When the Nazis occupied Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation.
Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help. Yet during that perilous time, many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place--the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Not just a place of worship but a community center, this hive of activity was an ideal temporary hiding place for escaped prisoners of war and Jews of all ages, especially children.
Beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched (both authors speak French and conducted first-person interviews and research at archives and libraries), this hopeful, non-fiction book introduces children to a little-known part of history. Perfect for children studying World War II or those seeking a heart-warming, inspiring read that highlights extraordinary heroism across faiths.
Includes a bibliography, a recommended list of books and films, and afterword from the authors that gives more details behind the story.
I'm a professional writer and illustrator, with 20 children’s books published so far and several others in the works. I write for all ages, from toddlers to adults, and enjoy working on my own, as well as in collaboration with other authors and illustrators.
In terms of style, my illustrations tend to be more whimsical than realistic, and I've worked in watercolor, oils, pastels, pen and ink, and collage. Lately, I've been experimenting with layering colors in oils and using the resulting swatches to create collage. It makes me happy to work with so many gorgeous, rich colors.
My writing ranges from extensively researched, powerful non-fiction narrative to humorous fiction and poetry, with some folktales and other stories thrown in for fun. I write things that move me or make me laugh, and I hope that my readers will enjoy them.
"The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust" by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix is a powerful recounting of a little-known chapter of Muslim history.
With impeccable research cited, the authors detail how the Muslims of Paris (primarily North Africans), led by Si Kaddour Benghabrit, engaged in resistance against the Nazis by smuggling Jews out of Nazi-controlled Paris through the Grand Mosque's complex.
I was truly amazed - I'd never heard of this before, and it was deeply moving to read about the heroic actions of fellow believers, during a time period when the only "heroes" we are ever told of are the non-Muslim white saviors.
A necessary resource for every Islamic school and curriculum covering WW2!
When the Nazis took over Paris, no Jew was safe. Those fortunate enough to be able to escape did so. For those left behind, however, finding a refuge was imperative. Under an ever watchful eye of the Nazis, the Grand Mosque of Paris opened its doors and hid Jews and others under persecution, until they could be smuggled out of the city. This is the incredible untold story of how Muslims saved Jews.
Every so often I like to read a children's book and this one caught my eye immediately. I have read many books pertaining to the Holocaust and this is the first time that I have learned about this part of history. Si Kaddour Benghabrit was the founder and rector of the mosque. The mosque was a community center and was able to provide fake Muslims IDs to Jews as well as hide their children among their own. The underground tunnels and cellars under the mosque delivered those escaping to the banks of the Seine. There they were hidden in empty wine barrels and boarded onto barges operated by the Kabyles (a Berber group of Muslim Algerians) and smuggled out of occupied Paris. While the Nazis suspected that the Mosque was helping Jews escape, they could not risk Algerian riots in North Africa for they were fighting the Allies on that front already. For that, the Mosque had some leeway but still operated at great risk to themselves. Benghabrit was awarded the Grand Croix de la Legion d'Honneur (the highest merit awarded by France) for his his role during the war.
Though its primary audience is children, this book had me captivaded. The prose was written in a concise yet touching way. The illustrastions perfectly pair with the narrative. This book is better suited for children ages 7 and above. The message is important for we must not forget that cooperation between rival groups can exist and be successful. Especially during these times, that message needs to be heard. The exact number of Jews saved by the mosque in unkown. Its estimated that a few dozen to one hundred were saved in total but even if it was just one, its a valient and admirable feat. Regardless of age, I highly recommend this book.
This recounts the little-known story of how North African Muslims in Paris risked their lives to save Jewish people during the Nazi occupation of France. It is truly an amazing story, one that I had no knowledge of and great interest in, since more of my students are Muslim than Jewish. It reads like a non-fiction book, rather than a narrative, although the authors try to make some personal connections (some survivors' names, for example). I understand why this is a children's book: because official records were not kept and most people involved are now dead, it's difficult to collect enough evidence of how the staff and worshippers at the mosque helped. All the same, do not mistake this for a children's book. It's too dry, with information related to politics and religion that most children, even Muslim or Jewish kids, would not be interested in for leisurely reading.
Another superbly-done nonfiction book about a little-known topic. To be honest, I saw it on Goodreads and wanted to look more closely at the blue cover with the yellow light, but after reading, I'm glad that my knowledge of history was widened. During the Nazi occupation of France, the Kabyles (a Berber group from Algeria) and the people of the Grand Mosque of Paris helped Jews escape persecution, by forging certificates of Muslim identity (the Nazis feared a Muslim uprising in North Africa and so did not target Muslims the same way they did Jews) and hiding people, especially children, in the mosque (which was a full community center, with gardens, apartments, and a library).
