Morocco in 1940 was a French protectorate, nominally rulled by the Sultan. After the fall of France (June 1940), a French Government was established in an unoccupied zone with a capital at Vichy. This Government while not totally controlled by the Germans, but collaborated with them in many ways. One of these was the Holocaust. A Vichy law of October 4. 1940 provided that "foreign nationals of the Jewish race" would be detained in "special concentration camps". The Sultan of Morocco wa a French client, however, the German victory provided an opportunity to expand his perogarives against a weakened France. The role of Mohammad V is a matter of historical debate. He had earlier ordered the detention of various persons who could be used as forced labor. These camps were primarily set up for European Jews, not Moroccan Jews. One report indicated that there were 12 such camps set up in Morocco. Conditions in these camps were harsh, although the fate of the interned Jews in Morocco was apparently better than that of the Tunisian Jews in concentration camps. The situation of Jews was "precarious," especially European Jews. The Sultan attempted to protect Moroccan Jews, however, Vichy regulations imposed in Morocco included severe limitations on Jews, including work as professionals and education for children. There were forced relocation to the "mellahs" (Moroccan ghettos) as well as financial extortions, land expropriation, exclussion from holding public office, and a variety of other regulations. We know of no actual deportations of Jews from Morocco. These restrictions were only ended by the Allied Torch landings, but not right away. The Jews were not immediately released because Eisenhower allowed Admiral Darlan to retain Vichy's authority. After Laval's assasination, General de Gaulle finally ended all Vichy influence in Morocco and abrogated the Vichy race laws (June 3, 1943). [Laskier]
There are records of Jews in what is now Morocco during the Diaporra following the Roman suppression of the Jewish Revolt (1st century AD). Jews after the Islamic conquest becamed dhimmis
or second-class citizens who were forced to live in ghettos known as mellah. There was a degree of toleration during the Islamic era, but punctuated by periods of persecution, including massacres. One such attack occuured in Fez in which 6,000 Jews were killed (1033). The largest attacks occurred in Fez and Marrakesh when over 100,000 Jews were killed (1146). There was another attack in Marrakesh (1232). There were also periods of toleration during whic Jews even received important appointments (13th-15th centuries). Many Jews expelled from Spin and Portugal souught refuge in Morocco (15th century). Some stayed in Morocco, others settled in provinces of the Ottoman Empire. France occupied Morocco creating aprotectorate (1912). This brought French law to Morocco which ended the legal decrimination of Jews. This changed again after the fall of France (June 1940). The Vichy regime issued anti-Semetic laws which applied in Morocco. Many Jews were interned in work ca,ps. King Muhammad prevented deportation of Moroccan Jews to NAZI death camps. Some Jews with French passports were deported. The Allies landed in Morocco as part of Operation Torch (November 1942). This precented the NAZIs from proceeding furher against Moroccan Jews. Morocco at the time had over 250,000 Jews, the largest Jewish population in the Arab world outside of Palestine. After Israel declared independence and the Arab states invaded, Arabs rioted in Oujda and Djerada, killing 44 Jews. About 18,000 Jews emigrated, most but not all to Israel (1948-49). Jewish emigration slowed down after 1949, but continued at a few thousand annually during the 1950s, gradually reducing the Moroccan Jewish community.
European countries by the mid-19th century were demanding special rights in Morocco a country which do to its geographic situation was of considerable strategic impotyance. The industrial revolutuon transforming Europe did not touch Morroco. Here backward rulers and Islamic scholars played roles in maintaning Moricco as a virtually fedudal state. The industrial revolution radically transformed the balance of power between Morocco and the European powers. Spain was the first country to intervebe n Morocco. Spain intervened to enforce such demands and defeated Moroccan forces (1860). They were soon followed by the French. The Europeans by the 20th century had colonized virtually all of Africa and much of Asia. An indedpendent Morocco was an anomaly. One reason for this was that the European powers could not agree over who should take possession of Morocco. This was asituation that the Europeans moved to correct. With a weakened Sultan, the Europeans move to actually colonize Morocco. France established a protectorate along the lines of Tunisia (1912). The French rule in Morocco as in Algeria and Tunisia was maintained by the French Army, but there were substantial differences. A fiction of Moroccan rule was mauntained with the Sultn. The Sultan had a degree of authority unlike any figure in either Algeria or Tunisia. It was the French-appointed resident general, howwever, who held the real authority in Morocco. The Sultan was forced to work through newly created ministeries staffed by French officials. The Spanish created a smaller protectorate in Morocco. The French protectorate introduced French law which provided a degree of equality to Moroccan Jews.
