Posted by Libi Adler
In 2007 Robert Satloff published his book Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands. In it he considers the role Arabs played in the Holocaust. North Africa is not often included in discussions about World War II. In fact, Arabs in countries like Tunisia and Morocco assisted the Nazis’ roundup of North African Jews. There was active collaboration with anti-Semitic policies — Arabs helped run Bizerte, one of 60 labor camps for Jews in Morocco and Algeria established by the Vichy government. In an interview, Satloff said that “To a greater extent than I ever knew, the Jews of Arab lands suffered many of the same elements of Holocaust persecution that the Jews of Europe suffered.”
Thus, Satloff’s mission was to find out if there was ONE Arab who helped at least ONE Jew at the time of the Holocaust. He found that in fact there were. This book describes some of the Arab heroes who helped shield and protect Jews from being exterminated by the Nazis. These noble stories are often overlooked.
Soon, a PBS special on this topic will be explaining what happened to the Jewish communities in Arab lands during the Holocaust, which is unfortunately largely forgotten. Satloff explains that even though many Arabs deny the Holocaust happened, or if they admit that it did, claim that the Jews deserved it, there were some righteous among the people that chose to save Jews in their time of need. Satloff traces down survivors and family members, using testimony and information volunteered to him to find those who risked their lives to save others. His hope is that: “If Arab ‘Schindlers’ ever existed, it might change how Arabs view the Holocaust and how Arabs and Jews view each other.” Whether or not this will change opinions it is a piece of history that needs to be brought to light.
Don’t miss this special airing of Among the Righteous on PBS on Monday April 12, 2010 at 10 PM ET. Check local listings.
For a Washington Post review of the book by Deborah Lipstadt click here.