The devastation following the Constantine pogrom, which claimed the lives of 28 Jews
Last week Point of No Return flagged up the 80th anniversary of the Constantine pogrom in Algeria. Elder of Ziyon has unearthed two more detailed contemporary accounts of what happened. It should be noted that rioting occurred in neighbouring towns as well:
From the Encyclopedia of Antisemitism:
Between August 3 and 5, 1934, Muslim mobs went on a rampage in the Algerian city of Constantine, attacking Jews and Jewish property. In the attack, 25 Jewish men, women, and children were killed, most from having their throats cut or their skulls crushed, and 26 more were injured, according to official statistics. More than 200 Jewish-owned stores were ransacked. The total property damage to homes, businesses, and synagogues was estimated at over 150 million Poincare francs. Some 3,000 people, one-quarter of Constantine's Jewish population, were in need of welfare assistance in the aftermath of the pogrom. During the rampage, anti-Jewish incidents were recorded in the countryside of the Department of Constantine, extending over a 100-kilometer radius. Jews were murdered in Hamma and Mila, and in Ain Beida, Jewish homes and businesses were looted. In all, 314 Jews left Ain Beida for good, seeking the relative security of larger communities. During much of the rioting, the French police and security forces stood by and did little or nothing to stop the rioters.JTA reported:
Differing analyses of the causes of the Constantine pogrom were offered by the French colonial administration, by Jews, by Algerian Muslims, and by later historians. All agree that the spark igniting the violence was an argument between a Jewish Zouave (infantryman), Eliahou Khalifa, and worshipers in a mosque adjacent to his home. Eyewitness accounts differed over the precise circumstances. The antisemitic French colonial authorities and press reported only the Muslim version that Khalifa was drunk, urinated on the Arabs, and insulted Islam. A report by the Jewish authorities claimed that he was not inebriated, that he had asked the Muslims to close some windows opening onto their ablution hall for the sake of modesty, and that in the ensuing argument, they had cursed him and his faith and that he in turn cursed them and their religion. ("God curse your religion" is a common imprecation in North Africa freely and frequently used by Muslims and Jews, even between members of the same faith.) Jewish public opinion at the time blamed the incident on a conspiracy between European antisemites in the Algerian colonial bureaucracy and on pan-Arab propaganda. In the official government account at the time, the rioting was described as a completely spontaneous event. The antisemitic pieds noirs (colonists) and some Muslims blamed the outbreak on the enmity of the native underclass caused by the arrogance of nouveau riche Jews, who supposedly flaunted their superiority as French citizens under the Cremieux Decree of 1870, and by the alleged exploitation of Jewish moneylenders.
A scene of utter desolation and horror, of Jewish girls with their breasts cut off, of little children with numerous knife wounds and of whole families locked in their homes and burned to death, was described by a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent, who succeeded in reaching this city today.Read post in full
“It will take days before the world will obtain a true picture of all the atrocities committed by the Arabs during the pogrom on the Jewish quarter,” the correspondent wired.
“The only comparison I can think of is the Palestine riots of 1929. I found Jewish girls with their breasts cut off, greybearded Jews stabbed to death, little Jewish children dead of numerous knife wounds and whole families locked in their homes and burned to death by the rioters."
Lest we forget: Constantine, 1934
For Jews in France, 'plus ca change'