Our information on Morocco is still quite limited. One source describes a decesion pf the Pasha in 1937 which seems to have affected where Jews could live. We are not yet sure just who the pasha was. At any rate the decession apparently restricted newly arriving Jews, I think in Casablanca, to the mellah (Jewish district of old médina). Otherwise they had to leave the city.
France in the early 20th century expanded its position in Morocco. Morocco became a French protectorate under the terms of the Treaty of Fes (1912). Morocco was the scene of provicative incidents with Germany. Moroccan units fought for France in World war I. Oposition to French colonial rule increased during the inter-war era. After the War began, the fall of France shocked many nationalists (June 1940). The situation did not immetiately change because ynder the Franco-German Armistice the Vicht regime retained control of France's colonial dependencies. Moroccan authorities continued to cooperate with Vichy officials. The Allied Torch landings changed the situation radically as Morocco was rapidly occupied by American forces (November 1942). Morocco was used as a supply base for the Allied forces driving east toward Tunisia. The Allies held one of the most important conferences of the War at Casablanca (January 1943). Roosevelt, Churchill, and DeGualle attended, but Stalin declined. It was at Casablanca that the call for "unconditional surrender" was issued and the decession to launch an expanded strategic bombing campaign was made. President Roosevelt gave personal assurances to King Mohammed V, that the United states swould support independence. The French in Morocco rapidly went over to the Free French and Allied side. The Allies promised Morocco independence within 10 years if they cooperated with the Allies. France after the War, however, did not honor the pledge. Nationalist groups later based their campaign for independence on such Allied pronouncements as the Atlantic Charter. The Istiqlal (Independence) Party issued a manifesto demanding independemce (1944).
The terms of the June 1940 armistace between Germany and France divided France into an occupied and unoccupied zone, with a rigid demarcation or boundary line between the two. The Germans obrained direct control three-fifths of France, including northern and western France and the entire Atlantic coast which was critical to the Ferman war effort against Britain. The Atlantic coast region provided air bases for the Luftwaffe air campaign and the Kriegesmarine U-boat capaign. The rest of France was left to be administered by the Petain's Government at Vichy. Provisions of the armistice, the "surrender on demand clause", was an obligation to arrest and turn over anyone requested by the Germans. Thus the Germans to persue any one they wanted even in the unoccupied or Vichy zone. Initially this included Jews, Communists, Socialists, as well as political officials who had been outspokingly critical of the NAZIs. France was forced to disband its army, except for a minimal force of 100,000 men for maintaining domestic order. This was the same size force that Gerrmany had been allowed under the Versailles Peace Treaty. The 1.5 million French Prisioners of War (POWs) were to remain in Germanm prisoner of war camps. The French government agreed to stop military units from leaving France to fight with the British. France had to agree to pay for the cost the Germans incurred in occupying the country. This Government while not totally controlled by the Germans, but collaborated with them in many ways.
We do not yet have details about Vichy officials in Morocco. We do not know who officials were and just what there attitides were. One source suggests that they did not energeticallyh enforce the Vichy race laws. This appears to be the case. We are not entirely sure why this was. The Sultan's disapproval may have been a factor.
The Sultan was a French client, Mohammed V (1909-61). The German victory provided an opportunity to expand his perogarives against a weakened France. The role of Mohammad V in the Holocaust is a matter of historical debate. He became Sultan in 1927. He was a member of the Alaouite Dynasty which dates from the 17th century. Mohammed was only the third son of Sultan Moulay Yusuf and not in line for the throne. French officials when his father died (1927), selected him over his older brothers, judgeing him to be more maleable than his older brothers. He proved, however, to have strong nationalist tendencies. This became apparent a few years after his selection. The French had set up the Berber Dahir legislation (1930). The legislature had approved different legal systems for the two main Moroccan ethnic groups (Berbers and Arabs). This proved unpopular with both groups. The French had supported it as aay of dividing Moroccans and thus strengthening the Protectorate. It proved a mistake, dividing the country, but provoking anti-French nationalis sentiment. Mohammed advised the French to rescind it (1934). Moroccan nationalists conceived of a way of promoting nationalist sentiment without provoking the French. They organized the Fête du Trône, an annual Throne Day festival celebrated on the
anniversary of Mohammed's assumption of power. Mohammed used these celebrations to give speeches that, though moderate, clearly encouraged nationalist sentiment. The French were unsure how to respond, after all they had chosen Mohammed. They eventually consented to making the festival an official holiday. Mohammed thus during the 1930s gradually built his nationalist credentials, but without breaking with the French. We have noted reports that Mohammed helped to complicate the efforts of Vichy officals to apply NAZI-style race laws in Morocco. He could not prevent it, but his efforts meant that Moroccan Jews were not as affected by the Vichy laws as Jews in Algeria. He was unavle to openly defy Vichy authorities, but he did bargain with them and obtain concessions. And he did openly express his sypathies toward Moroccan Jews. Mohammed after Torch came out strongly in support of the Allies. I'm less sure about his sentiments before Torch. After the Casablanca Conference (Januaru 1943) he met with President Roosevelt who encouraged him to seek independence after the War. French authorities arrested nationalist activists (January 1944). This was the beginning of a decline in relations with the French.