Includes an Afterword, Glossary, References, Bibliography, and Index.
"The rector [of the mosque] delayed the search by demanding that the soldiers and police remove their boots. Before going into the prayer room of any mosque, it is customary to remove all footwear. Taking off heavy military boots took time, giving everyone the opportunity to get out of sight."
"Hundreds of miles of utterly dark, chilly passageways twisted and turned beneath the streets. If you knew the route, you could travel underground from the mosque to the bank of the river Seine. If you didn't know the way, you could become hopelessly lost in the souterrain."
"Yesterday at dawn, the Jews of Paris were arrested. The elderly, the women, and the children. In exile like ourselves, workers like ourselves. They are our brothers. Their children are like our own children. Anyone who encounters one of his children must give that child shelter and protection for as long as misfortune - or sorrow - lasts. Oh man of my country, your heart is generous..."
So reads a World War II era letter, recently discovered amongst the papers of a Tunisian-owned cafe in Paris, and written in Kabyle, the language of one of North Africa's Berber peoples. It points to a little-known footnote in the history of that terrible time: the courageous actions of Si Kaddour Benghabrit - the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris - and the other Parisian Muslims who sheltered and saved Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, members of the French and North African resistance, and Allied parachutists caught behind enemy lines.
Built by North African immigrants between the two world wars, the Grand Mosque was not simply a place of worship, it was an entire community - complete with gardens, apartments, a clinic, a library, and a restaurant - and a hotbed of resistance to the Nazi occupiers. Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Surland DeSaix, who also collaborated on Hidden on the Mountain, which chronicles the courageous actions of the people of Le Chambon in hiding Jews during World War II, turn their attention to a similar episode in The Grand Mosque of Paris.
There is much that is not known about this story - much that will never be known. Most, if not all, of the rescuers are dead. They came from a tradition which emphasized oral storytelling, and left few written records behind documenting their heroism. Many of those they rescued were young children at the time, and may have forgotten the Grand Mosque, which usually provided a brief stopover, before refugees were smuggled through Paris's subterranean passages to the River Seine. Perhaps most tragic of all, subsequent developments - the onset of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the widespread denial of the Holocaust in the Muslim world - have led many to ignore and/or suppress this story.
The authors note, in their afterword, that the Grand Mosque's register of children's names for that period - uncovered by filmmaker Derri Berkani when he first began to research this story in 1974, and which he believed proved that the Mosque had saved over 400 Jewish children - have since disappeared. Although one North African Jew, Albert Assouline, claims that the Mosque saved as many as 1,732 souls, the current rector is far more reticent, and Gray and DeSaix were not granted access to the archives.
The Grand Mosque of Paris sets out a story of courage, compassion and honor - a story most worthy of telling. But more importantly, it seems to me that is a story that needs telling. A story that can teach Muslims that in denying the Holocaust they aren't just denying the humanity of the Jewish people, but their own as well. A story that can teach Jews that Muslims didn't always hate them, and aren't a predestined enemy. What could be more necessary?
This is an excellent history book, with many useful resources at the end, of a chapter of history about which I knew nothing, the Muslims/Mosque that saved Jews and others from the Nazis, during the Nazi occupation of Paris and all of France. Much good background history is given as well, and described also is what lack of detailed information survives.
I knew some details from other books about the huge round up of Jews in Paris, the tunnels under Paris, etc. but nothing about the Grand Mosque of Paris and the part its people played to do the right and brave thing in order to help their fellow human beings.
It’s stories such as these that continually reactivate my faith in the human race, so I found this story very uplifting.
The illustrations are fabulous and evocative of that period.
This is a non-fiction book for older children. The exact fate of the Jews under Nazism, including that of children and babies, is revealed only a couple pages into this book. Also, the vocabulary, as well as the subject matter, is more appropriate for older kids. I’d say I’d introduce this book to children ages 9-13.
And, I knew the saying “Save one life, and it is as if you’ve saved all of humanity” (and other ways of phrasing this) is an integral belief in Judaism, but this book taught me that this hadith/proverb is something Jews and Muslims have in common.
4 ½ stars. ½ star off for missing/lack of information, which is not the fault of the book, so a full 5 star rating listed for bringing to light this little known story, and for all the extra resources to use for further research.
