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"Frenchmen from Algeria": The 1943 Campaign to Restore the Crémieux Decree and its Limits


This thesis traces the Jewish-American advocacy campaign of 1943 to restore the Crémieux Decree -- which the French government passed in 1870 and which granted automatic, collective French citizenship to indigenous Algerian Jews -- and the subsequent struggles of Algerian Jews to restore their social and economic standing to its pre-war status between 1944 and 1948. The campaign, led by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), did not center the needs or perspectives of Algerian Jews, but was rather part of their Europe-oriented efforts to combat Nazism during World War II. The shortcomings in American-Jewish advocacy had practical and discursive impacts on Algerian Jews. The campaign's rhetoric undermined Algerian-Jewish indigeneity by upholding French colonial narratives which homogenized Algerian Jews and conflated French citizenship with indigenous identity. Second, the campaign imposed a Western, secularized Jewish identity on Algerian Jews in constructing an international Jewish peoplehood, erasing the particular regional nature of Algerian Judaism. The American-Jewish campaign never involved Algerian Jews substantively in their activism, instead confining their relationship- and organization- building efforts to metropolitan French Jews. Therefore, the campaign presented two practical problems. First, it failed to address the roots of antisemitism in Algeria, which had developed locally since 1870 and arose from both left- and right-wing European settler movements. Second, it contributed to the organizational exclusion of Algerian Jews from the creation of an international, Ashkenazi-dominated Jewish community, which emerged in response to World War II and the Holocaust. This thesis relies on an extensive archival source base including Jewish-American newspapers, State Department papers, AJC files, oral histories where Algerian Jews describe their own perspectives on citizenship and identity, and French governmental archives which demonstrate Algerian Jews' self-advocacy to restore their full citizenship rights in the years following the campaign (1944-1948).
Senior thesis (AB)--Brown University, 2021
Concentration: History

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Mermelstein, Zoë E., "'Frenchmen from Algeria': The 1943 Campaign to Restore the Crémieux Decree and its Limits" (2021). History Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.