Introduce this series of lessons by explaining that students will be looking at North African culture and society as well as the lives of Jewish people living there before and during the Holocaust and World War II. Show students a map of the North African countries of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco. Explain that for more than 2,000 years, there have been Jewish communities in the Maghreb, a term that means “the place where the sun sets”
and refers to the western part of the Arab world, including the area shown in the map. Then, share the essential question with students: “In what ways do the experiences of Jews in pre-war and wartime North Africa provide a more complete story of World War II and the Holocaust?”
Ask students to turn and talk briefly to discuss what they think they will learn in this series of lessons. If time permits, have students share their answers with the whole class.
Then, tell students that they will watch a video about Jewish life in pre-war North Africa to learn more about the diversity of pre-war Jewish life in the Maghreb. As students watch, ask them to record their notes in the Viewing Guide for “Jewish Life in Pre-War North Africa”.
After viewing the film, have students work in pairs to compare their answers to the questions in the Viewing Guide for “Jewish Life in Pre-War North Africa”, and then review the answers as a class.
Then, open a classroom discussion around the view expressed in the video that the history of wartime North Africa and the Holocaust “has been a chapter that has been avoided . . . not forgotten, but avoided. . . .”
- What is the difference between “forgotten” and “avoided”?
- Why might this distinction be important in studying the Holocaust and wartime North Africa?
- What questions does it raise for you?
Students might raise questions as to why this history has been avoided. According to UCLA Professors Boum and Stein, there are multiple reasons for this, and they point to some of those reasons as follows:
“European-centered Holocaust studies have played a role in marginalizing the North African story, and the politicization of the Holocaust in Israel and the states of North Africa has rendered the topic historical taboo. In these contexts many scholars have been repulsed from exploring the impact of Nazi and Vichy-era anti-Jewish laws in North Africa during World War II.”