With the Association Mimouna and the UN Holocaust Office, TALIM hosted a special event on Jews in Tangier during the Second World War.
Mimouna is a group of young Moroccans who work to underscore the Jewish heritage of their country. They explain their genesis and goals:
Traditionally celebrated at the end of Passover, “Mimouna” is a unique Moroccan Jewish celebration of liberty and community. Moroccan Jews would often invite their Muslim neighbors to join in the festivities associated with returning to eating leavened food once Passover ended.
We are a group of Moroccan Muslim students striving to preserve and promote the history of Morocco’s ancient Jewish community. Founded in 2007 at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI), the MIMOUNA takes its name from the original “Mimouna,” a symbol of the heritage shared by all Moroccans. We seek to educate the Moroccan people about the Jewish culture that used to flourish in the country, and encourage harmony between Jews and Muslims.
Coming from all over Morocco to Saturday's event at the Legation, the members of Mimouna also arranged for Kimberly Mann of the UN Holocaust program to address the group. One member of our audience, a Jewish woman who grew up in wartime Tangier, brought her own eyewitness testimony to bear.
Vanessa Paloma of Brandeis and the Sorbonne, who did her Fulbright research in Tangier, reported on her work on the archives of Tangier's dwindling Jewish community. There were poignant passages from the community's proceedings, hopeful during the early part of the war before the fall of France in June 1940, and increasingly guarded after that. "Pray, but not too loudly" the faithful were constantly admonished, as uncertainty reigned after Franco's occupation of Tangier, and Vichy took over in the nearby French Protectorate.
Paloma, who has begun an ambitious project to preserve the sound archives of Jewish Morocco (Khoya: Les Archives Sonores du Maroc Juif), even found a rare recording of Jewish children in Tangier singing a ditty on the death of Adolf Hitler (I could make out "hijo de puta" somewhere in the lines). When the sound didn't carry through our conference room, Vanessa, equally at home in concert mode, treated us to a live impromtu rendition.
For many in the audience, we were able to introduce them to the story of the Legation's role in helping to save some 1,200 Hungarian Jews from the death camps, which we first covered in 2011 and then again this year in the Foreign Service Journal. The story of Renée Reichmann, her relief packages for European Jews, the story of the Joint Distribution Committee's aid to Jewish refugees in Tangier (check the JDC's archival photos of wartime Tangier) were a prelude to the rescue effort in which the Legation Chargé d'Affaires took a major part.
Now this story has not only gotten wider coverage among young Moroccans, but it has also been brought to the attention of the UN Holocaust Remembrance office. The Legation is on the Holocaust Remembrance map.