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

by Karen Gray Ruelle

Book, 2008



Call number

J 736 RUE



New York : Holiday House, 2008.


During the Nazi occupation of Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation to a concentration camp. Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help. Yet many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place, the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Not just a place of worship but also a community center, this hive of activity was an ideal temporary hiding place for escaped prisoners of war and Jews of all ages, including children.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rapago
An interesting story, pieced together with difficulty, as the author tells us in the afterword, that documentation of these clandestine events is not to be found. Most of the people who might have experienced the help given by the Mosque have also died. Still, it is an important story to share
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given the sometimes rocky relationship between Muslims and Jews.
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LibraryThing member lauraloftin
Wonderful informational text about a piece of history almost lost. This is the story of how Muslims in France helped to rescue Jews who were in danger of being killed for their religion. Great glossary and extra websites and resources to use in the classroom. Beautifully painted illustrations.
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Great picture book for teaching about the Holocaust.
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LibraryThing member Cra71
This book gives great insight about a story that has not been told often. It brings a much more positive light to the Muslim community and tells a very heroic story of how they played a huge part in helping the Jews stay safe from the Nazis.
LibraryThing member TeriHogg
During the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, a beautiful mosque in Paris was the safety net for many Jews hoping to escape the death camps. While the mosque was a short, temporary stay for many people who were smuggled out of the city to other places, for many children, it became their
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home. This beautifully illustrated picture book shares the stories of the few documented histories of survivors and those who helped hide them. The mosque's rector, Si Kaddour Benghabrit, was instrumental in placing children who looked Algerian with families associated with the mosque as well as forging birth certificates, grave markers, and certificates of conversion. There are not many picture books regarding Muslims and this is a step toward illuminating their place in history. The Afterward at the end of the book shares the difficulty of unearthing this little-known story of Muslims helping Jews during a turbulent time in history. A helpful glossary of Islamic terms is also included as well as a Bibliography, which highlights the books and other materials that are appropriate for children. This is a good read for children interested in history, helping them in understanding another perspective of the Occupation. Highly recommended. Grades 4-6
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LibraryThing member LauraMcKinion
Extremely interesting piece of history that is hardly known or talked about. This book tells the story of how muslims in France helped to hide and aid Jews and Allies during World War II. They were risking their lives to help save the lives of others. The pictures are beautiful and the glossery and
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bibliography are helpful. There are websites, books, and films suggested at the end of the book for further study.
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LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
This beautiful picture book tells about the Muslims in the Grand Mosque of Paris who hid Jews during the Holocaust. I didn't particularly care for the format (large blocks of text, wish they had included photos or diagrams of the Mosque), but the story is compelling and the authors provide an
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extensive afterward and bibliography. This little-known facet of Holocaust rescue is sure to add much to Holocaust units. Recommended for upper elementary and middle school.
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LibraryThing member sonya337
A part of history is revealed in this beautifully illustrated book. The vibrant colors, ornate drawings of the mosque and impressionistic style applied is breathtaking. Each page is a piece of art. The text is informative and believable. The facts surrounding the history of the The Grand Mosque of
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Paris are sited with a detailed bibliography. The book also provides recommended books and films about the Holocaust and Islam.
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LibraryThing member eurbanowicz
This book tells the true story of Muslim Frenchmen and Algerian Berbers working to save the lives of Jewish adults and children during the Holocaust. RESPONSE: An amazing story, and beautiful artwork. I honestly think this book should be read in all classrooms to inspire true religious tolerance.
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THEMES/CONCEPTS: religious tolerance, Islam, Judaism, Holocaust/anti-semitism
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LibraryThing member kay_mccay
I learned important historical facts from this book and about the beautiful results of humanity. This book is great for children because of all of its facts and wonderful illustrations, and because it teaches readers an incredibly important lesson about selflessness and sacrifice to help those in
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need. My own critique would be the failure to briefly mention the reasons behind the Holocaust, i.e., racism, religious genocide, and power. Overall, this is a wonderful non-fiction book.
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LibraryThing member JeneenNammar
2nd to 8th grade. Inspiring and deeply moving, the picture book The Grand Mosque of Paris makes an important contribution to the children's literature dedicated to promoting understanding and empathy between Moslems and Jews. In it Karen Gray Ruelle presents all the still surviving evidence and
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stories of how Jews found refuge in the Grand Mosque of Paris during the Holocaust. It being 63 years after the events, very little detail remains of those desperate and secret acts to help. But she describes how the Mosque hid children and escaped war prisoners, and Kabyle Moslems from Algeria helped operate an "underground railroad" of smuggling Jews out of the city. Ruelle's prose is straightforward and she gives a historical account of what transpired. Sometimes the stories are less detailed than one would like, but Ruelle explains at the end that this is all the detail that is left. Deborah Durland DeSaix's oil paintings collaborate excellently with the story. Her illustrations move from scenes depicting how large the Mosque is and how forbidding the city looks, to sensitive close ups of faces involved. She incorporates a texture to the paintings that makes it look as if the story were painted on walls, a curious technique to use given how important buildings are to both religions. This book is highly recommended for public, elementary, and middle school libraries. It would also make an excellent classroom read aloud. Given the time we live in and how precious each story of bravery is from during the Holocaust, public librarians and media teachers should not pass up on the opportunity to buy this book. These stories should not pass unknown into history.
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LibraryThing member BrittaSorensen
This book tells the true story of a Muslim community in Paris working to rescue Jewish people during the holocaust, hiding them in their mosque, disguising them as Muslims, and transporting them out of the city to safety. It tells the stories of Albert Assouline and Salim Halil who were both saved
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by this community, and the work of the Kabyle Resistance.
I thought the illustrator did a great job on the opening page of using texture, color, and the lines of the bayonets to introduce the Nazi occupation of Paris. The dark, fogginess and sameness of the eyeless faces added a lot of meaning and mood to the setting. I noticed that she used the most color to portray the mosque, which seemed to be symbolic of the safety and light this mosque held for the Jewish people hidden there. I like how the author wrote in very clear, easy to understand language. It makes the book, with a complex topic, very accessible. I think this is an excellent book to add to children's understanding of world history and of the complexity of religious and cultural differences and interactions. I love how the authors includs a lot of information on the Muslim community in Paris and the functions of the mosque, both topics that many children may find unfamiliar. I think it's important to tell stories of Muslim people and communities that disrupt the often stereotypical or fearful images we are given in the news or other media. I also think that it's important that the creators of this book included a section that explained where they got their information and why they wrote the book. It is important for children to learn that they need to verify whether the information in a book is trustworthy.
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LibraryThing member hmischke
This book would also be incorporated into my WWII and Holocaust unit, which is starting to look pretty extensive. I think it is important for students to realize just how much the Holocaust affected everyone. This is important to me for a couple reasons, one there are still people who say it never
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happened and history that tragic should never be forgotten so that the people who died are not forgotten as well.
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LibraryThing member dlow
. This book, The Grand Mosque of Paris is a simple, easy to understand and does a great job of describing the horrors of the holocaust but reminding us of the caring people that were still around during this bit of history. The book gave an authentic description of Middle Eastern Life, both in
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characters and plot. I was never aware of the story of the Mosque or the Muslim peoples’ link with Jews. I find the relationship fascinating and important, because many wars start over religion, it was great to read how the religion wasn’t an issue in this story, and it was what helped save lives. The author is unsure of the exact facts, because of the situation, so there is some speculation as to the accuracy of the story, however if the people of the Paris Mosque even saved ten people they helped and made in impact on the society and the community.
This story deserved to win because of the light in which the Muslim people are described. The characters were positive examples of Middle Eastern people. One of the criteria for this award states that Muslim people are described with respect and accurately. This was done in this story. The story also has an easy to follow plot and was easy to read. History can be a difficult subject to describe and both the Muslim culture and the holocaust are difficult subjects to digest. For a children’s book to dive into this realm requires skill and artistry. The author captured the feeling, and the importance of this piece of history in her book. I believe the art helped support this text as well.
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LibraryThing member marycha
The book is about a true story of a Muslim community in Paris working to save the Jewish people. It has a really rich culture and religion that will be excellent to use in classrooms to show children how different the culture is, and help shed light at it's uniqueness.
LibraryThing member amandahnorman
The historical narrative itself is amazing. The illustrations are hauntingly beautiful. The writing is somewhat dry; it relies heavily on the fascinating historical events to keep the reader's interest.
LibraryThing member jordan70
This well researched book is great for the classroom. The afterword holds its own as a great informative piece. This in my opinion is the best way to inform student about history and get them thinking about cultural differences and how we are all still human, and the power of working together.A
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story that files in the face of current world views of how Jews and Muslims do not get along.
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LibraryThing member jegammon
Response - I really liked it. I am a history buff but had not heard of this piece of Nazi resistance. I appreciated the endnotes but sad to learn that little is documented of these heroic acts.

