NYU Florence Hosts “A Very Strange Dream”: The Memory of the Holocaust and European Jews of North African Origin

On April 10, NYU Florence will host a dialogue with Dario Miccoli, Lecturer of Modern Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. When thinking about the Holocaust, almost everyone refers to the Jews of Europe and, particularly, countries like Poland, writers like Primo Levi, and places like Auschwitz. Few people remember that the Jews of North Africa also experienced the Second World War and, in some cases, the Holocaust: think of the Jews of Algiers subject to Vichy’s anti-Semitic legislation, or the Libyan Jews deported to Bergen-Belsen in 1944. Even though the situations of the Jews of Europe and North Africa during the war can hardly be compared, over the last few years a number of Jews of North African origin now living in Israel or Europe have started to discuss the idea of a ‘North African Holocaust’ through literature, movies and in spaces such as museums and heritage centers. Focusing on the work of Italian, Israeli and French writers and artists of North African Jewish origin, Miccoli will investigate the emergence of the idea of a ‘North African Holocaust’, asking to what extent this constitutes the rediscovery of hitherto little-known memories, or something that largely bespeaks contemporary societal and political agendas in the context of today’s Europe and Israel. Special emphasis will be placed on the case of Libya under Italian rule, the vicissitudes of the Libyan Jews during the Second World War, and the impact of the Holocaust on the memorialisation processes put forward by Jews of Libyan origin – from the writer Victor Magiar to the heritage activist David Gerbi – living in contemporary Italy.