For an experience so centered on Europe, new scholarship on the Holocaust's long reach into Africa, especially the Arab lands of North Africa, has been especially revealing. Not only does this new chapter of Holocaust inquiry bring new actors into the drama—including Mizrahi Jews, local Muslims, and colonial administrators—it sheds new light on the role of such established figures as Nazi perpetrators, Vichy and Fascist collaborators, and European Jewish refugees fleeing the spread of Hitlerism.
The Holocaust and North Africa—an edited volume of papers and presentations delivered at a path-breaking 2015 conference at The University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)—offers one of the first scholarly collections that mixes original research and insightful commentary on the connection between the Holocaust and North Africa. Boum and Stein have brought together a fascinating compendium that tantalizes readers by opening new areas of historical inquiry.
This volume is not the final word on the history of the Holocaust in North Africa, but its contributors usefully point to areas where further research is needed. For example, how far were Vichy anti-Semites willing to go to implement their plans? Ruth Ginio's look at the execution of anti-Jewish legislation in colonial West Africa is an instructive case study. An excellent chapter by Boum and Mohammed Hatimi on Muslim-Jewish relations in the Moroccan bled focuses on the need for an authoritative account of the many layers of Muslim-Jewish relations across North Africa during this period. Similarly, evocative chapters by Susan Slyomovics and Boum on life in two Vichy internment camps—Bedeau and Djelfa—beg for a comprehensive study of French, Italian, and German camps in North Africa during the war. And in just one brief paragraph in a chapter on Tunisian memoirs of occupation, Lia Brozgal (perhaps unintentionally) underscores the urgency for a study of Jewish women as targets of Nazi and fascist brutality in North Africa, a difficult but much needed topic.
Traditionalists might erroneously view the North African experience as marginal to understanding the Holocaust, but these contributions show it belongs in any comprehensive study of an event about which there is still much to know and learn.