee Conference” that drew up the plans for the Holocaust.

I asked a number of local official Yad Vashem guides about the photo. They either did not know of it or said it was political and they did not discuss it with visitors. They were uncomfortable with my inquiry.

I wondered if associating Palestinian Arabs with Nazis was no longer politically correct since the Oslo accords with Arafat in 1993.

At the meeting Dayan told me he did not meet with me earlier because he did not like the tone of the letters written to him. He told me that “no one will lecture him on Zionism and love of Israel. His credentials speak for themselves.” That is true, which is why I had expectations.

He claimed that I was interested not in historical record but the politics of the Jewish – Arab conflict. I said it was both, which he did not accept. He added that Yad Vashem is not a museum of the Arab – Jewish conflict, that Husseini played only a tiny part in the Holocaust and did not warrant more space than he has in the museum.

He told me that he is in charge and won’t bring the photo back, if there ever was one. His advisor chimed in: “There was never such a photo.” She asked me if I had photographic proof and I reminded her that it is forbidden to bring cameras into the museum. I asked her if the many signed testimonies of veteran guides that I have gathered is proof enough and she said it was a possibility.

Mr. Dayan was frustrated that I continued to hold firm to my position. I told him that there are growing numbers of people, Jews and non-Jews, who want the truth not be hidden at Yad Vashem and the photo returned. He asked that I leave his office.

I intend to continue my efforts to bring the full truth back to Yad Vashem. Political correctness will not stop me. “Jews, Israelis and Arabs” is my new book that sheds light on the current state of affairs in Israel and at places like “Yad Vashem”.

 

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Sephardi play explores Nazi stories in North Africa

Josh Azouz’s latest play was reviewed in all the major British newspapers. Although its run at the Almeida Theatre in London has now ended, Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied Tunisia brings a fresh Sephardi perspective to stage drama, writes John Nathan in the Jewish Chronicle:

Josh Azouz, a rare Sephardi British Jewish voice

Whisper it, but it might just be possible that a major new voice has arrived on the British stage. True, at 35 playwright Josh Azouz has been around for a while.  But with his latest work, which goes by the more than faintly familiar title of Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied Tunisia, even he recognises that he and the play might represent something rather rare in this country’s theatre culture.

“There are very few Sephardi British Jewish voices,’ he observes. “So I am interested to explore those stories. But not only those stories of course,” he quickly adds, as if the theatre gods were looking for a reason to pigeonhole him for all time.
They would have a job.  His latest play audaciously conveys life under the Nazis in north Africa but without the ramrod seriousness with which extreme suffering is normally conveyed. More of this later.  For the moment let us dwell on Azouz’s knack for finding subjects that have rarely, if ever, been seen in a theatre.

For example, when his two-hander The Mikvah Project was revived at The Orange Tree last year (before it was ripped from the stage by the pandemic)  the only people who would have seen a play about two Orthodox Jewish men who fall for each other while spiritually cleansing themselves would have been those who encountered the original production at The Yard Theatre in 2015.

So although nobody thinks that as a subject life under the Nazis is unrepresented in stage drama, Azouz’s still stands out. “It’s an opportunity to talk about the war from a Sephardic Jewish lens,” is the way he describes it when we meet on Zoom at the end of a day’s rehearsal at the Almeida Theatre where the play has just opened.

“Actually, I think I should clarify,” he adds..  “I think it is actually a mostly Muslim Arab and a Sephardic Jewish lens. When we think of World War Two and the Holocaust we think of Europe.  I don’t think North Africa has been on stage and I thought, ‘how interesting to explore Arab Jewish relationships at a time just before the creation of Israel.’”

In Azouz’s play that Arab/Jewish relationship is represented respectively by a Jewish and Arab couple who were best friends before the Germans occupied Tunisia.  But under the cruel rule of Nazi officer Grandma (yes, Grandma, but more on character names later) played in Eleanor Rhode’s production by Adrian Edmondson, the friendships come under intense pressure.

Take the opening scene in which Jewish Victor (Pierro Niel-Mee) is buried up to his neck in the Tunisian desert and Arab Youssef (Ethan Kai) is standing over him with orders to urinate on him.  But as awful as Victor’s situation is, Azouz is as interested in absurdity as he is atrocity.  For a start, Yousef is Victor’s best friend.