Curricular connection - Unit on WWII
LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
"Yesterday at dawn, the Jews of Paris were arrested. The elderly, the women, and the children. In exile like ourselves, workers like ourselves. They are our brothers. Their children are like our own children. Anyone who encounters one of his children must give that child shelter and protection for
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as long as misfortune - or sorrow - lasts.
Oh man of my country, your heart is generous..."

So reads a World War II era letter, recently discovered amongst the papers of a Tunisian-owned cafe in Paris, and written in Kabyle, the language of one of North Africa's Berber peoples. It points to a little-known footnote in the history of that terrible time: the courageous actions of Si Kaddour Benghabrit - the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris - and the other Parisian Muslims who sheltered and saved Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, members of the French and North African resistance, and Allied parachutists caught behind enemy lines.

Built by North African immigrants between the two world wars, the Grand Mosque was not simply a place of worship, it was an entire community - complete with gardens, apartments, a clinic, a library, and a restaurant - and a hotbed of resistance to the Nazi occupiers. Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Surland DeSaix, who also collaborated on Hidden on the Mountain, which chronicles the courageous actions of the people of Le Chambon in hiding Jews during World War II, turn their attention to a similar episode in The Grand Mosque of Paris.

There is much that is not known about this story - much that will never be known. Most, if not all, of the rescuers are dead. They came from a tradition which emphasized oral storytelling, and left few written records behind documenting their heroism. Many of those they rescued were young children at the time, and may have forgotten the Grand Mosque, which usually provided a brief stopover, before refugees were smuggled through Paris's subterranean passages to the River Seine. Perhaps most tragic of all, subsequent developments - the onset of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the widespread denial of the Holocaust in the Muslim world - have led many to ignore and/or suppress this story.

The authors note, in their afterword, that the Grand Mosque's register of children's names for that period - uncovered by filmmaker Derri Berkani when he first began to research this story in 1974, and which he believed proved that the Mosque had saved over 400 Jewish children - have since disappeared. Although one North African Jew, Albert Assouline, claims that the Mosque saved as many as 1,732 souls, the current rector is far more reticent, and Gray and DeSaix were not granted access to the archives.

The Grand Mosque of Paris sets out a story of courage, compassion and honor - a story most worthy of telling. But more importantly, it seems to me that is a story that needs telling. A story that can teach Muslims that in denying the Holocaust they aren't just denying the humanity of the Jewish people, but their own as well. A story that can teach Jews that Muslims didn't always hate them, and aren't a predestined enemy. What could be more necessary?
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Original publication date



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