About us Home FAQ
Click to Print 
  search HSJE site or the web   

Egyptian Jewry under the Nasser regime, 1956-70.

Summary: The history of the Egyptian Jews from 1956 to 1970 is presented.

 Egyptian Jewry under the Nasser regime, 1956-70.

By; Michael M. Laskier


Jews have lived in Egypt ever since they established a small colony in Upper Egypt on the Island of Elephantine, before the Babylonian Exile. Many came to that country following the conquest of Judea by Alexander the Great in 322 BCE. There were waves of immigration after 1517 when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. During the nineteenth century under the Muhammad Ali dynasty (1805-1952), Jews arrived from Middle Eastern countries, the Balkans, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Italy. They settled throughout the Nile Delta, and communities were established in Cairo, Alexandria, Tantah, Port Said, Mansura, Mahalla al-Kubra and Ismailiyya. In the 1850s the Jewish population of Egypt numbered 6,500. By 1948 - the eve of Egyptian-Israeli fighting during Israel's war of independence - it had reached 80,000.

The Jews, like other minorities in Egypt - Greeks, Italians, Syrians, Armenians - did not make up a significant percentage of the total population of 19 million in 1948. Yet, like these minorities, they had made important contributions to the economic modernization of the country, particularly since the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some Egyptian Jews originated from Arabic-speaking countries - Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq - and were considered Oriental Jews. There were also Sephardim, descendants of the megorashim (exiles) from Spain and Portugal, as well as Italian Jews who settled in Egypt. The Sephardim were the most dynamic and largest segment of the country's Jewish population, constituting the financial and intellectual elite for a long period. They dominated the community's leadership, most notably in Cairo and Alexandria. This elite included the Cattawi, Cicurel, Mosseri, Suares, and Adeh families in Cairo, and the de Menasche, Rolo and Aghion families in Alexandria. There was also a Karaite community. A small communal nucleus of Ashkenazim was established as early as 1865; their numbers increased significantly in the wak of the pogroms in Russia and Romania.

Perhaps a quarter of the the Jewish population held Greek, French, Austro-Hungarian (until 1917), British and Italian citizenship; another quarter of the Jewish population - or perhaps less - had managed to obtain Egyptian citizenship through the 1929 Egyptian Citizenship Laws. The rest were stateless. Holders of foreign passports benefited from the Capitulations system and Mixed Tribunals which provided that no foreign citizen or Egyptian-born foreign national was to be subject to the jurisdiction of Muslim courts.

Egypt became independent from Britain in 1922, which led to changes in the status of the foreign and ethnic minorities. Though the British continued to exercise considerable political, military and economic influence - as they had since occupying the country in 1882 - a series of new regulations restricted the benefits enjoyed by these minorities. Their status was further diminished as a result of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 26 August 1936. This pact broadened Egyptian independence, the British giving Egypt more freedom to conduct diplomatic affairs, though they retained a British garrison in the Suez Canal Zone. The Jews and the other minorities lost more status and influence in Egyptian society as a consequence of the Montreux Convention of 1937 which abolished the Capitulations in Egypt and authorized the closing of the Mixed Tribunals after a transition period of twelve years (in October 1949). Those Jews who now sought to obtain Egyptian nationality on the basis of the above-mentioned 1929 Law, usually received a negative response from the Egyptian authorities. The period from the mid-1930s onward saw a host of changes not usually favourable to the Jews.

During the 1930s Egypt underwent the influence of Fascist and Nazi ideas, the impact of anti-Jewish notions promoted by Palestinian Arab political exiles, the interest of Egyptian nationalists in the Palestine Question and their support for the Arab struggle there against the Jews and the British, and growing anti-British sentiment which was also directed at Britain's supporters. All these trends eventually affected the Jewish community. By 1938-39, there were anti-Jewish demonstrations in Cairo, though still on a small scale. These were carried out by youth groups and university students, and not inspired by the government.

