Robert Satloff, Executive Director, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has written an important, gripping examination of a relatively unknown, often untold chapter of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, that occurred when Nazi Germany and its Fascist allies and client states (Fascist Italy, Vichy France) occupied North Africa in World War II. "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands" is a memorably terse account of Satloff's search for "The Righteous" among the Arab and Muslim worlds, a seemingly quixotic quest in search of those Arabs and Muslims who did try to protect their Jewish neighbors from persecution, imprisonment and execution by the Nazis and their Fascist allies. He embarked upon this search hoping to impress upon Arab intelligentsia in the Middle East of the necessity to come to grips finally with the harsh realities of the Holocaust; something that virtually all have failed to come to terms with since their acknowledgement of the Holocaust might lead eventually to recognizing the validity of Israel's right to exist, and of the important, though quite tragic, reasons why it was established as the world's only independent Jewish state. Much to his everlasting credit, Satloff has succeeded in his admirable quest, demonstrating that there were some Arabs and Muslims willing to protect Jews from Nazi persecution, even though others actively suppported it, while most remain indifferent to the worsening plight of their Jewish neighbors. Satloff's publisher, Public Affairs, deserves ample praise for recognizing the importance of Satloff's work by publishing this fine, if rather terse, book.
Satloff introduces us to wealthy, worldly Arabs in Algeria, Tunisa and Morroco who willingly saved Jews from persecution by Nazi German troops and Fascist Italian and French police, often at great personal risk to themselves, their families and friends. Indeed, there is one especially poignant account of an Arab risking his life to save a Jewish woman from being raped by German soldiers, finding for her and her family, sanctuary, literally at the last minute. He also describes the actions of Tunisian prime minister Mohamed Chenik, who risked his life by peacefully resisting Nazi efforts to have Tunisian Jews moved to local concentration camps. And he notes that Paris's Grand Mosque was the sanctuary for approximately 100 North African Jews, concluding that senior Muslim leaders in the mosque had provided them with necessary documentation to prove to both Nazi and Vichy French authorities that these persons were actually fellow Muslims. Already Satloff's pioneering research has led the Federal Republic of Germany to offer financial compensation to those who were forcibly moved to the more than 100 labor camps established by the Nazis and their Fascist allies throughout Nazi and Fascist-occupied North Africa. While Satloff may not have succeeded in finding the "Arab Schindler" or "Arab Wallenberg", he has nonetheless done an important service in finally revealing the scope of Nazi and Fascist persecution of Jews in North Africa; for this reason alone "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands" deserves to be read widely in the Middle East, as well as here, in the United States.