This is the first I've read of this little-known fact of the history of France in World War II. Ruelle has done a tremendous amount of research, as shown by the 2 pages at the end of the book, on something about which it is difficult to find any information. Muslims in Nazi-occupied Paris risked their lives to aid Jews and Christians, including downed allied pilots. What an incredible story! I couldn't help but wonder why they could be so kind to each other then, and yet forget all that and fight today. That's why I think it's so important that this story be taught to children today, and why I highly recommend this book.
For anyone who would like to read more about how Arabs helped the Jews in WWII, try Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands by Robert B. Satloff (another on my list to read!).
في ظل العنصرية والكراهية اللي نعيشها هذه الأيام، هذا الكتاب رائع جدا ولطيف عن الحرب العالمية الثانية وكيف المسلمين في فرنسا، باريس تحديدا كانوا يساعدوا اليهود ويخبوهم في مسجد باريس الكبير. القصص رائعة جدا وتبرز روح الإنسانية في أيام كانوا النازيين يحاربوا اليهود. الرسومات رائعة جدا جدا والتفاصيل دقيقة!
This book is fascinating! It tells of a little-known story of Jews rescued by Muslims during WW2. The Mosque of Paris was apparently a haven for Jews during the war and responsible for many people surviving and making it to safety. The pictures are beautiful and the story is intriguing!
The Grand Mosque of Paris is a little known but important story, just like the The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square was; a book about people helping others in a time of great peril. The central theme of The Grand Mosque can be summed up in the Islamic hadith* and a Jewish proverb quoted by Ruelle and DeDaix:
“Save one life, and it is as if you’ve saved all of humanity.” The Grand Mosque of Paris was opened in 1926 on land donated by the French government in tribute to the many Muslims of her North African colonies who fought and died for France in World War I. At the time, most of the mosque’s members were Kabyle Muslims, Berbers from Kabylia in Algeria. It is a large place with both religious and social areas, including living accommodations, so that many people can be within it’s walls at any given time. When the Nazis invaded Paris in 1940 and began their roundups of Jews for deportation, it did not take long for the rector of the mosque, Si Kaddour Bengharrit, to realize that the Muslim community could do something to help the Jews – they had both the space and the means to do this. And so the Muslims of the Grand Mosque began to rescue Jews, and within three months of the Nazi occupation of Paris, the rector and his congregation were suspected of and warned against helping anyone escape to safety.
The story is well done and well researched but the authors also write that attempts to verify much of what they found for this book were not terribly successful: Writing about clandestine events that took place at a time of turmoil involving people who had an oral rather than a written tradition, and with many of the participants having now passed away, presents many difficulties.” (pg34) Yet, there is enough evidence to prove that it happened and Ruell and DeDaix present the story in part by using examples of people who had been helped. One such person was Salim Halali, a Berber Jew from Algeria, studying in Paris to become a singer. Salim found refuge in the mosque and received a “Certificate of Conversion” from the rector. The rector even had a stonecutter called in to carve a false gravestone with Salim’s family name on it for authenticity. Although Salim remained at the mosque until the war was over, most of the people who received help did not stay as long. In fact, only those Jews who also looked North African were able to stay in the mosque for more than a few days, since it was easy for them to pass as Muslims. Those who did not look North African had to be guided out to safety as quickly as possible.
According to Ruell and DeDaix, the Muslims had a real advantage as far as the Nazis were concerned. Though the mosque was suspected of helping Jews, the Nazis didn’t target its members for it because they feared an uprising of Muslims in Northern Africa and the Germans were already fighting the Allies there. And on the occasions when the Nazis did show up to search the mosque, the members had various ways of delaying their entrance, giving the people inside time to hide. In addition, though the authors do not indicate whether or not they were actually sick or orphans, many of the Jewish children brought to the mosque were sent to Muslim clinics outside Paris to protect them from the Nazis. These clinics were run by a Tunisian Dr. named Ahmed Somia. There, they administered to the children as well as Allied pilots, parachutists and even spies who found themselves injured and trapped in France.
The Muslim helpers had many ways of doing what they needed to do in order to help the Jews. Ruell and DeDaix explain that as members of the French Resistance, the Kabyles could safely carry messages and instructions written in their native language which was difficult and understood only by other Kabyles. As businessmen, they were also able to sneak people into the mosque with the help of their deliverymen using a three-wheeled bicycle with a large bin in front. Once inside the mosque, the members could provide the escapees with whatever they needed until they could be secreted out through a complicated series of tunnels. These tunnels, sometimes compared to the American Underground Railroad, were the result of stones quarried underground for constructing the buildings in Paris centuries ago. The Jews would then be led through the tunnels to the River Seine and put on to barges. There, the Jews were hidden in the large barrels that were used for delivering wine to Paris.