As was the case in most Jewish communities of the Muslim countries, Zionist activity was largely confined to fund-raising on behalf of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet Le'Yisrael) and the Jewish Foundation Fund (Keren HaYesod). After 1917, Zionist federations were established in Cairo and Alexandria. However, most educated or influential Jews were hostile or, at the very least, indifferent to Zionism as a political and national movement. On the other hand, during the 1940s Zionist activity increased with the assistance of emissaries from the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine), including the Jewish Agency, the Histadrut and the Mossad Le'aliyah. Previously existing Zionist youth movements expanded the scope of their activities and the size of their memberships. Among the leading Zionist youth movements in Egypt in that period were HeHalutz, HaShomer HaTza'ir, Bnai Akiva/HaPo'el HaMizrahi, and, temporarily, Betar (Revisionists). They were mainly active in Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, and continued to function in a legal or semi-legal fashion until 1948.

The 1948 war and ensuing political developments forced Zionists to operate clandestinely.(1) By 1948 a portion of urban Jewish youth was sympathetic to political Zionism. Yet many Jews still shunned the movement either out of fear of their non-Jewish neighbours and extremist Muslim and Arab movements, or because of indifference. As late as 1945-6 many of them chose not to alienate the emerging forces in Egyptian politics or openly discuss the increasing severity of the Arab-Jewish struggle in the region. The events of 1947-8 constituted the first crucial step toward the eventual dissolution of the Jewish communities of Egypt.

The position of the Jewish communities was stable until the second half of 1945, despite the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment in Egyptian intellectual and nationalistic circles from the mid-1930s. This animosity reflected the Egyptian reaction to the Arab struggle in Palestine, pro-Nazi sympathies, religious fundamentalism and growing nationalism. On 2 November 1945, anti-British, anti-Zionist (and anti-Jewish) demonstrations took place in Cairo on the occasion of the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. A synagogue was burned down, twenty-seven Torah scrolls were desecrated, and a soup kitchen, a home for the aged, a shelter for poor transients, the Jewish hospital, the quarters of the Art Society and Jewish public buildings were damaged or destroyed. Although there is no firm evidence, it is generally believed that the Muslim Brotherhood had directly or indirectly encouraged youths to attack Jewish institutions.

The government responded by placing guards at the entrance to the Jewish quarters in Cairo and promised to indemnify the victims. Subsequently, the UN resolution to partition Palestine (29 November 1947) prompted the Muslim Brotherhood and other Muslims to proclaim a jihad and dispatch volunteers to Palestine to assist the struggle against the establishment of a Jewish state.

The 1948 war, the internal situation in Egypt and the creation of the State of Israel in mid-May 1948 exposed the Jewish community to new dangers. Workers, students and the Wafd (the most popular political party in Egypt, then in opposition) demonstrated against the government headed by Mahmud Nuqrashi Pasha of the Saadist Party. To cope with the situation, a Royal Decree of 14 May 1948 imposed martial law throughout the country; censorship was widely extended and mass arrests of Egyptians of various ethnic and religious backgrounds followed. On the night of 14 May, 600 persons were arrested. The number of prisoners shortly reached 1300. Approximately one thousand were Jewish, Muslim and European opponents of the government, or Communists. The remaining 300 were Jews selected for their past association with Zionist activists which, up to that time, had been considered legal or quasi-legal.(2)

On 30 May, Proclamation N26 subjected to sequestration the property of any person who was interned in Egypt and of anyone residing outside Egypt whose activities were deemed 'prejudicial to the safety and security of the State', as well as that of those who had merely been placed under surveillance. Since there was no legal barrier to placing people 'under surveillance', the Proclamation could be, and was, applied indiscriminately. All business enterprises, either under the control of anyone specified in the Proclamation or in which any such person had a substantial financial interest, could also be sequestered. On taking over the assets, the commissioner named to manage sequestered property was entitled to perform 'all acts appropriate to normal functioning', including collection of debts owed to the proprietor.(3) From the end of May 1948 until early 1949 (especially before the armistice was signed with Israel) significant Jewish private, commercial and communal assets were seized and placed in the custody of the commissioner of sequestered property.

