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Persecuted by the same pro-Nazi ruler, the Vichy Jews living under France on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea suffered the same fate.

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Tunis, Tunisia, Rabbi Cheim Baleish (fifth from left), the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia with members of the Jewish council, 1942- 1943 (Photo: Yahvashem.org)

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Today, it is difficult to visualize the three Arab North African Arab countries of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as part of France, and the persecution of the Jews there as part of the Shoah in France, as correctly described by Yad Vashem’s academic advisor Yehuda Bauer in his book The Holocaust. The fact is that “France” was, and still is, a transcontinental empire nation consisting of metropolitan France (la Metropole), located in continental France, and its oversea empire called “Overseas France” (France d’Outre-Mer; that’s why France in German is called Frankreich).  

Thus, during the Shoah, the close-by French territories in North Africa, called “France on the other side of the Mediterranean,” were part of Europe, a political imperial Europe. And Hitler defined Europe as “the European nations and their colonies.” The European Holocaust Research Infrastructure appropriately states the Holocaust occurred in “Europe, including the North African colonies.” 

And it is INCORRECT to write and talk about “the Shoah in North Africa,” BUT one must write: THE SHOAH  IN  FRANCE,  INCLUSIVE  OF  THE  JEWS  IN FRANCE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE  MEDITERRANEAN, in Vichy Tunisia, Vichy Algeria, and Vichy Morocco. 

Indeed, following the 1940 French-German armistice during World War II and the Shoah in France, Field-Marshal Henri-Philippe Pétain, the head of the new French Vichy regime governed the southern part of France in continental Europe (metropolitan Vichy), and French North Africa as the unoccupied territories of Vichy Tunisia, Vichy Algeria, and Vichy Morocco, while most of the northern part of Metropolitan/continental France came under direct German military administration. 

Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum acknowledge that French North Africa was an integral part of Vichy France. Therefore, during the Shoah in France, 700,000 Jews (300,000 in metropolitan France and 400,000 in Vichy North Africa) came under the German sphere of influence, because Pétain decided to collaborate with Hitler. 

“In the name of France and state antisemitism,” and to solve “the Jewish question,” collaborationist Pétain enacted two antisemitic Statut des Juifs (October 1940 and June 1941) to be applicable, de facto and de jure, not only in metropolitan France, but also in Vichy Tunisia, Vichy Algeria, and Vichy Morocco. 

Persecuted by the same pro-Nazi ruler, the Vichy Jews living on France’s both sides of the Mediterranean Sea suffered the same fate. They were identified, counted, ostracized, isolated, systematically discriminated, objectified, incarcerated, diabolized and deprived of their civil rights and property  – the preparatory measures that laid the foundation for an annihilation. The bureaucracy and the machinery to implement the “Final Solution”  were set for them  – one people, one destiny. Ahdut am, ahdut goral

On November 8, 1942, Operation Torch began to open a second front in the European theatre of the war, at the request of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. US and British forces, led by American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe landed on the beaches of  the French territories of Vichy Morocco and Vichy Algeria. Eisenhower wrote the story in his memoir Crusade in Europe. 

The Allies successfully fought against Vichy France forces. On November 10, they started to advance toward Tunis, in order to invade Italy and continue to Nazi Germany. 

But, the Allied landings during Operation Torch triggered the simultaneous invasion of Vichy metropolitan France and Vichy Tunisia by Hitler’s forces, on November 10 and 9, respectively. 

An Einsatzkommando unit (an SS task force, a unit of the Einsatzgruppen mobile killing squads in charge of annihilating Jews) led by SS commander Walter Rauff, who was responsible for the murder of Jews in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe using mobile gas vans also entered Tunis, prepared to continue to implement the “Final Solution,” started by Vichy France. 

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He was empowered to “take executive measures against the civilian population” – Nazi jargon for robbery, murder and enslavement.” 

During its six months of occupation, the ruthless Nazi regime forced the creation of local Judenrat, and imposed antisemitic policies, including fines, confiscation of property and the forced wearing of the yellow badge (Star of David) by Jews, especially in Mahdia, Nabeul, Sousse and Sfax. About 5,000 Jews were sent to more than 30 forced labour camps.  

On December 9, a German soldier shot in cold blood the first Shoah victim, Gilbert Mazuz, a young handicapped man who couldn’t anymore march to the slave labour camp.  At its Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, where it records the Shoah victims, Yad Vashem has a Page of Testimony for him.  

On May 13, 1943, the Allies involved in Operation Torch liberated the 100,000 Jews of Nazi-occupied Vichy Tunisia where about 700 are known to have died. 

So, like the Jews of Denmark, who were evacuated to neutral Sweden, a total of about 100,000 Vichy Jews were spared the deadly mass deportations that took place in the rest of Nazi-occupied Europe, because of Operation Torch. 

Today, the Jews of the French protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco, and of the three departments of French Algeria, who suffered during Nazi occupation of France, receive Holocaust compensation payments, just as the Jews of mainland France do. 

Edith Shaked is a specialist of the Shoah in France. She is a member of the advisory board of H-Holocaust, an international academic consortium/H-Net’s network for scholars of the Holocaust.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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