Deborah Lipstadt– who successfuly defended herself in a libel suit brought by the notorious “revisionist” David Irving– has reviewed in The Washington Post a book about the response of Arabs and Muslims in north Africa and Europe to the Nazi Holocaust.
The book (Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands) is by Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He wrote an article I linked to in October about the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, who may have saved as many as 100 Jews during the Vichy regime by providing them with false Muslim identities.
From Satloff’s book, Lipstadt cites another instance of decency:
When Vichy officials offered Algerian Arabs windfall profits if they took over Jewish property, not a single Arab in Algiers participated. (Vichy had no trouble finding willing Frenchmen.) On a Friday in 1941, religious leaders throughout Algiers delivered sermons warning Muslims against participation in schemes to strip Jews of their property.
Arabs behaved like many Europeans during the Holocaust: Some helped Jews; others persecuted them or benefited from their persecution; the majority looked the other way.
What interests Lipstadt (and me) is the failure of Arabs and Muslims to recognize this history– even the most noble parts of it. (Has Satloff’s book got any attention at all in the Arab or Muslim media?)
Satloff speculates that Arab attitudes toward Jews are now so hostile that to acknowledge the help given Jews by preceding generations would inflame Middle Eastern passions. It would run counter to the prevailing myths in the Arab world about the Holocaust, which range from crude Holocaust celebration (in which Hitler is a hero) to Holocaust denial.
I fear there is truth to this. To acknowlege Arab and Muslim heroism during the Holocaust would be to acknowledge the fact of the Holocaust– which, I suspect, for many Arabs is just one step away from acknowledging the legitimacy of the State of Israel. So we have the strange phenomenon of a Jewish author (Satloff) who is more eager to recognize the humanity and decency of Arabs toward Jews than are many Arabs themselves.
I read an article about Satloff’s work in the Sunday Times magazine a couple of weeks back. Well worth a look. Satloff also makes this point about Yad Vashem, Israel’s Library of Remembrance:
Today, Schindler and Wallenberg are perhaps the most famous men to have been officially recognised by Yad Vashem as “righteous among the nations”. They are just two of the 21,310 Gentiles honoured for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Individuals come from Chile and Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia, but there is no representative on that list from Tunisia, Morocco or Algiers. “There are Turkish and Bosnian Muslims cited,” says Satloff, “but nearly 60 years after the war, no Arab has ever been officially recognised.”
Hopefully, his book will ensure this does not remain the case for much longer.