Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands

Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands

by Robert Satloff
     
 

Thousands of people have been honored for saving Jews during the Holocaust—but not a single Arab. Looking for a hopeful response to the plague of Holocaust denial sweeping across the Arab and Muslim worlds, Robert Satloff sets off on a quest to find the Arab hero whose story will change the way Arabs view Jews, themselves, and their own history.

The story

Overview

Thousands of people have been honored for saving Jews during the Holocaust—but not a single Arab. Looking for a hopeful response to the plague of Holocaust denial sweeping across the Arab and Muslim worlds, Robert Satloff sets off on a quest to find the Arab hero whose story will change the way Arabs view Jews, themselves, and their own history.

The story of the Holocaust's long reach into the Arab world is difficult to uncover, covered up by desert sands and desert politics. We follow Satloff over four years, through eleven countries, from the barren wasteland of the Sahara, where thousands of Jews were imprisoned in labor camps; through the archways of the Mosque in Paris, which may once have hidden 1700 Jews; to the living rooms of octogenarians in London, Paris and Tunis. The story is very cinematic; the characters are rich and handsome, brave and cowardly; there are heroes and villains. The most surprising story of all is why, more than sixty years after the end of the war, so few people— Arab and Jew—want this story told.

Editorial Reviews

Jewish Tribune
An eye-opener that sheds light on an all-too-often forgotten aspect of the Holocaust . . . .unique and makes a solid contribution to understanding.

Deborah Lipstadt
To be sure, Satloff's efforts to tell the story of Arab behavior—both complicity and heroism—during the Holocaust are important. The stories of rescuers of all faiths and ethnicities should be told. Not only is their courage part of the history of the Holocaust, but it also gives the lie to bystanders' claims that nothing could have been done. But these stories should be uncovered for the sake of history, not for the purpose of changing irrational attitudes. Satloff has told an important story and told it well, but he has done so for noble but misguided reasons.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Satloff's compelling book details the roles Arabs played in assisting or resisting the Third Reich, Italian Fascism and the Vichy government, and the expansion of the Final Solution into their countries. This includes active collaboration with anti-Semitic policies Arabs helped run Bizerte, one of 60 labor camps for Jews in Morocco and Algeria established by the Vichy government. It also includes many instances of brave resistance, such as the bey of Tunis, who protected the Jews under his patronage. On the whole, while Jews "were almost always better off ruled by Muslims rather than Christians," Arabs generally displayed indifference to the Jews' plight. Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an expert on Arab culture and history, is careful to explore the nuances of a complicated story and the relationship between fascist European powers and their colonies. Italy and France, for example, overrode local control by imposing anti-Semitic social restraints in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Satloff is, correctly, so careful about nuance that, despite some greatly moving personal narratives, the book as a whole lacks the powerful wallop that we receive from reading David Kertzer or Daniel Goldhagen. But this is important material, and Satloff's work is groundbreaking for Jewish, Middle Eastern and Holocaust studies. 8 pages of b&w photos; maps. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unexpected glimpse of the Holocaust in North Africa, where thousands of Jews were forced into 100 labor camps while most Arabs looked the other way, others collaborated with persecutors and some saved lives Jews. An American Jew and director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the author set out to find a story about an Arab who saved a Jew in the hope that such knowledge might help end ignorance and denial of the Holocaust in the Arab world. (Israel's Yad Vashem memorial lists no Arabs among thousands of non-Jewish "righteous" who rescued Jews.) Satloff recounts four years of investigation in Arab countries where wartime brutality against the Jews was commonplace, in particular Morocco and Algeria (under the Vichy French), Libya (Mussolini's Fascists) and Tunisia (the Nazis). His engrossing and deeply personal study shows how Europeans brought the Holocaust to the Sahara, stripping Jews of rights and assets and forcing them into labor. As A.J. Liebling wrote, Vichy officials in Algeria needed no Nazi pressure to harass Jews: "the Nazis [came along] belatedly and collaborated with them." Following leads from testimonies and archives, Satloff visits the scant remains of torture sites, including the abandoned stone buildings of the Tendrara labor camp in Morocco, and talks with individuals who describe several convincing instances of Arab generosity toward Jews, notably in Bir Halima, Tunisia, where Si Ali Sakkat opened his Muslim family farm to 60 escapees from a nearby camp; and in Europe, where present-day Muslim leaders confirmed that the Great Mosque in Paris helped some Jews survive the German occupation. The author avers that these and stories yet to be uncoveredwill help change the views of Arabs who minimize the Holocaust and Jews who refuse to accept the fact that Jews in Arab lands also suffered persecution. A thoughtful work showing that hatred-and compassion-can flourish anywhere.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781586483999
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Publication date:
10/28/2006
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Satloff, an expert on Arab and Islamic politics, is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Soon after 9/11, he and his family moved to Rabat, Morocco, where he launched a search for Arab heroes of the Holocaust. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with his wife, Jennie Litvack, and two sons, Benjamin and William.

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