“When I was reading memoirs from the camps in Tunisia, the Nazis had names like Grandma and Little Feller and Memento. It was their nicknames coupled with the landscape — mountains and deserts full of cacti — that made me think of a Western. That’s sort of where the title came from,” explains Azouz alluding to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti classic Once Upon a Time in the West.

However it is not only the landscape that sets this story apart from most other Nazi occupation dramas.  There is, says Azouz, something funny about it too. “People being buried up to their neck is barbaric. But then I would read [while researching the play] that the Nazis would have to keep rotating the Arab guards because they were getting too friendly with the Jews.  And because the Nazis had names like Grandma, there was something very sort of surreal and silly about it. It was horrific but this was not the mechanical or methodical horror of Europe. It was much more wild.  These Nazis were losing their heads in the desert. There was something of a mirage about it;  something much more haphazard and much more uncertain.”

There was also yet another difference, one that perhaps more than all the others goes to the heart of the play. “The Arab population weren’t willing collaborators in the same way Europeans were,” says Azouz.
In terms of their genocidal objective, the Nazis were most successful in countries where there was an infrastructure to support their objective of annihilating the Jews, Azouz points out.
“Fundamentally the Arab nations in North Africa were not seduced by the Nazis in the same way [as the Europeans].”

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Yad Vashem is accused of ‘disappearing’ the pro-Nazi Mufti

Point of No Return exclusive
Yad Vashem denies that this photo, remembered by veteran guides, was ever displayed at the museum
Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem museum dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, has been accused by veteran guides of covering up the role of the pro-Nazi wartime Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. 

 

Veteran guides have written to the new Chairman of Yad Vashem, Dani Dayan, whose roots are in Egypt, to ask why a floor-to-ceiling photo of Haj Amin meeting Hitler was removed when the Museum was re-designed fifteen years ago.

Dani Dayan denied that such a photo existed: “Never such a picture was displayed in the Museum, let alone not a floor-to-ceiling one.  Therefore, it was never removed.  Pictures of the Mufti convening with Heinrich Himmler and visiting Muslim Bosnian troops allied with the Nazis are displayed in the Museum. ”

To a letter from guide Shalom Pollack,  Yad Vashem replied,” in the new museum, we place a greater emphasis on the victims than on the perpetrators.”
Pollack  pointed out that just five paces from the now minuscule, well- hidden, photo of the Mufti and Himmler (Hitler is gone) is an entire wall of perpetrators –  German, not Arab. “German sensibilities are not spared but we don’t want to upset those of  Arabs in the new Yad Vashem? So much for “not emphasizing the perpetrators’, ” says Pollack.
Yad Vashem rejects as ‘unfounded’ claims that it is politically influenced in its considerations and decisions regarding any component or dimension of the historical narrative of the Shoah, including the museum’s contents.
A  colleague of Pollack’s reported  that when he originally asked Yad Vashem why the Hitler -Husseini photo was gone, he was told: “it is not politically correct.”
Pollack adds: “When I asked ten local Yad Vashem guides where the photo of Husseini with Hitler was, most did not know of it. “It wasn’t important”, they told him. Some said they never discussed it with visitors;  one said it was “political” and walked away. As far as the political or ideological motive of the strange omission of the original photo (and the one just opposite it showing Jewish soldiers in the British army fighting the Nazis) , the public will decide.”
After great effort, he finally found the tiny photo of the Mufti with Himmler  in a dark corner.
“One might think that Yad Vashem is trying to hide something? I understand that the new museum is a “post Oslo” project. I protest the scandalous manipulated narrative instituted by your predecessors”, Pollack wrote to Dayan. “It robs the visitors of an important piece of  the  Holocaust story; a shameful concealment and protection of a murderous participant in the extermination of our people.
“If  non Jews did this what would we say? In a time of devastating moral relativism and Holocaust denial, Yad Vashem should be the beacon in the battle for truth about our history and not hiding it.”
He told Point of no Return: “I hope that Mr. Dayan will use his new position to  act on behalf of the truth and Am Yisrael

Moroccan Jews should be treated no differently than Vichy survivors

In August, Israel’s Supreme Court denied Holocaust compensation for the Jews of Morocco who immigrated to Israel. The justices ruled that their suffering because of the Nazi-inspired anti-Semitic legislation enacted by Nazi-aligned Vichy France, does not entitle them to monthly stipends under Israeli Nazi persecution law. Yet survivors of the Vichy regime in France have received such compensation. Edith Shaked writes in the Times of Israel: 

The first anti-Jewish laws were published in this French newspaper on 18 October 1940

But Israel must recognize a simple historical truth: During the Holocaust in France, the Nazi collaborationist Vichy government and Nazi Germany considered the Vichy Jews of French North Africa to be part of the Jews of “the whole of France,” and thus the Moroccan authorities were not responsible for the persecution of the Jews.

