The idea for this book was born one morning in November 2004 when for the first time, Benjamin Stora took his son to Khenchela, a small city in the east of Algeria where his own father’s family comes from. Journeying between memory and history, individual quest and historical investigation, using personal and unexploited archives, the book reconstructs the three successive journeys into exile that have shaped the destiny of the Jews in Algeria. In less than a century, they had to leave what had become familiar environments again and again. They moved away from their Jewish roots in Islamic land when the Crémieux law of 1870, granting them French citizenship, opened the door to assimilation. But they were rejected from the French community by the Vichy laws from 1940 to 1943. Then they abandoned the Algerian soil in the independence war exodus of 1962.
Through this affecting and thorough essay, enriched with unknown archives, we discover the originality of the Algerian Judaism, deeply attached to the idea of French republicanism yet steeped in religious traditions, as well as the complexity and ambiguity of the relations between Jews and Muslims.
A well known specialist of Maghreb history and a lecturer at the INALCO (the Institute for Eastern Studies), Benjamin Stora has written over 20 books including La gangrène et l’oubli, La mémoire de la guerre d’Algérie (La Découverte, 1991), Ils venaient d’Algérie. L’immigration algérienne en France (Fayard, 1992), Appelés en guerre d’Algérie (Gallimard, 1997), La guerre invisible (Presses de Sciences Po, 2001), Algérie, Maroc. Histoires parallèles, destins croisés (Maisonneuve & Larose, 2002). La dernière génération d’octobre was published by Stock in 2003.