The French Protectorate in Morocco (1912-1942)

Tomb of Jewish Interpreter for the French Embassy – El Jadida
Pupils assembled in the yard of the Alliance School for Boys in Tangier, 1931.
Paris, Alliance Israelite Universelle

In their efforts to rule Morocco, the French used Jews as intermediaries with the Muslims and created divisions between the Muslim and Jewish communities. A Frenchified elite arose among the Jews, although they were never fully accepted as equals with the French. While many of the legal restrictions against the Jews were eased, French colonists received preferential legal treatment. As a result, Jews in certain occupations were displaced by the French. In response to decreasing economic opportunities, emigration from the rural areas to the urban mellahs increased.

In August 1941, the Vichy Government of France enacted laws that discriminated against Moroccan Jews. It set quotas on the number of Jewish doctors and lawyers, ejected students from French schools and forced many Jews living in the European quarters to move to the mellahs.

The Moroccan Sultan, Mohammed V, told Jewish leaders that in his opinion Vichy laws singling out the Jews were inconsistent with Moroccan law. He believed that Jews should be treated equally with Muslims. He emphasized that the property and lives of the Jews remained under his protection. Due to his strong stance, Vichy administrators did not implement the discriminatory laws and regulations energetically.

Following the arrival of American troops in November 1942, the French closed off several mellahs. Despite pressure from the World Jewish community, it was several months before the Vichy laws were repealed.