During WWII, from July 1940, the pro-Nazi French Vichy regime controlled the French protectorates of Morocco, Tunisia and French Algeria. Following the Nazi invasion of France, the regime enacted the ‘Statut des Juifs,’ a catalog of Nazi-inspired discriminatory laws. Jews lost their jobs in the professions and were excluded from public schools and spaces. Thousands of Jews were sent to forced labor camps in the three French territories in North Africa, and, in Nazi-occupied Vichy Tunisia, thousands wore the yellow star.

French Morocco was then nominally ruled by the Moroccan sultan. The Israeli justices ruled that the Moroccan authorities acted to harm Jews on their own accord, without being forced to do so by Nazi Germany. As JTA reported, they ruled that “Moroccan authorities acted to harm Jews on their own accord, without being forced to do so by Nazi Germany.”

As a result, those victimized by Nazi-inspired anti-Jewish measures are not recognized as Holocaust survivors under Israeli Nazi persecution law and are not eligible for compensation.

But the Israeli judges ascribed more power to the Moroccan authorities than they actually exercised. The Nazi collaborationist Vichy government was fully in charge, and it treated the 400,000 Vichy Jews of French North Africa – France on the other side of the Mediterranean – no differently from Jews in metropolitan France, implementing there the same Nazi-inspired anti-Jewish measures as they did in metropolitan France.

My grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, told me how in the 1930s French schoolchildren learned about “France on both sides of the Mediterranean [sea],” and that, “the Mediterranean divides France, like the Seine River divides Paris.” The websites of Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum make it clear that French North Africa was an integral part of Vichy- France.

Under the French-German ceasefire agreement of June 1940, Marshal Philippe Pétain, head of the new French Vichy government, de facto and de jure ruled the two protectorates of Morocco and Tunisia, and French Algeria. Every Tuesday, a Vichy official met with Nazi officials at the German embassy in Nazi-occupied Paris because Pétain decided to collaborate with Hitler in the matter of a solution to the Jewish Question.

In his book, “The Holocaust,” no less an expert than Yehuda Bauer writes that the Nazis themselves, who were targeting and killing Jews, considered the Jews of Vichy France North Africa as ‘French’ Jews living in France. At the January 1942 Wannsee conference, the Nazi top brass determined that 700,000 Jews of France would be targeted for the Final Solution. This figure necessarily includes the 400,000 Jews in Vichy North Africa, since only 300,000 Jews lived in metropolitan France.

Clause 9 of the 3 October 1940 Statut des Juifs expressly demanded its implementation not only in metropolitan France, but also on the French soil of Vichy Tunisia, Vichy Algeria, and Vichy Morocco.

In June 1941, Xavier Vallat, head of the Office for Jewish Affairs “for the whole of France,” which was created under Nazi pressure on Vichy, enacted the second antisemitic Statut des Juifs. Clause 11 demanded its implementation in Vichy Tunisia, Vichy Algeria, and Vichy Morocco. The Nazi collaborationist Vichy regime liaised with the German embassy in Nazi-occupied Paris. There, the Jewish Affairs representative stressed the special clauses applying to Vichy Tunisia/Algeria/Morocco, and forwarded the Statut to Adolf Eichmann’s bureau IVB4, the branch of the Reich Central Office for Security (RSHA) devoted to Jewish matters in Berlin.

In August 1941, Vallat traveled to Vichy Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco to check that the solution to “the Jewish question” was being properly implemented. Before his departure he appointed Franceschi, a Vichy official, to head a new “Aryanization” service in Vichy North Africa. Upon his return to metropolitan France, Vallat visited the German embassy in Paris and met with such Nazi Germany officials as SS Dr. Best, an active proponent of ridding Europe of its Jews, and SS Captain Theodor Dannecker, head of Jewish Affairs office, and Adolf Eichmann’s personal representative in France.