One of the many ways that Vichy colaborated with the Germans was the Holocaust. Marshal Pétain signed the first anti-Semitic measures soon fter the German occupation began (October 1940). The most severe measures were aimed at foreign Jews. This was a common pracice in NAZI occupied Eufope. First foreign Jews were targeted and local Jews as well. There were also many measures affecting French Jews. These made it virtually impossible for French Jews to make a living. The Armistice left southern France unoccupied as well as French colonies. Vichy authorities ordered the new laws applied in the colonies as well. Again the most severe measures were aimed at foreign Jews. Sultan Mohammed V managed to win some concessions before signing the decrees Vichy offocials put before him. The Moroccan laws like the laws in Vichy and the rest of NAZI occupied Europe made it virtually impossible for Jews to make a living, reducing them to poverty. There were also restrictions on children attending schools.
Mohammed early in the Vichy period reportedly approved the detention of various persons who could be used as forced labor. I do not have details on this. This may be simply the signing of decrees presented to him by Vichy officials which he had little choice, but to sign. The Vichy French resident-general
presented decrees to the sultan that were essentially commands. The Sultan'S signature was a mere formality. These camps seem to have been primarily set up for European Jews, not Moroccan Jews. One report indicated that there were 12 such camps set up in Morocco. Conditions in these camps were harsh, although the fate of the interned Jews in Morocco was apparently better than that of the Tunisian Jews in concentration camps. A source confirms that the internees were hundreds of French and foreign Jews, mostlt Central Europe Jews fleeing the NAZIS. (I think these camps were primarily for adult men rather than families, but am not yet positive about this.) The Vichy authorities used the term "camps of supervised stay". Whatever the name, they were work camps. Camps werre reported at El Jadida, Ain Leuh, Beni Mellal, Bou Arfa, Tadla, Mrirt, Tazmamart, Agdz, and Ghbila. The Ain al-Ourak camp was an especially severe one. It was located outside the southern Moroccan transit and mining town of Bou Arfa. I do not fully understand these camps, but do not think they were just for Jews. Arab nationalists, Free Masons, and Vichy critics, especially Socialists andCommunists, were also interned in these camps.
Vichy authorities in France required Jews to wear yellow stars so that they could be more easily identified. Some sorces report that the Sultan refused to make Moroccan Jews wear the yellow stars. I do not yet have details on this. Nor do I know how he was able to defy Vichy authorities. The Sultan is reported to have said, "There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only subjects." Serge Berdugo, the head of the Council of Israelite Communities of Morocco, reports that in a show of defiance to Vichy authorities, the Sultan in 1941 invited all the rabbis of Morocco to the traditional Throne Day ceremony in the royal palace. [Satloff]
The Sultan was both a nationalist and devout Muslim. He did not share, however, the anti-Semitic beliefs of the NAZIs and Aran nationlists in Arab and Muslim countries (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine ). For Mohammed NAZI racism was un-Islamic, a factor that did not deter men like the Grand Mufti. The Koran has no problem with laws establishising non-Muslims as second class citizens. And the Koran say terrible things about Jews--but no where dies the Koran fefine HJews in racial terms. It does not countenance racial-based descrimination which was ant the core of NAZI anti-Semitism. Once a Jew or Chruistian converts to Islam, he then has full rights within the Ulmea or Muslim community. As a result, NAZI racial laws appear to have offended him. [Satloff]
The situation of Jews was "precarious," especially European Jews. The Emir attempted to protect Moroccan Jews, however, Vichy regulations imposed in Morocco included severe limitations on Jews, including work as professionals and education for children. There were forced relocation to the "mellahs" (Moroccan ghettos) as well as financial extortions, land expropriation, exclussion from holding public office, and a variety of other regulations.
