The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust


Beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched, this compelling book reveals the almost unknown story of how French Muslims' courage, faith, and devotion to justice saved the lives of so many Jews. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and recommended books and films.

During the Nazi occupation of Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation to a concentration camp. Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help. Yet many ...

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Beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched, this compelling book reveals the almost unknown story of how French Muslims' courage, faith, and devotion to justice saved the lives of so many Jews. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and recommended books and films.

During the Nazi occupation of Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation to a concentration camp. Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help. Yet many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place—the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Not just a place of worship but also a community center, this hive of activity was an ideal temporary hiding place for escaped prisoners of war and Jews of all ages, including children.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While Ruelle admits in her afterword that “many of the details of this story are destined to remain forever uncertain,” she and DeSaix (who also collaborated on Hidden on the Mountain) have pieced together a fascinating history of how the North African Muslim community of Paris and the Grand Mosque secretly harbored Jews and others after the Nazi invasion (“It was... an oasis hidden behind high walls right in the middle of the city”). The story isn't always easy to follow—it is by necessity episodic—though Ruelle provides ample detail and explanation, and DeSaix's moody oils provide the emotional and narrative ballast. Working mostly in double-page spreads, she masterfully conveys how the compound's serene, exotic interiors offered reassurance during desperate times. In one of the most striking images, a Jewish girl stands solemnly in front of one of the mosque's elaborately tiled walls; it's as if the mosaic's beauty and scale had a talismanic power, capable of warding off an otherwise horrible fate. Ages 8–up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Karen Leggett
The story opens with a dark painting of Nazi soldiers marching by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in 1940. The opposite page shows a phrase that is both an Islamic hadith, or saying, and a Jewish proverb: "Save one life, and it is as if you've saved all of humanity." This is the little known story of Muslims in France who hid Jews in the Grand Mosque, "an oasis hidden behind high walls right in the middle of the city." The Mosque was a community center for people who came to France from North African colonies like Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Si Kaddour Benghabrit was the sophisticated and cultured Algerian-born diplomat who ran the mosque. He helped one young Berber Jew from Algeria hide out at the mosque during the Nazi occupation. He hid the children of other North African Jews among his own children. A Muslim doctor from Tunisia helped Jewish children obtain false identity papers so they could pass as Christian or Muslim. The Nazis were reluctant to target Muslims as they feared a Muslim uprising in North Africa where they were already fighting Allied forces. Grand Mosque of Paris provides a little known chapter in the story of the Jews in Europe during World War II—historical examples of people now perceived as sworn enemies helping each other stay alive. The illustrations are painted in soft, somber colors, often evoking the fear and loneliness of the time. The authors describe their research in an "Afterword" and provide a short glossary. Although this story is presented as a picture book, the text and illustrations lend themselves as well to older readers who may be more familiar with the history of the second World War. Reviewer: Karen Leggett
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—The authors of Hidden on the Mountain: Stories of Children Sheltered from the Nazis in Le Chambon (Holiday House, 2007) return to France to uncover a little-known story. While they admit that "many of the details are destined to remain forever uncertain, with few facts proven to a historian's satisfaction," Ruelle and DeSaix feel strongly that the bits and pieces of information that they were able to unearth provide convincing evidence that the Muslims of the Grand Mosque of Paris saved Jewish lives. While the format and appearance of this title are similar to other picture books of rescue and resistance during the Holocaust, such as Carmen Agra Deedy's The Yellow Star (Peachtree, 2000) and Ken Mochizuki's Passage to Freedom (Lee & Low, 1997), the text provides more of a descriptive history of events than a retelling of a story. The oil-paint spreads are luminous and beautiful, but they belie the tone of the writing and the presentation of facts. Regardless, this well-researched book belongs on the shelves of most libraries.—Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL
Kirkus Reviews
Holocaust history includes many instances of righteous individuals who risked their lives to hide or help Jews escape the Nazis' annihilating evil. In occupied southern Paris, the Muslim community, descended from the French colonies of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, centered life around the Grand Mosque, a place of worship, culture, education and even health care. North African Jews living in the city maintained a neighborly relationship with their Muslim brothers, who shared physical attributes and similar cultures. These Jews could easily seek refuge at the Mosque, from which the Parisian Muslims who joined the French Resistance guided them to safety through an underground escape route. Although few documents remain, substantial evidence supports this fascinating and courageous story, notable as an example of the truly respectful and honorable rapport Muslims and Jews, living side by side, enjoyed for centuries. Realistic oil paintings complement the lengthy text, which celebrates a Muslim community whose selfless devotion to justice saved more than 1,000 lives. A must read for today's multicultural curricula. (afterword, glossary, notes, bibliography, index) (Informational picture book. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823423040
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/2010
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,477,080
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: NC1090L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Gray Ruelle is a former librarian. Her titles include the Harry and Emily series of easy readers as well as picture books and works of nonfiction. She lives in New York City.

Deborah Durland DeSaix is a former college professor. The numerous books she has illustrated include Hilary and the Lions by Frank DeSaix. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 8, 2010

    Great story

    This book tells the horrific story of the Holocaust and how the Jews in Paris were taken to death camps after being crowded in vermin-filled internment camps. Throughout the first few pages I was afraid that I'd hear more horrid tales of one of the horrible events that took place during WWII. But from these first few pages and sad tellings of how tiny babies were taken from their mothers to the death camps, comes a heroic story of how the Muslims aided the Jews by providing them with a safe haven to stay in while the Nazis were walking the streets of Paris hunting for Jews. I've always loved to hear these heroic tales of different cultures and backgrounds helping one another despite their politics and beliefs. It's refreshing to hear about people helping people just out of the goodness of their hearts. I would highly recommend this book for teachers to use in the classroom to show children that although we're all different and come from different backgrounds, it's still our duty to help one another. It's also a great informational story to teach about the Holocaust without graphic pictures and details when teaching younger grade levels. I loved this story and hope to read more stories from this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Amazing never-before-told story

    In this account of Muslims helping Jews during the Holocaust is an unforgettable story of daring, ingenuity and humanity of the highest order, which, as a picture book, is not just for the young to enjoy.

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