Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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1 Adar I 5768 - February 7, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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First Arab Book About Holocaust Stirs Controversy in Algeria

By Arnon Yaffeh, Paris

The first Arab book about the Holocaust, which relates the story of a Nazi who served in the Algerian underground during the war against France and was later made mayor of an Algerian city, was immediately taken off the shelves and denounced by Algerian authorities. Author Boualem Sansal wrote Le village de l'Allemand, published by leading French publisher Gallimard, about a town far from his hometown in Algeria.

Several years ago, in one of his visits to the town as a Ministry of Industry official, Sansal discovered that the mayor was a German Nazi who had fled from Egypt after the war and had been sent by Gamal Nasser to assist the Algerian underground gather intelligence. Sansal says the recruitment of Nazis for the National Liberation Front underground is one of the war secrets that has never come to light, and reveals the ties between Arab nationalists and Nazis.

"Several Germans who came to fight alongside the Algerians secured high-level posts in the government after [Algeria] won independence," he told Le Monde in an interview. Sansal said he used the role of the Nazis in order to write about the Holocaust in Algeria. "I asked myself whether Algeria, an Arab, Muslim country, can talk about the Holocaust, which does not exist in Algeria and is officially denied. The Holocaust has been totally erased from Arab countries. It has no trace anywhere, not in the media and not in the schools. If it happens to be mentioned, it is only to claim that it is a Jewish fabrication, a scheme and a lie by the Jews."

Sansal had to invent characters — two Algerian brothers who, while studying in France, discover their father had been a Nazi war criminal. "I wanted to make the Maghrebs and the Arab world understand that this book was meant for them, so that they would feel, over the course of dozens of pages, the crimes [that were perpetrated] in order to demonstrate that the Holocaust is not [merely] a war crime, but much more than that."

For now there is little chance they will be reading his book. The Arabs are irate over the connection the author draws between Nazis and Islamic fundamentalists, whom he casts as the heirs to the Nazi legacy.

Despite the book ban, Sansal is staying put in Algeria for now. "I have to consider each step and the risks posed to me by the Islamists, the government and the street," he said. But chances are that he will soon have to flee the country following his latest book.


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