Thursday, May 08, 2008

Among the Righteous

Did any Arabs save any Jews during the Holocaust?

A.  Arabs were not involved in the Holocaust

B.  Some Arabs aided Vichy France, Italy, and Nazi Germany in persecuting Jews

C.  Some Arabs risked their lives to save Jews

Robert Satloff asks this question at the beginning of his fascinating account of the Holocaust in the Arab lands of North Africa. During his 4 years of research, Satloff discovered a trail of Nazi and Vichy labor and punishment camps as well as a current, collective amnesia amongst both Arabs and Jews.

It’s hard to be ignorant of the reality of the Holocaust in the west, given the accessibility of museums, books, and films such as Schindler’s List. However, the official position of many schools, media, and governments in the Middle East and North Africa is that Arabs played no role in the Holocaust, either good or bad.  An entire generation of men and women believe that the Holocaust was a European problem and a small one at that. Israel exists purely as a guilt offering to the Jews, torn from Arab hands.

This book is a necessary witness to one of the greatest acts of evil in our age. Even before their troops secure borders, even as they are being attacked and pushed back by the Allies, the Nazis are busy building “Buchenwald in the Sahara.” 

This book matters. It matters because Satloff provides accounts that, if not captured and documented, will be lost to history as the witnesses die.  It matters because Satloff, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, provides context for why the families of these righteous Arab are keeping silent today. It matters because Satloff, a Jew and an expert on Arab and Islamic politics, provides insight into why the peace process is so difficult for western Christians to understand.

By the way, the answer is “B & C”.

Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands by Robert Satloff, 2006.