During the French Protectorate in Morocco, the Jewish presence in the country’s economic capital Casablanca was massive, as migrants coming from the coastal cities and the interior regions, or from Algeria and Tunisia, joined the already significant population present in the city’s Mellah when Hubert Lyautey’s administration was put into place in 1912. Once the law made it legal for them to build on the land they owned, Jewish developers embarked on the creation of the highest structures of the city, with bold forms then unknown in France. Among the architects who designed numerous apartment houses and villas, from the most modest to the more sumptuous, were Jews such as the Suraqui brothers. After having contributed in the 1930s to the emergence of local modernism, in the 1950s the Jewish bourgeoise emulated Californian stereotypes in its residences, while innovative social housing cared for the poorest component of the community.
This paper investigates traces of German-Jewish refugee experiences in South Africa in the 1930s and the war years that have typically been left out of mainstream historical narratives and public discourses. It will draw on refugee life histories to investigate whether the concepts of “usable pasts” and “chosen amnesia” can help explain how and why references to widespread and virulent anti-Semitism and Nazism during the 1930s and 1940s receded from public discourse in the postwar era, a period characterized by rapprochement between South African Jews and the ruling National Party that came to power in 1948. The paper will also examine whether Jews’ incorporation into the white social order of the apartheid system required “strategic forgetting” about the history of the National Party’s support for Nazi Germany, its use of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the 1930s, and its advocacy for the 1938 Aliens Act that effectively ended Jewish immigration. Finally, the paper examines whether, during the apartheid years, this history became an “unusable past.” The motivation for seeking to “recover” this unsettling past draws on Claudia Braude’s observation that recollections of these “difficult pasts” of Jewish racial ambiguity can help deepen our understandings of the history of South African racism.
Emmanuel Taamrat (1888-1963) is one of the first young men belonging to the Beta Israel (Falashas), brought from Ethiopia to Europe by Jacques Faitlovitch in order to be “regenerated by Western Judaism.” After two years spent in Paris, he was sent to Florence in 1906 where he studied with rabbi Margulies at Collegio Rabbinico in Florence. He remained in Italy for thirteen years because of the First World War and in 1919 he went to Palestine and after to Ethiopia. He spent most of his life as director of the Falasha school in Addis Abeba but in 1937 he was obliged to flee to Egypt after the attempt to assassinate General Graziani because of his well-known opposition to the fascist regime. He helped the Ethiopian resistance and was appointed by Hailé Selassie on his coming back to Ethiopia as President of the Committee of Public Education. In 1948 he was sent to Paris as cultural attaché at the Ethiopian embassy. He was influenced by Italian socialist and anarchist important figures and ideas before the rise of Fascism. As a very free and independent individual he suffered from his condition of being double colonized, by western Judaism and by Italian occupation. He was colonized by Italian Jews and western Jews and subject to the strong authority of Faitlovitch and by the Italians during the Italian occupation. But he was also profoundly fascinated by European Jewish culture and by Western thought and Italy’s language and customs. His own life could be another representation of the idea proposed by Albert Memmi of a colonized and colonizing Jew. He died in Israel.
In September of 1940, a group of nearly 2000 Jews from across Eastern Europe were rounded up by German authorities, put aboard ship transports, one from Bratislava, the other Vienna, and began a journey down the Danube that would end up taking them across the Indian Ocean. After much diplomatic scrambling the British Government arranged to have the group detained on the island of Mauritius, then still a British colony. This group of now-stateless refugees would be detained for the entire duration of WWII, leaving an impact on the island and its people, as well as the South African Jewish community; however, it is an impact that has remained largely unexplored. In this article, I want to look at a few of the sparse sources relating this history: some artworks produced by two of the detainees, as well as a contemporary novel written by Indo-Mauritian author Nathacha Appanah, entitled Le dernier frère or The Last Brother. I want to suggest that in Appanah’s 2007 novel, the author imagines the space of the island as intricately entangled with the narrative of Jewish displacement there. In The Last Brother, the island itself and its geographies are places of entanglement, and articulate a version of Michael Rothberg’s “multi-directional memory.” In doing do, Mauritius gives space for thinking about the role of imperial and colonial geo-politics in the making of a what would become perhaps the defining political subjectivity of the twentieth century, the stateless refugee. Reading Mauritius as host to a Southern Hemisphere experience of the Holocaust, offers possible ways to see how both the rise of Nazi Europe, but also the geo-political tectonics of the dissolution of European empires and the creation of postcolonial nations across the globe were entangled in a related set of motions surrounding Europe’s expulsion of its Jewish population.
We are currently witnessing the demise of Arab-Jewish culture – a tradition that started more than fifteen hundred years ago is vanishing before our eyes. Until the twentieth century, the great majority of the Jews under the rule of Islam used Arabic as their language but after the establishment of the State of Israel, Arabic has been gradually disappearing as a language mastered by Jews. They have been deliberately excluded from Arabism to the point that we can now assume an unspoken agreement between Zionism and Arab nationalism to carry out a total cleansing of Arab-Jewish culture. The present article focuses on Iraqi-Jewish authors who immigrated to Israel during the 1950s and examines their insistence on continuing their Arabic literary tradition, despite the reluctance of the two clashing national movements to keep Arab-Jewish culture and identity alive. These attempts failed and gradually most of them stopped writing in Arabic—only few of them successfully shifted to writing in Hebrew, generally adopting the Zionist master narrative.