European Ancestors – Europeans Beyond Europe – The Holocaust in North Africa and Beyond

Part of the European Ancestors Series

By 1942 the Holocaust has spread from Europe to North Africa into the Middle East. There was a mixture of native Jewish rounded up within countries in North Africa and some Jewish that had fled to north Africa who were subsequently rounded up.

In this part of the world, there were German military, but there was also influence and enforcement from Italy and Vichy France.

Vichy France existed between 10 July 1940 and 9 August 1944. It comprised of the French State who was officially independent, but whose position aligned with Nazi Germany and therefore Vichy France collaborated with Germany. Whilst the Paris was the capital, the Government established themselves near the French town of Vichy and subsequently that Government overlooked and was responsible for the French civil administration and the colonies that France held.

The Vichy Government passed a Jewish Statute in October 1940. The Statute specified that someone who was Jewish was determined as someone with three of their four Grandparents who were Jewish, or two Jewish Grandparents and a Jewish spouse.

The Jewish populations across this region received varying restrictions and actions, this was aligned to the constrictions that Jews were subjected to early in the Nazi rule, such as:

Tunisia – Under Vichy rule from 1940, occupied by Germany from November 1942. Jewish leaders were ordered to round up 5,000 Jews for forced labour, and 400 Jews died under the German occupation. The allies liberated Tunisia in May 1943 and saved 66,000 Jews from the camps in Europe.

Morocco – A French protectorate country. Jews not sent to death camps. Received less rations than those of Muslim faith or Europeans. The Jewish Statute gave Jews just one month to move into the Jewish quarter.

Algeria – The Jewish population was at least 110,000 strong. Jews stripped of their French citizenship, restricted from some occupations – only 2% of lawyers, doctors, midwives could be Jewish. Jewish expected to comply with the order of selling businesses within one month and those of military service age sent to Internment camps. The Vichy officials remained in office after the liberation, with Jewish restrictions overturned in 1943.

Libya – Enacted anti Jewish laws under the direction of Italy, which gradually increased in strictness. In 1942 Mussolini ordered 2,600 Jewish in Libya to concentration camp in the desert, 500 Jews died of starvation and disease. 30,000 Jews escaped imprisonment following the liberation of the country, along with the liberation of the camp which was called Giado. More than 1 in 5 died at the camp within just months of Typhoid or hunger.

Palestine and Egypt – Many Jews were killed by a Nazi mobile killing unit. The allies prevented the deaths of 75,000 Jews in Egypt and 500,000 in Palestine.

Syria and Lebanon – Another two countries that were Vichy controlled. Jews were removed from government jobs, media and press roles and railways. Despite those restrictions there was limited enforcement. Jews across Syria and Lebanon totalled around 30,000. Following the invasion of the Allies in June 1941 Vichy rule ceased.

Iraq – There was around 135,000 Jewish in the country. There were some instances of violence that erupted following 1 June 1941, which can be described at best as Pogroms.

Those of Jewish faith had been in region since the 6th BCE, earlier than most of the Muslim communities. Jews lived alongside Muslims and Christians albeit in separate communities, interaction leading to merging communities was extremely rare.

In March 1921 there was the establishment of the Iraqi State under British Mandate. From then, Jews became full citizens and were permitted to vote and hold official elected office.  In 1932 Iraq gained Independence under informal rule of the British. In June 1941, Jews celebrating a traditional Jewish holiday, known as Shavuot, were subjected to violence and rioting, which lasted two days. The riots led to violence, there were between 150 to 180 Jews killed, more than 500 were injured and there were instances of offences towards women. There was looting of shops and homes. In many ways this violence and anti-Jewish sentiment increased and aligned with the Axis theology with Jews being murdered on the streets. As the British and allies advanced, the regime in Iraq fell apart, though there were around 180 Jewish murdered.

EXPLORE FURTHER: Holocaust Encyclopaedia –


About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
This entry was posted in European Ancestors, Europeans beyond Europe, Genealogy, Holocaust, Jewish Genealogy & Research. Bookmark the permalink.

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