Free and open to the public
Sophie B. Roberts, Zantker Assistant Professor in Jewish History at University of Kentucky
This paper examines the fragile nature of colonial citizenship by examining the case of North African Jews from 1940-1943. In Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, Vichy legislation forced Jews from professions, schools, and military service among many other restrictions. In Algeria, the situation was more complicated, as Jews were French citizens due to the 1870 Crémieux decree that made them citizens en masse. The Vichy government abrogated the Crémieux decree in 1940 as part of their antisemitic legislation. After the abrogation, Jews faced new and highly complicated identities, and lacked the organizational strength to respond as a group to the legislation imposed upon them. Jews responded in various ways to the limitations placed on their lives, including letters and appeals to the Vichy government, Marshal Pétain, and other Vichy and local officials. Despite various attempts to improve their situation and the efforts of the international Jewish community, Algerian Jews did not regain their French citizenship until 1943, well after the Allies landed in North Africa. This case study illustrates the inherently fragile nature of colonial citizenship, to the point that with “the stroke of a pen,” after seventy years of citizenship, Algerian Jews were reduced to French subject status, a legal and institutional no-man’s land.