Thus between 1940 and 1942, the Vichy Jews of “France on both sides of the Mediterranean,” were persecuted and discriminated against by the same Nazi collaborationist Vichy government, applying the same Nazi principles, the same language, and the same methods. They were identified, counted, ostracized, segregated, isolated, systematically discriminated against, pauperized, dispossessed, objectified, incarcerated, demonized and deprived of their civil rights and property. Civic, social, and economic deaths were the preparatory measures for the annihilation of the 700,000 Jews of Vichy France. The bureaucracy and the machinery to deport them to the death camps were set in motion.

Maxime Weygand, Vichy’s delegate general and commander-in-chief in French Africa, rigorously attempted to implement the Nazi-inspired antisemitic racial legislation in Vichy North Africa. The rules were sometimes even harsher than the laws in metropolitan France.

Fortunately, the Allies liberated Vichy North Africa by May 1943. The 400,000 Vichy Jews were spared the mass deportations that took place in metropolitan France. Their fate was comparable to that of the 7,000 Jews of Denmark, who were spared deportation.

The Holocaust evolved in different stages and affected countries and territories differently, whether they were occupied by Nazi Germany or in the Nazi Germany sphere of influence, depending on local conditions and the course taken by the war.

The Nazi goal remained unchanged in all these different countries and territories – namely, to kill all the Jews within reach, and create “a world without Jews.”

To paraphrase Holocaust scholar Gerhard Weinberg, “the Holocaust did not function according to rules of procedure established by Holocaust historians” – or, indeed, according to rules of procedure established for the Israeli Supreme Court.

The Israeli justices declared that “the role of the historian is separate from that of the court. ” They would do well to heed English Judge Charles Gray, who presided over David Irving’s libel action against American historian Deborah Lipstadt. His words “no objective fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt” could apply to the Moroccan authorities. The Moroccan sultan was ruler in name only. He rubber-stamped decrees submitted to him by the Vichy French authorities, as per the Constitution of the Protectorate.

The Nazi-aligned Vichy authorities drafted the anti-Jewish Nazi-inspired laws, had them translated into Arabic, submitted them to the sultan for his signature, and implemented them.

The correct verdict should have been to approve immediate payment by the Israeli Finance Ministry of a monthly stipend, as had been received by the Jews in metropolitan France, who were not forced to resort to the courts. The Jews of Vichy Tunisia and Vichy Algeria had also to sue.

The Israeli government must also clarify that the Muslim Arab authorities were not responsible for the suffering of the Jews in Nazi collaborationist Vichy North Africa. It was the Nazi-aligned Vichy government.

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Why can’t Moroccan Jews be deemed Holocaust survivors? 

NY Times mangles history of Iraqi Jewry

New York Times dispatch from Baghdad reports on reaction to a conference about peace between Israel and Iraq.  In the process, the Times news article distorts the history of Jews in Iraq, blaming their exodus on the creation of Israel and drawing a spurious distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Ira Stoll reports in The Algemeiner (with thanks: Lily):

The Times reported, “While the conference linked the two issues, many Iraqis draw a sharp distinction between feeling an affinity for the country’s former Jewish community and openness to the state of Israel.” The Times lets that make-believe distinction — we love Jews, it’s just Israel that bothers us — pass with no comment, consistent with the desire of many Times readers to minimize the considerable overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. The Times even lends backing to the supposed distinction with its own capsule summary of Iraqi Jewish history: “The Iraqi Jews — an ancient community and an integral part of Iraqi society — were pressured by the government to give up their citizenship and property and leave Iraq after the creation of Israel in 1948.”

That falsely suggests that it was only “the creation of Israel in 1948” that turned Iraqis against the Jews. Yet the Times itself acknowledged back in 2016: “Iraqi Jews had always been the targets of sporadic attacks. But the danger soared with the rise of the Nazis’ influence in the 1930s as well as unhappiness around the Arab world with Zionism’s push for a Jewish state. A pogrom in June 1941, the Farhud, killed nearly 200 Jews in Baghdad.” The 2021 Times article makes no mention of the Farhud or of Nazi influence in Iraq.

The Farhud was before the creation of Israel, not “after.”

And the Farhud was, sadly, not the end of it.

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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