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State Department’s Attitude on Abrogation of Cremieux Decree Termed Surprising

May 9, 1943
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Surprise that the State Department “should be seeking to excuse and justify” the abrogation by Gen Giraud of the Cremieux Decree is expressed in an article published in the current issue of the New Republic in which it is pointed out that Giraud’s action has placed the Jews of Algeria “on an even lower basis than the Arabs.”

Analyzing the present status of the native Jews in Algeria, the author of the article, Varian Fry, who directed refugee work in France at one time, comes to the conclusion that the “unbiased specialist” of the State Department to whom the Undersecretary of State referred in his reply to Baron Edouard de Rothschild’s criticizm of Gen. Giraud’s action, either missed important points or was trying to evade them.

“Before the adoption of the Cremieux decree, the Jews, like the Arabs, had their own laws, their own courts, their own marital and inheritance customs,” Mr. Fry writes. “With the adoption of the Cremieux decree these disappeared. The Arabs still have these privileges but the Jews do not. Thus General Giraud’s decision places the Jews of Algeria on an even lower basis than the Arabs, for it deprives them of French citizenship without granting them even limited self-government, such as the Arab community enjoys.

“It has not yet been announced, if it has been decided, under just what conditions the Jews of Algeria may again become French citizens. Constitutionally, the law of 1919 ought now to apply to them. If it did, in theory at least, they would be able to resume their citizenship in three months by fulfilling certain conditions. But Mr. Welles’ informant says that in the near future a procedure will be established whereby native Algerian Jews who desire to become citizens may acquire citizenship.’ This can only mean that the law of 1919 has also been abrogated, at least insofar as it concerns the Jews of Algeria, In that case, the General’s decision deprives Jews of even the right enjoyed by the Arabs to become French citizens. If, later, the Jews are placed under the naturalization law of 1927, as modified in 1935 – the only other existing naturalization law available – it will be five years before they can resume full French citizenship and ten years before they can hold public offices open to French citizens.

STATUS OF JEWISH MEMBERS IN ELECTED BODIES REMAINS OBSCURE

“Furthermore,” the article continues, “while the Arabs enjoy limited representation in the Municipal and General Councils and the Financial Delegations, the Jews have no representation in these bodies as Jews. Those who were elected to these bodies were elected as French citizens. When Vichy’s abrogation of the Cremieux decree deprived them of their citizenship, they automatically lost their seats. Today they presumably have no representation at all, for although Giraud is said to have restored all public officials who were ousted because they were Jews, we have not been told even by Mr. Welles that he has restored the Jewish members of the elected bodies, Thus, in this respect also, General Giraud’s decision apparently places the Jews on an even lower footing than the Arabs.

“But what is perhaps most alarming of all is the assumption of legislative power implied in the decision. General Giraud might logically have announced that the territories under his control would return to the laws of the Republic. By announcing that some of those laws will be in effect and others not, he has arrogated to himself the powers of the French Parliament. And his decision to abrogate the Cremieux decree represents precisely the solution sought by the reactionary local administrators and planters, in defiance of Parliament. Furthermore, the fact that the native Jews of Algeria were the backbone of the Republican movement in North Africa and that depriving them of their citizenship may very well give the anti-Republicans a majority there, can hardly have been absent from the minds of those responsible for Giraud’s announcement,” Mr. Fry concludes.

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