Vichy authorities ordered a census or inventory of Jewish owned property. In Europe such census and registration measures were arelude to confiscation. The Sultan in private promised Jewish leaders that he would protect them. It is no clear just how he could have done this. I am not sure to what extent this census was compiled. One source indicateds that the Totch landings occurred just before it was to be compiled. Other sources suggest that it was compiled. Another source reports that after Torch, the Sultan ordered the densus results destroyed. [Satloff]
Sultan Muhammad reportedly prevented deportation of Moroccan Jews to NAZI death camps. Some Jews with French passports may have been deported. I do not yet have full details on just what Vichy authorities were planning and how eminent deportations were.
Moroccan Jews report that something was going to happen November 15. They describe posters plastered all over Casablanca where there were known to be concentrations of Jews announcing that date, although I am not entirely sure what the posters said. Apparently they were announcing the mass arrest of Moroccan Jews. This is somewhat unusual as large-scale actions were often suprise operations. Perhaps they were telling the Jews just what was coming and how they should behave. The arrests apparently were to be conducted by the
Service d'ordre legionnaire (SOL) which I think was the French Foreign Legion. They apparently had orders not only to arrest Jews, Free Masons, and Resistance members. Whether the plans included arrests of whole families I do not know. Nor am I assure if deportations were planned. The Vichy authorities apparently planned to concentrate Jews in camps as had already been done in Algeria. The date, was apparently chosen because of a medieval Crusade pogrom. [Assaraf, p. 455.] It seems more likely that the Torch landings prevented the mass arrest of Moroiccan Jews and perhaps even the beginning of deportations.
The war had reached a critical stage in late 1942. The Germans and many Europeans thought they had won the War after the fall of France. Men like Pétain and Darlan thought this way. The German victory was so overwealming that it certainly looked that way. The importance of the Battle of Britain (September 1940) or even the German defeat before Moscow (December 1941) were not yet fully understood, although the entry of America into the War (December 1941) did give some cause for hope. The overwealming German victories were factor in deciding to go ahead with the mass murder of he Jews. And by mid-1942 the industrial-scale death camps were fully operational and deportations had begun from the occupied countries. The NAZI press had begun telling the German people that Stalingrd had fallen and Rommel was only a few miles from Suez. Thus Vichy authorities in Morocco had no way of knowing how decisively the war was going to change. Thus an action against the country's Jews is quite possible. Then within the space of 4 weeks the whole course of the War abrutly changed. The first Allied victory would come at El Alemain (October 23). This would be followed with in days by Torch (November 8) and most decisevely at Stalingrad (November 19).
After Pear Harbor, Hitler declared war on America (December 1941). This was the only country for which Hitler bothered to issue a formal declaration of war. America and Britain launced the first Allied offensive of the war less than a year later. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided that the Allies needed to open a Second Front to take pressure off the hard-pressed Red Army reeling under the German summer offensive driving toward Stalingrad and the oil-rich Caucauses (July 1942). Joseph Stalin demanded an invasion of Europe. Wisely Roosevelt and Churchill targetted French North Africa. American General George Marshall, in many ways the architect of the American victory, was opposed to Totch, considering it a diversion. Roosevelt insisted. While Montgomery's victory at El Alemain often receives more attentiin, it was the Torch landings that were the decisive action. The Amercan and British landings in North Africa sealed the fate of the Axis desert campaign. Even if Rommel had broken through to Suez, he would have been forced to turn west to deal with the Allied landings in French North Africa. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Allied commander to oversee the Torch Landings. The Allies driving east from their Moroccan and Algerian beachheads linked up with the Brish advancing west (November 1942). Although Hitler rushed reinforcements to Tunisia, the end result was the first major defeat of a German Army by the Western Allies.
Admiral Jean-Francois Darlan was assigned the task of modernizing the French Navy (1929).
Primeminister Leon Blum appointed Darlan as admiral chief of staff (1936). The following year he was promoted to admiral of the fleet commanding all French maritime forces. Darlan held right-wing and anti-British convictins. He came to think that NAZI Germany would win World War II. He thus like Pétain concluded that resistance was futile and not in France's interest. He thought that France should seek the best deal that could be obtained from Hitler. After Primeminister Paul Reynaud resigned (June 16, 1940, Darlan agreed to support his replacement, Henri-Philippe Pétain. Pétain named him minister of the navy.
