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Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 3 March 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether or not Jews in North Africa still suffer from the full range of disabilities which have been imposed in Metropolitan France by the Vichy Government, including the loss of French citizenship?

No, Sir, they do not. As I stated in reply to the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) on 10th February, General Giraud's War Council has already confirmed the restoration of Jewish property in North Africa and the access of Jewish children to primary and secondary schools. Since then it has been announced that Jews performing their compulsory military service in North African labour battalions may transfer, if they wish, to fighting units; and General Giraud has issued an army order calling up for military service Jews of the 1920 to 1923 classes and giving them the right to ask to be placed in any fighting unit. These measures, which it is hoped will shortly be followed by the removal of other disabilities, show that in some respects the position of the Jews in North Africa is different from that of Jews in Metropolitan France.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that adequate facilities are given to the Jews to exercise their rights?

I do not know that I can express my satisfaction. I do not think that any Foreign Secretary is ever satisfied, but I am relatively less anxious about the position than I was a little time ago.

Is the effect of the answer that no disabilities are imposed on the Jews as such? If any such disabilities are imposed on them, will my right hon. Friend make the strongest representations to whoever is responsible, whether the United States Government or the local Government?

I do not think I can go as fas as my Noble Friend. What I would say is that there has been a relaxation of several of the disabilities, but I cannot say that there has been a total removal of them. I would like to see that total removal.

Is it not the case that since 1870 the Jews in Algeria have been assimilated with the Jews in Metropolitan France, and why should there be a distinction made to-day?

The distinction is in favour of Jews in North Africa as compared with those in Metropolitan France.

With regard to those Jews who are about to be released in the Middle East, could they, having regard to the fact that they have been in concentration camps during the past two years because of the Vichy Government, be allowed to express a preference to fight under the command of the United States or of ourselves instead of under the command of the French?