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Sephardim and the Holocaust

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Sephardim and the Holocaust

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Sephardim and the Holocaust

The lectures in this volume were delivered during six years under the auspices of the Jacob E. Safra Institute of Sephardic Studies of Yeshiva University and the Sephardic House, in coorperation with the Sephardic Department of the World Zionist Organization. These lectures have not been initiated for any chauvinistic reasons, but because the annihilation of the great Sephardi centers has not been sufficiently researched and brought to the attention of the Jewish world. Scholars who have written on the Holocaust have hardly dealt with the almost total elimination of many Sephardi communities. The Sephardim who suffered in the pangs of the Holocaust were fewer in number but the ravishment was almost complete. The story of the suffering of the Sephardim at the hands of the Nazis and local anti-Semites needs retelling in order to maintain the awareness that the Holocaust was aimed at all Jews. No Jew was to be excluded, for all were condemned by the Nazis. Part of the Nazi myth of world Jewry's attempt at domination was the concept of Jews assimilating into the local culture in order to take over. Yet the Sephardim maintained their own culture, even maintaining the Iberian language rather than learning local dialects. Jews in the Balkans continued to speak Judeo-Spanish and not Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian or Croatian. Jews in Moslem lands often spoke French and Spanish rather than Arabic or Berber dialects. But they were Jews and therefore condemned. In most areas the Sephardim had never experienced organized governmental anti-Semitism. The Nazis broke that tradition as well. Few, in any culture, came to the aid of the Jews. There was no haven and no succor. The realization of the State of Israel was not solely a product of the European Holocaust but also of pro Nazi events in African and Asian lands. This lesson must never be lost nor forgotten. If it is, then we may be condemned to live the events over again.
by Haham Dr. Solomon Gaon and Dr. M. Mitchel Serels

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