Hitler did indeed offer terms, severe ones, but terms. What men like Darlan an Pétain did not grasp is that after Germany had won the war, he could impose what ever termns he wanted. Pétain signed the armistice, Darlan ordered the French fleet to colonial bases in North Africa to kep them out of German hands. He also orderd the Navy to remain loyal to the Vichy government. Darlan's anti British sentiment was more than reinforced when the Royal Navy sank much of the French fleet at Oran (July 1940). Pétain appointed Darlan to replace Pierre Laval as vice premier (February 1941). He also designated Darlan as his successor. He also ppointed Darlan as minister for foreign affairs, defence and the interior. Pétain appointed Darlan Commander in Chief of French armed forces and the High Commissioner in North Africa (January 1942). Hitler seems to have trusted Laval more than Darlan. Thus Darlan resigned his cabinet posts (April 1942) and they were assigned to Laval. Darlan remained Petain's deputy premier.
Darlan was in North Africa when the Allies landed (November 1942). Darlan ordered Vichy troops to resist. He was not sure in what force the Allies had landed and was still convinced the Germans would win the War. He eventually ordered them to surrender, but secretly ordered Vichy authorities in Tunisia where the Allies had not labded to let the Germans bring in reinforcements. Eisenhower to get the Vichy forces to stop fighting agreed to allow Darlan to retain his position. Eisenhower appointed Darlan as civil and military chief of French North Africa. General Charles De Gaulle was furious, but the decession saved quite a number of Allied and Frenchh lives and allowed the Allies to get on to fighting the Getmans.
Darlan did not, however, escape tge Resistance. A young French royalist, Ferdinand Bonnier de la Chapelle, shot him in his office (December 1942). It is only after Darlan's death thatva final break with Vichy came. Jews and other intenees were finally released from the work camps. I am not precisely sure when this occurred.
The United States established diplomatic with Vichy. I'm not sure about Britain. Relations between Vichy and Britain were very strained, especially after Churchill ordered the Royal Navy to take action against the French fleet at Oran (July 1940). Churchill took in DeGualle, but his relations with both the British and Americans were difficult. The Allies did not move to immediately install the Free French after the Torch landings. One factor was that DeGualle had irritated both Churchill and Roosevelt. Anither problem was that the French were very divided and DeGualle's Free French not yet the clearly dominant French group. In fact Pétain and the Vuchy regime still had considerable authority and popularity. This changed rapidly after Torch and the Soviet victories on the Eastern Front, It was rapidly becoming apparent that the Germans were not going to win the War. In addition, NAZI demands for conscript labor rapidly undermined the popularity of the Vichy regime in France. Eisenhower's attempt to work with Darlan effectively kept Vichy laws, including the race laws, in place. This continued eve after Darlan's assasination. The factors involved were both the French forces in North Africa and diplomatic relations with Vichy.
Even after the American labdings (November 8) and Darlan's assination (December ?), the Vichy anti-Semitic laws remained in place. Gradually General DeGualle was able to establish the Free French position in Morocco. One source suggests the laws were abrogated March 15, 1943 by te Amnericans. Another source suggests General de Gaulle ended all Vichy influence in Morocco and abrogated the Vichy race laws (June 3, 1943). [Laskier] We still do not have details on just what transpired.
Morocco had the largest Jewish community in North Africa. After Israel declared independence and the Arab states invaded, Arabs rioted in Oujda and Djerada, killing 44 Jews. About 18,000 Jews emigrated, most but not all to Israel (1948-49). Jewish immegration slowed down after 1949, but continued at a few thousand annually during the 1950s, gradually reduciing the Moroccan Jewish community to a few thousand. Several factors explain the exit of Moroccan Jews. It is probably true that Moroccans did not share the exterme anti-Semitism of many Europeans. It is not true, however, that there was no anti-Semitism in Morocco. The Vichy experience undoubtedly alerted many Moroccan Jews to their vulnerability. And the hoistility and scattered violence after Israel declared independence was a further factor. Limited economic opportunity and fear of the future after France granted Moroccon independence were further factors. AQ major tuning point was when the Moroccan Government attemoted to ban Jewish emigration (1956).
Assaraf, Robert. A Certain History of the Jews of Morocco (Jean-Claude Gawsewitch), ISBN: 2-35013-005-3.
Laskier, Michael. The Jews of the Maghreb in the shadow of Vichy and the Swastika (Hebrew, Univ. of Tel Aviv, 1992).
Satloff, Robert. Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands.
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