In June, July and September 1948 acts of sabotage took place throughout Cairo against Jews and their property. In October, the authorities discovered a cache of arms and munitions in Ismailiyya on the estate of Shaykh Muhammad Farghali, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood battalions in the Palestine war. On 15 November the police made an additional discovery of arms and incriminating documents in the possession of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nuqrashi was determined to destroy the organization. The prevalent feeling among Egyptian Jewry was that the Muslim Brothers bore major responsibility for the anti-foreign and anti-Jewish incidents.(4)

Reports reaching Jerusalem mentioned several internment camps where Jews were incarcerated. One was the former British Royal Air Force camp at Aboukir on the outskirts of Alexandria, where over one hundred were detained, together with Communists and other opponents of the regime. Conditions at the camp improved toward the end of 1948. The conditions of the 200 Jewish internees at Huckstep Camp near Cairo (a former American base) were initially far worse than those at Aboukir but became less severe following the intervention of various European consulates. The harsh treatment of prisoners at Huckstep was directed more at the Communists than at the Jews.(5) Fifty additional Jews were interned at El-Tur.(6)

Following the assassination of Prime Minister Nuqrashi in December 1948, Ibrahim al-Hadi Pasha was appointed premier. Then came the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian Armistice Agreement in February 1949. Beginning in the first half of 1949, as hostilities subsided on the war front, public and official antagonism towards the Jews was reduced, the press moderated its attacks and the government began lifting some of the restrictions. Sequestration of Jewish property was halted and many possessions were returned. During the second half of 1949 (or early in 1950), the government decided to lift martial law, in force since May 1948, and to abolish the office of Commissioner of Sequestered Property. During the spring or summer of 1949, the first group of fifty Jews was released from internment on condition that they leave Egypt. Emigration was permitted to the stateless and holders of Egyptian passports after early or mid-summer 1949. Until then, only holders of foreign passports could depart without obstacles.

Husayn Sirri, an independent, succeeded Abd al-Hadi as premier on 26 July 1949, forming a government that included members from all major political parties. Then, elections on 3 January 1950, brought the Wafd Party to power. Many of the restrictions on the Jews were lifted during the Wafd regime. Yet, a considerable number left Egypt. In 1948 there were 80,000 Egyptian Jews. At least 20,000 departed between May 1948 and January 1950; many of them settled in Israel, while others emigrated to France, Italy, Switzerland and Latin America. The number of Egyptian Jews arriving in Israel continued to decline (7,154 in 1950; 2,086 in 1951; 1,251 in 1952; 1,041 in 1953; 1,069 in 1954; 677 in 1955; and 880 in 1956, on the eve of the Suez/Sinai War). One reason for this drop was the policy of the State of Israel and the Jewish Agency instituting monthly quotas and immigration selection criteria. The second reason was the apparent inclination of the Egyptians, starting in 1951 or 1952, to complicate, and perhaps slow down, emigration procedures. Third was the apparent stabilization of the Jews' situation, in 1951-53, despite occasional arrests and surveillance. Finally, emigration to countries other than Israel began to be more attractive for those who were determined to leave Egypt. According to Yaakov Tsur, Israel's ambassador to France, basing his assessment on information provided to him in 1954 by well-informed Egyptian Jewish leaders:

The self-confidence of the Jews has improved since [King] Faruq was overthrown [in 1952]. The representative of the new regime are not mistreating the Jews . . . The general feeling is that the Free Officers heading the regime have good intentions although they are incompetent . . . Most Egyptian Jews are preparing themselves to leave one way or another. No one among them thinks he can survive in that country for a long period. Yet the wave of emigration is not directed toward Israel. Many are prepared to settle in Australia, or France, in Italy and in other Western European countries. What affected aliyah in a negative way were the rumors about absorption difficulties, and the letters which reached these Jews from several of their counterparts who made aliyah and failed to integrate, finally emigrating to other countries.(7)

