France Disenfranchises 60,000 Algerian Jews, Revoking Cremieux Law

More than 60,000 Algerian Jews lost their French citizenship today when the Petain Government published a decree abrogating the Cremieux Law of 1870, which conferred wholesale naturalization on the Jews of France’s North African possession.

Informed Jewish circles said the action was the heaviest blow to the French Jews in recent history. It removes from the body of French Jewry one-fourth of its most talented and loyal members, these circles said.

The 60,000 Jews in most cases had inherited French citizenship from their grand parents. Fifteen thousand of them live in metropolitan France. All have suddenly been relegated to the position of second-class citizens, like the Algerian Arabs.

As a consequence of the decree, published in the Journal Official, Jewish lawyers of Algerian origin lose their barristers’ rights, although they include many prominent attorneys; physicians lose the right to practice medicine; university professors, among whom is the famous economist, Prof. William Oualid, will lose their chairs unless they are considered especially meritorious.

Henceforth every Algerian Jew desiring to remain in metropolitan France must apply for a permit, like any foreigner or protected subject. Algerian Jews may apply for citizenship only as individuals.

Exemption from the decree is provided for Jews who served in the 1914-1918 and 1939-1940 wars and obtained the Legion of Honor, the Military Medal or the War Cross.

The Cremieux Law was issued on Oct. 24, 1870 by French Minister of Justice Isaac Adolphe Cremieux ending the autonomy of the Jewish population of Algeria, which then numbered 38,000, and granting them French citizenship instead. Issuance of the law followed a long struggle and it was considered as the emancipation proclamation of the Algerian Jews. Cremieux, one of the outstanding French Jews of the 19th Century was a famous fighter for Jewish rights and founder of the Alliance Israelite Universelle.

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