Muslims sheltered Jews in Holocaust, new film reminds us

By Rebecca Davis 7 October 2011

A new film tells a story about the Holocaust that deserves a wider hearing. “Les Hommes Libres” (Free Men) dramatises the true history of how Muslims in Nazi-occupied France gave protection to Jews. By REBECCA DAVIS.

The “Oskar Schindler” character in this case was Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, who provided shelter and certificates of Muslim identity to Parisian Jews in order that they wouldn’t be arrested and deported, to face certain death in Germany.
The Grand Mosque was enormous, with large gardens and a warren of underground caverns. Here, Jews came for refuge and to be provided with certificates of Muslim identity – while Benghabrit calmly gave tours of the mosque to German officials and their wives.

The best-known case of a man helped in this way was the most popular Arab-language singer of the time, Simon Hilali, who changed his name to Salim and survived the Holocaust by pretending to be an Arab, with the assistance of Benghrabit. For the sake of authenticity, Benghabrit even had the name of Hilali’s imaginary Muslim grandfather carved on a headstone in a Parisian cemetery.

Part of the reason that the story isn’t better known is because it’s impossible for historians to say how many Jews were saved in this way. Some estimates have it as high as 1,700, but this is almost certainly exaggerated. Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has said that the number of Jews protected by the mosque was probably in the dozens.

It’s not clear whether the film will make it to South Africa. Reviews have been mixed so far, but the director, Ismaël Ferroukhi, is unconcerned. “It shows another reality, that Muslims and Jews existed in peace,” he told the NY Times. “We have to remember that – with pride.” DM

Read more:


Watch Pauli van Wyk’s Cat Play The Piano Here!

No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.

Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.

It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.

But our job is not yet done. We need more readers to become Maverick Insiders, the friends who will help ensure that many more investigations will come. Contributions go directly towards growing our editorial team and ensuring that Daily Maverick and Scorpio have a sustainable future. We can’t rely on advertising and don't want to restrict access to only those who can afford a paywall subscription. Membership is about more than just contributing financially – it is about how we Defend Truth, together.

So, if you feel so inclined, and would like a way to support the cause, please join our community of Maverick Insiders.... you could view it as the opposite of a sin tax. And if you are already Maverick Insider, tell your mother, call a friend, whisper to your loved one, shout at your boss, write to a stranger, announce it on your social network. The battle for the future of South Africa is on, and you can be part of it.


Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.

Our Burning Planet

No Tomorrow, Part One: Gwede Mantashe, climate suicide & the ANC’s 2019 election manifesto

By Kevin Bloom

JK Rowling is no longer a billionaire due to the amount of money she has donated to charity.