The subject of the Holocaust in Arab lands has been, for many years, a largely unknown aspect of the more familiar Holocaust throughout Europe. Documenting the subject has also been a challenging project for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. That’s precisely why Scott Miller, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs, visited the museum’s supporters in Palm Springs recently.
Miller’s mission was to share his success obtaining invaluable historical documentation from Morocco and Tunisia. These documents would validate, at last, how Jews in these Arab countries were treated during the Holocaust in the 1930s and ‘40s. Miller related his experiences locating and microfilming remaining evidence; eventually this will become part of the museum’s collection.
The lecture and dessert reception took place at the residence of Diane and Hal Gershowitz with special guest Michael J. Sarid, director of the museum’s western regional office in Los Angeles.
The museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies is the world’s leading source of newly emerging information about the Holocaust. Attempts to preserve the legacy of North African Jews from this historical period “is a race against the clock,” said Miller, who described the inhumane conditions hundreds of Jewish men endured as forced laborers during railway construction for the Trans Saharan Railway. This tragic chapter in Holocaust history happened during the Vichy regime, which controlled North Africa until the area was liberated in 1943.
Documentation of the fate of North African Jewry exploited by forced labor will survive thanks to more than 30,000 pages of archival material made available though the cooperation of Mohammad VI, king of Morocco. The story behind the survival of Holocaust-era Jews in Arab countries, which include Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, is one of collaboration and collective memory that will finally take its place in Jewish history.