When the Nazis occupied Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation.
Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help. Yet during that perilous time, many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place--the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Not just a place of worship but a community center, this hive of activity was an ideal temporary hiding place for escaped prisoners of war and Jews of all ages, especially children.
Beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched (both authors speak French and conducted first-person interviews and research at archives and libraries), this hopeful, non-fiction book introduces children to a little-known part of history. Perfect for children studying World War II or those seeking a heart-warming, inspiring read that highlights extraordinary heroism across faiths.
Includes a bibliography, a recommended list of books and films, and afterword from the authors that gives more details behind the story.
Grades 3-6. The book begins with a quote found in Islamic and Jewish traditions: “Save one life, and it is as if you’ve saved all of humanity.” Today’s problems between these two Abrahamic religions are obvious, but there are moments of brotherhood. During the Nazi occupation of France, Jews were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps. One avenue of refuge was the Grand Mosque in Paris, where Jewish adults and children hid, some briefly until they could be spirited away, others for longer stays. Thanks to the mosque’s rector, and particularly Berbers from Algeria, many lives were saved. This is a fascinating, little-known piece of history (the afterword explains how difficult it was to research). The authors sometimes try too hard to explain too much to a middle-grade audience, but they effectively capture the desperation felt by the victims and the enormous effort made by the resistance. The evocative paintings in somber colors heighten the tension, but some, like the one of a Jewish girl in front of an intricately designed mosque wall, capture the hope.