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French Jewish Delegation Asks U.S. to Seek Restoration of Cremieux Decree

May 21, 1943
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A memorandum analyzing the effect of the abrogation of the Cremieux decree on the status of the native Jews in Algeria and asking the intercession of the United States government to bring about the restoration of this decree, was presented today to Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles by a delegation of distinguished French exiles representing the French-Jewish Representative Committee, which is affiliated with the World Jewish Congress.

The delegation, composed of Capt. Pierre Dreyfuss, Henri Torres, Paul Jacob and Paul Weill, was introduced to Under-Secretary Welles by Dr. Nahum Goldmann, chairman of the administrative committee of the World Jewish Congress. It pointed out that “the abrogation of the Cremieux decree is actually the most unjust racial discrimination ever inflicted upon French citizens of Jewish faith who are natives of Algeria.”

The 16-page memorandum reviews the history of Jewish citizenship in Algeria and offers proof to the effect that the abrogation of the Cremieux decree is not only an act of discrimination against native-born Frenchmen, but is actually illegal under the organic laws of the French Republic. Contrary to offering a basis for better understanding with the Arabs, this abrogation jeopardizes the possibility of securing a just and compete emancipation of the Arabs, it points out.

The memorandum also points out that (1) in 1870 the Cremieux decree conferred citizenship on Jewish natives of Algeria of whom possibly less than a score are alive today; (2) that the law of August 10, 1927, further established the citizenship of the descendants of those Algerian Jews who became naturalized citizens in 1870; and (3) that in view of the fact that the abrogation of the Cremieux decree is now being applied to 44,000 native Algerian Jews, that the withdrawal of citizenship is applied to native Frenchmen whose status as native citizens was automatically established under the Napoleonic Civil Code and reaffirmed in the Citizenship Law of August 10, 1927.

NATURALIZATION DIFFICULTIES STRESSED; ARAB QUESTION DISCUSSED

“Even if naturalization were accorded to native-born Jews upon application,” the memorandum asserts, “the effect of the abrogation of the Cremieux decree is to make it necessary for a five-year period to elapse before citizens thus naturalized may become voters, and ten years to elapse before such naturalized citizens may become electors or hold mandates.”

The memorandum devotes an important chapter to a discussion of the Arab situation. The problem of the acquisition of French citizenship by the Arabs is independent of the problem of the citizenship of the Jews, it points out. General Giraud’s explanation of his act on the ground of eliminating racial discrimination between Jews and Arabs has no basis in fact, it emphasizes. The difference between a native Jews and a native Arab was defined in the French law, it asserts, on the basis of religion and not of race and having to do solely with the personal status of the Arabs under Moslem law.

Between 1865 and 1937 only 2,488 Arabs were admitted to French citizenship in Algeria, on an average of 40 a year. Of that number 1,793 took place between 1919 and 1937, despite the fact that all that is required for a Moslem to become a French citizen is to appear before a Justice of the Peace and make declaration of his intention to become a Frenchman under law.

“The fact of the matter is that the lack of citizenship for the Moslems has not meant lack of political rights, for native Moslems of Algeria elect a quarter of the members of the General Council, and are represented by a third of the members in the financial delegations that vote the budgets of the three departments which constitute Algeria,” the memorandum emphasizes.

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