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French Committee of Liberation Studying Restoration of Cremieux Decree, Says Hull

August 2, 1943
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The question of restoration of the Cremieux decree of 1870, under which Algerian Jews were made French citizens, is now receiving “careful study” by the French Committee of National Liberation, it was disclosed today by Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

Mr. Hull’s statement was contained in a letter to the Jewish Labor Committee, expressing the hope that “means may be found at an early date whereby Algerian Jews may resume their status as French citizens.”

The letter, sent in reply to a communication from the committee setting forth its views on abrogation of the Cremieux decree by General Henri Giraud following his assumption of civil and military power in North Africa last March, reads as follows:

“The information at the disposal of this department does not confirm the statements which you make concerning the inability of Jews in North Africa to return to the practice of the liberal professions. On the contrary, it is our understanding that since last March specific steps were taken by the North African authorities to permit persons of Jewish extraction to resume the positions which they held prior to the promulgation of anti-Jewish measures by the Vichy regime.

“The issue of the restoration of the Cremieux decree was from the beginning of our entry into French North Africa a matter deeply entwined in the local situation, and the occupation of those territories by our forces did not in itself enable our Army nor our Government to dictate in questions of local administration without regard to the local effect of whatever legislative steps might be taken.

“The responsibility for peace among and non-interference by the Arab population was in the hands of the French commanders. When they quite unequivocally informed our military and civil representatives that they could not be responsible for the good will or even non-aggression of the Arabs were the Cremieux decree to be restored at the time that the Vichy laws generally were repealed, we had no alternative but to accept their judgment in the matter. You are aware that our military situation in Tunisia was at the moment far from secure and the maintenance of our lines of communication was of the greatest importance. You are also no doubt aware that throughout this period the Arabs were made the victims of intense German radio propaganda, directed in large part to the thesis that the effect of the Allied occupation of North Africa would be to favor the cause of the Jews and prejudice the welfare of the Arabs. This being the situation at the time, you can readily see that the question of whether the restoration of the Cremieux decree would have justified hostile actions on the part of the Arab population at the time, was not a proper subject for debate, and that even the question whether such would have been the effect of restoration of the Cremieux decree was not merely academic.

“Happily, the successful outcome of the battle for Tunisia has to some extent altered the military situation, although we cannot for a moment forget that the success of the present operations in Sicily depends on our safeguarding the vital line of communications through North Africa. In any event, it is our hope and desire that means may be found at an early date whereby Algerian Jews may resume their status as French citizens.

“As you are of course aware, this matter is no longer one for a decision by General Giraud alone and according to our information it is receiving careful study at the hands of the French Committee of National Liberation. You may be sure that our hopes in this matter are well understood by the competent French authorities.”

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