Children’s

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Sto­ry of How Mus­lims Saved Jews Dur­ing the Holocaust

Karen Gray Ruelle and Deb­o­rah Dur­land DeSaix
  • Review
By – November 1, 2011
The Grand Mosque of Paris is the sto­ry of the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty of Paris dur­ing the Nazi occu­pa­tion of World War II and their efforts to res­cue Jews. The mosque con­struct­ed in 1926 had space for a com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter, library, restau­rant, clin­ic and apart­ments for the func­tionar­ies. It was built upon a labyrinth of sub­ter­ranean tun­nels and rooms, areas that had been exca­vat­ed for build­ing stones for the city of Paris. These under­ground pas­sages and cat­a­combs served as hid­ing places and escape routes for those hunt­ed by the French police and Gestapo. The res­cue and escape of Jews was under the lead­er­ship of the Rec­tor, Si Kad­dour Beng­habrit, a sophis­ti­cat­ed Alge­ri­an­born diplo­mat, who was con­sid­ered the most pow­er­ful Mus­lim in France at the time. The cler­ics pro­vid­ed sanc­tu­ary, cer­tifi­cates of Mus­lim iden­ti­ty and safe pas­sage for those who sought their help. This well writ­ten, con­cise his­to­ry is enhanced by the beau­ti­ful dou­ble page oil paint­ings, which are most effec­tive in con­vey­ing set­ting and mood. There is no per­son­al nar­ra­tive although this his­tor­i­cal sto­ry has all the ele­ments for a com­pelling nov­el as evi­denced by the few exam­ples giv­en. It is not­ed that at least 100 Jews, downed Allied air­men, Resis­tance fight­ers and escaped pris­on­ers of war, were also spir­it­ed to safe­ty. These right­eous sav­iors deserve to be hon­ored and their deeds told. This book is appro­pri­ate for ele­men­tary school stu­dents who are study­ing WWII and/​or the Holo­caust, but would also inter­est old­er stu­dents and adults. An after­word, glos­sary and exten­sive bib­li­og­ra­phy is very infor­ma­tive and sheds light upon this impor­tant and lit­tle known sto­ry of the Holo­caust. For ages 10 and up.
Nao­mi Kramer is a retired read­ing con­sul­tant teacher who devel­oped cur­ricu­lum for using lit­er­a­ture to edu­cate chil­dren and adults in the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust. She is a docent and edu­ca­tor at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

Discussion Questions