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Algiers Cemetery WWI Memorial, Algiers, Algeria

The World War I memorial in Algiers' Jewish cemetery. 

Description

Conspicuously found along the central path of the Jewish Cemetery of Algiers is a Moorish-styled structure that rises above the ordinary graves and mausoleums, befitting the conspicuous acts of valor on behalf of the French Republic made by at least 370 individual Algerian Jews as well as the Jewish community they well-represented in the Great War. The fresh memory of the Dreyfus affair does not appear to have dampened the patriotic sentiments of Algerian Jews such as Youda bin Buraq, whose wounded words as he fell at the front were “My skin is nothing. Viva la France!” Buraq survived and was consequently awarded the Croix de Guerre in recognition of his bravery. Another Jew memorialized here is Abraham Bloch, the former chief rabbi of Algiers. His service as a military chaplain was immortalized in a famous illustration by the French-Jewish artist Lucien Levy-Dhurmer (see slideshow). In the drawing, a snapshot of real life, Bloch, the traditional hirsute and behatted rabbi, is seen wearing a Red Cross armband and holding s a crucifix prayerfully with both hands over a wounded, bed-bound Catholic solider. Rabbi Bloch was to die at the front, where this kind gesture was returned by Jamin, a Jesuit Priest, in whose arms he perished.

The monument was inaugurated on November 13, 1927, nearly a decade after the armistice, in an event attended by the authorities and dignitaries of France and the Jewish community, as well as thousands of spectators. A plaque reading “TO OUR GLORIOUS DEAD” adorns the main façade, above three arches (supported by four columns) and in-between two doomed and stain-glass adorned towers. There are five domes in all, one on each of the shrine’s four corners and a large one covering what would have been the atrium. The interior features two large inscriptions bearing the name of each Jewish honoree, and individual markers, arrayed against and as part of the walls. These names attest to the “the courage and patriotism” of Algerian Jews and the sacrifice they made to be deemed “worthy of France and its traditions! (Algerian Jewish Guestbook: 1914-1918, Algerian Committee for Social Studies, (Algiers: 1919)).”

Algiers, Algeria

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