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Author Uncovers Stories of Arabs Helping Jews During Holocaust

There have been few books written about the Holocaust's impact in the Arab world. Margaret Warner speaks with author Robert Satloff about how Arabs saved some Jews during the Holocaust.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    During World War II, as Germany and Italy stepped up their persecution of Jews in Europe, what was the fate of the half-million Jews living in regions the Axis powers controlled in North Africa and the Middle East?

    That question intrigued Robert Satloff, an historian and Arabic-speaking Washington policy analyst. He took leave from his job as head of the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy and moved to Morocco for his research. The result is his new book, "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands."

    And, Robert Satloff, welcome.

    ROBERT SATLOFF, Author, "Among the Righteous": Thank you.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So what attracted you to this story and inspired you to write this book?

  • ROBERT SATLOFF:

    Well, I was drawn to the story because of my sense that denial of the Holocaust in many parts of the Arab world is the tip of the iceberg of what divides Arab societies from Western societies.

    And I tried to find a way to provide Arabs of goodwill a new approach to access and understand the Holocaust, to make it an Arab story. And I came up with the idea of asking the question: Did any Arabs ever save any Jews during the Holocaust?

    Because, if you are proud of that story, then you have to accept the context that there was something to save Jews from, and, hence, my search for the Arab "righteous" of the title.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Now, give us some context geographically. Which Arab lands were most involved?

  • ROBERT SATLOFF:

    The part of the Arab world that is most under Axis control for the longest period of time is in North Africa, in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya.

    Other parts of the Arab world had some domination by Axis countries, Vichy France, for example, and Syria and Lebanon, but that was brief.

    And for the three years, though, from spring of 1940 until the spring of 1943, North Africa, Morocco to Libya, was under the control, first of Vichy France in Morocco and Algeria and Tunisia, under Italian fascism in Libya. And then, for six months, the only Arab country to have a full-fledged Nazi occupation was Tunisia.

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