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Gen. Giraud Criticized for Depriving Algerian Jews of French Citizenship

March 16, 1943
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The abrogation by Gen. Giraud of the Cremieux decree of 1870 under which the native Jews in Algeria were given French citizenship was severely criticized here today in a joint statement issued by the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress, which termed the abrogation “wholly inconsistent with Gen. Giraud’s statement that the laws and decrees of the French Republic are to be recognized.”

Two noted French legal authorities now in the United States at the same time challenged Gen. Giraud’s power to abrogate the Cremieux law and thus reduce the Jews in Algeria from the status of French citizens to that of subjects. The two are Henri Torres, former French Deputy and prominent lawyer, and Paul Jacob, formerly of the bar of Mulhouse and now lecturing at the Institute of Comparative Law of the Ecole Libre des Hautes Etudes. Both agreed that Giraud, as High Commissioner of North Africa, had exceeded his authority.

“What quality, what authority, what sovereignty has Gen. Giraud to cancel the laws promulgated under the Republic and which might be abrogated only by the Republic, that is, by “the majority?” Torres asked. He declared that in the announcement of the abrogation in his speech Sunday, Giraud had acted “under the specious pretext that it (the Cremieux Law) represented racial discrimination…. while the result will be that an entire category of citizens will be excluded from the French nationality which was granted to them by the Republic.”

Paul Jacob, who spent six months in Morocco and Algeria before coming here in December, 1941, pointed out that “the only authority which could abrogate the Cremieux law would be the General Council of Algiers.” He said that General Giraud “has no power concerning the matter, ” and that “his position is arbitrary.” The Cremieux law, he pointed out, was never an obstacle in the obtaining of French citizenship by a Moslem.

“Under the law adopted Feb. 15, 1872, it is provided that if the General Assembly of France is unable, for any reason, to function, the General Council of France is provisionally authorized to exercise plenary power for the maintenance of public order and security, by all the means necessary under the circumstances,” Jacob pointed out. He explained that a General Council still exists in Algiers, and that this body alone is empowered at present to alter the law there.

SITUATION OF JEWS IN NORTH AFRICA REMAINS UNSATISFACTORY, CONGRESS SAYS

The joint statement issued by the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress reads: “The statement by General Giraud announcing the abrogation of all racial laws introduced by Vichy represents a certain advance. Until, however, the decree abolishing these laws has been promulgated, the announcement will be simply a declaration of intentions. Final judgment, therefore, on the statement of Gen. Giraud, must be reserved until the promulgation of the decree of abrogation.

“What occasions deep concern, moreover, at this point is the fact that the Giraud statement, promising abrogation of the racial laws adopted by Vichy, is coupled with the abrogation of the Gambetta-Cremieux decree of 1870 under which the Jews were granted equal rights as citizens. The effect of the abolition of the Gambetta-Cremieux decree is to relegate the Jews of Algeria to the inferior status of subjects. Abrogation of the Gambetta-Cremieux decree does not restore the Jews to their position under the Third Republic, but relegates them to their position under the laws of Napoleon III. This is an intolerable position for Algerian Jewry and wholly inconsistent with General Giraud’s statement that the laws and decrees of the French Republic are to be recognized.

“For these reasons the situation in North Africa, insofar as the Jews are concerned, remains unsatisfactory. The World Jewish Congress with which North African Jewry is affiliated, and the American Jewish Congress, will continue their efforts to bring about the restoration of the full rights of North African Jews as they were enjoyed by them prior to the promulgation of Vichy anti-Jewish legislation.”

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