The authors also did the illustrations for this book and they are simply lovely, providing a real sense of the story. The Grand Mosque is, in reality, a truly beautiful place and the illustrations capture much of the artistry of the North African craftsmen who built the mosque. The illustrations give the sense of an oasis of peace and calm and safety in a world gone mad.
This is a highly recommendable book, containing a lot in this interesting and touching information. I think it would be a wonderful addition to a class learning about the Holocaust.
*A hadith is a saying attributed in some way to the Prophet Muhammad.
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle is the story of how the mosque and its rector, Si Kaddout Benghabrit helped Jews, Allied soldiers, POWs and others escape the Nazis into North Africa. The mosque was given to the Muslim people by the French government as a gift for Muslim help during WWI. Within its walls, was an entire city of religious offices, medical facilities, shops and restaurants, and schools. When France fell to the Nazis, they helped Jews escape by giving them papers stating they had converted to Islam. They had elaborate plans of moving the Jews and other through underground Catacombs, on péniches or barges sent to the wine markets. The story describes how the people of North Africa felt that being Jewish or Muslim didn’t matter. They peple shared similar cultures and referred to each other as brothers. Unfortunately, because no records could be kept, there is little remembered about what happened at the Grand Mosque.
I really enjoyed this story. Not only were the illustrations beautiful, but the entire story had a suspenseful feeling. Since it is a story not usually heard, it also made it very interesting from a historical perspective. Additionally, it is interesting to see these two cultures working for a common good, instead of the conflict that is usually associated with the area today.
I would pair this book up with the book Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki . In it a Japanese diplomat writes forbidden visas for Jews, so they can escape Lithuania, and is disgraced by his government. They both address those that helped the Jews during WWII. It would also link to Diary of Anne Frank.This would also be appropriate for a study of WWII, Holocaust, genocide, or a study of real life heroes. It would also be appropriate for a study of religions.
Middle East Outreach Council-Middle East Award-Honorable Mention
"The Grand Mosque of Paris" tells the story of how the Islamic Mosque in France opened its doors to help Jewish people hide during the Holocaust. This book tells the story of multiple people who benefitted from the safe haven that the mosque provided them, different strategies used by the Muslims to hide the Jews, and how Kabyle Muslims built a resistance to help them. For example, the book discusses the experiences of Salim Halali, A Jew who came to Paris from Algeria to become a singer. The book explains how a stonecarver carved Halali’s family name onto a tombstone to make it appear that Salim was actually Muslim. Although this book is fairly short in comparison to other nonfiction books, its text and illustrations do an excellent job of covering the details and story of a part of the Holocaust that not many people know about. This book really allows readers to reflect on the walls of religion and how although the Muslims were of a completely different religion than the Jews, they still went out of their way to help this group of people find refuge during this dangerous time. I would use this book in the classroom to teach my students about the holocaust. This book explains a different aspect of the holocaust, and the picture-book format would help to engage young students.
The Grand Mosque of Paris is an amazing story about how Muslim people helped Jewish people during world war two. Karen Gray Ruelle, and Deborah Durland DeSaix do an amazing job connecting this historical story to the illustrations on the page.
During the first seven pages of the book, the author is giving background information about World War Two and the Holocaust, the illustrations match this tone with many dark blues, brows, and grays. When the Mosque is introduced on page 8, the tone of the writing changes as well. This is also seen in the illustrations with the use of greens, blues, and white on this page. The brighter colors are seen through most of the rest of the book.
Although this change in tone is significant, I believe that the use of a light in the illustrations are the best part of this book. As seen on the cover, the light can be seen as a symbol of hope for the future, as the Muslim people help guide the Jewish people to safety.
Overall, I was very pleased with this book and the historical accuracy, I appreciated the afterword, glossary, acknowledgements, references, bibliography, recommended books, and the index in the backmatter, as it made it very easy to research more information on this topic.
format: picture book age: grades 5-8 protagonist: Muslims in Paris
This is the untold story of how Muslims in Paris helped to hide Jews during the Holocaust. I mark this as a definite must read simply because it is a side of history that Americans are not exposed to learning. While this is a picture book, the text is dense and rich in language which makes it more suitable for middle school age and up. And even though the illustrations and story are not graphic in detail, the context of the story also lends itself better to a slightly older crowd. This would be a great book to accompany a study on the Holocaust or to show how one religious culture can sincerely help another. The story is one that is woven together from bits and pieces of gathered information and interviews from Parisian Muslims and Jews that were there during the Holocaust. The illustrations are soft and cool in palate which aids in fostering a sense of calm and peace which is a reflection of the Islamic beliefs and the design of the Grand Mosque (in my opinion). This would be a great book to read now, especially in light of the Muslim stereotype of terrorist that is widespread today.
