Aomar Boum and Sarah Abrevaya Stein knew the wartime experiences of North African Jews are often overlooked in Holocaust history, so they decided to write a book about it.
“Opening up these stories about North African experiences of the second World War and, in some cases, the Holocaust, can not only teach us about this region, but really change what we know about Holocaust history and Jewish history as a whole, and that is a really profound investment and yield for students, for readers and for academic research,” said Stein, chair of Sephardic studies and director of the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies at UCLA.
The National Museum of American Jewish History hosted a webinar about the book, “The Holocaust in North Africa,” on April 9. Josh Perelman, NMAJH’s chief curator, interviewed the two scholars about pre-war Jewish life in North Africa, the impact of colonialism and fascism on the region and the research they conducted for the project.
Boum, associate professor of anthropology at UCLA, said most North African countries were under the colonial rule of European powers on the eve of WWII. France controlled Algeria, Tunisia and northern Morocco, Italy controlled Libya and Spain controlled southern Morocco. He estimated between 480,000 and 500,000 Jews lived in these countries.
Stein said these Jews were a diverse population that migrated from different regions, spoke different languages, came from different classes of society and participated in different political movements. Some Jews in urban centers adopted European lifestyles, while others lived more traditionally.
Since the North African countries had Muslim majority populations, as well as settler colonialists from Europe, Jews had varying relationships with their neighbors. Some lived among Muslims and Christians, others stayed in mostly Jewish communities.
Read the complete article at: Jewish Exponent