Wow! Ruelle really lays it out there. Death camps, mass murder, the deportation from France alone of "11,402 Jewish children, toddlers and even tiny babies" to the death camps with only about 300 surviving the camps.
Did not know that the French gave the land for the Mosque to thank the half million Muslim soldiers who fought for them in WWI. Also that with the loss of so many young men in WWI, that Berbers from Kabylia came to Paris to fill out the workforce in factories and construction and building the Paris subways. The Mosque connected to the souterrain or subterranean tangle of tunnels, rooms, passageways, catacombs, and eventually the Seine.
They hid people in the secluded women's section of the prayer room, where even the Nazis and Vichy police dared not enter. The rector would delay the soldiers and police by demanding they remove their boots before going into the prayer room.
Unfortunately, most of this history has been lost. Back matter says the number saved vary from 100 North African Jews to 1,732 resistants (# of extra stubs from ration cards).
Grades 3-8. I knew nothing about this part of history and the role of Muslims in rescuing Jews in the Vichy-occupied France. Apparently after WWI, France gave propery to Muslims from French-occupied Northern Africa as a way to thank them for the half-million Muslim soldiers that fought on behalf of France. A beautiful mosque was erected there-- and served as an oasis for many Jews that could blend in and look Muslim. I guess I assumed that Muslims were on the long list of people the Nazi's wanted to eradicate-- but because they feared an uprising in Northern Africa, they were not a target.
This is a beautiful story and very important for us to know. As we watch hajab under attack in France and other places because of the Taliban and other extremist groups-- we need to remember the kindnesses and be sure not to judge many for the actions of a few.
This is an amazing story of compassion, bravery and humanity during some of the darkest days of WWII. I had no idea that muslims in Paris were responsible for saving so many people - Jews, escaped Prisoners of War, Allied spies and paratroopers...and the illustrations are just wonderful (our favorite is of a little girl in front of a mosaic mural on the wall on pp. 20-21. The story is a bit long, so we took our time reading it. And I would recommend this book for older children (probably 3rd grade and up,) so they can better appreciate the significance of the efforts made by these humanitarians.
Last year I noticed that my local library had no children's books about Islam or Ramadan, so I donated a two relating to Ramadan. This year I decided to donated two almost secular books relating to Muslims. This book was an interesting find that shows a history of Muslims and Jews working together against persecution. While it's not quite a story book, it does tell a great deal about how the Muslims helped several people in Paris during the Nazi occupation. I would highly recommend this as a book to share with school children not only as dawah, but also as a piece of lost history.
I discovered this book while experimenting with filters on the website Diverse Book Finder, and was then able to read it on Open Library. I really enjoyed it, because even though the text is dense and not intended for a picture book audience, it tells a little-known story about how North African Muslims in France helped forge new identity cards to protect North African Jews, so that they could pass as Muslims. The Muslims also helped hide and protect European Jews, and their mosque was a transition point for many people who went into hiding elsewhere.
Because there are so few records related to this story, many aspects of the operation are a historical mystery, but this book shares the available details with plenty of surrounding historical context for people who are not familiar with this time period or the connection between France and its North African colonies. The illustrations are beautiful and atmospheric, and even though the text is somewhat dry, focusing on nonfiction information without a complete story arc to carry it, this is a great resource for older kids and adults who are interested in Holocaust stories or connections between different faith groups.
2019 - bk 177. The story behind the Islamic community of Paris and how it helped save Jews and escaped P.O.W. and downed pilots during World War II. It is an interesting story that should have been shared many years ago. What disturbs me is how very few documents / personal interviews / written accounts were available. According the the authors, the achives of the Mosque were off limits to them so they depended on secondhand accounts of what others said they saw in the archives. That sends up my antenna. Why were they denied access to the archives? Could they have hired someone to view the archives and make photo copies (it did not say if this was an option or not). There was a paucity of first hand accounts. I don't doubt that the rescues occurred, but I wish they had more primary documents to back up the second hand stories.
A fascinating true story that I had never heard of before. Beautiful illustrations. The text is very heavily researched, it might be a bit much for children. My eight year old enjoyed the story, but did find it a bit long. Still, a great conversation starter and touching story.