In 1951-52 Egypt was rocked by violence and anti-British guerrilla warfare. Between November 1951 and January 1952 armed clashes between British troops and guerrilla squads (composed of students, peasants, workers and radical intellectuals) were finally suppressed by the British who were still determined to maintain troops at Suez. On 26 January 1952 a mass demonstration against the British in Cairo developed into full-scale rioting and arson. Many stores, cinemas, hotels and offices were severely damaged. Attention shifted mostly to the British, away from the ethnic, religious and foreign minorities. As a result of the events, King Farouk dismissed the Wafd government and appointed Ali Mahir, an independent conservative, to form a new government. However, Mahir failed to solve Egypt's intricate political problems and he resigned on 1 March 1952, while the ex-Wafdist Naguib al-Hilali formed a government. By the end of June 1952, Hilali, too, tendered his resignation to the King, to be succeeded by Husayn Sirri. The latter's resignation on 20 July was followed three days later by the military coup d'etat which eventually brought Gamal Abdel-Nasser to power. For the Jews, the other minorities and foreigners residing in Egypt, 23 July 1952 was a decisive turning point.

General Muhammad Naguib held power after the overthrow of King Farouk until the rise of Nasser between February and April 1954. Under Naguib, the economic difficulties experienced by all Egyptians did not cause a mass Jewish exodus abroad or to Israel. On the whole, there were optimistic signs. In March 1954, Salvator Cicurel and Maitre Albert Romano, the two main leaders of the Cairo Jewish community, said that the Community schools had operated in 1953 at a deficit of LE 11,000 and the Jewish hospital at as deficit of LE 12,000. On the other hand, revenues collected by the synagogues increased from LE 1,878,308 in 1952 to LE 2,165,953 in 1953; Jewish schools had been improved and the number of pupils increased from 1,208 in 1951-52 to 1,324 in 1952-53.

After April 1954 under Nasser, the condition of Egyptian Jewry as a whole was not yet worse than under the ancien regime despite border tensions with Israel that year and throughout 1955. This was also despite the December 1954 spying and sabotage trial of thirteen young Jews accused of working for Israeli intelligence inside Egypt.(9) The real turning point occurred in October-November 1956 during and following the Sinai Campaign and the Suez War of October 1956.

On 29 October 1956 units of the Israeli army entered the Sinai Peninsula. Three days later, British and French aircraft bombed Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said. Within seventy-two hours of this thrust, the Egyptian government promulgated a series of decrees establishing a state of siege, imposing strict censorship, providing a judicial basis for seizure of hostages, mass arrests, and denaturalization of entire groups of Egyptian citizens.


According to official Egyptian documents, four specific kinds of measure directly and radically affected the rights, status and very existence of many Jews in Egypt. These were: police detention; sequestration of businesses and property; explusion from the country; and promulgation of a new statute under which Jews were deprived of citizenship.

Regarding the first category, Article 3, Paragraph 7, and Article 7 of Emergency Law No.5333 of 1954, on the Proclamation of a State of Siege in Egypt, authorized the Military Government of Egypt 'to order the arrest and apprehension of suspects and those who prejudice public order and security'. Under these provisions, hundreds of Jews, without charges against them, were detained, imprisoned or otherwise deprived of their liberty.

According to representatives in Egypt of an important international relief organization, at least 900 Jews had been arrested as of 7 December 1956. Five hundred were interned in the Jewish school at Abbasiyya in Cairo. As of 3 December, 261 of these 500 were stateless; the rest were Egyptian citizens. At the Abraham Batesh Jewish school in Heliopolis, another 42 Jews were detained, most of them women, many of them aged. This group included 19 stateless persons and 23 others. At Les Barrages prison north of Cairo, 300 Jews were detained, half of them stateless; the other half British and French subjects. Limited to the Cairo area, and excluding Alexandria and the smaller, dwindling communities of the Nile Delta, these figures cannot represent the total number of Jews then imprisoned in Egypt. Furthermore, there was absolutely reliable information to the effect that almost all Jewish families in Cairo and Alexandria had been held in confinement at their homes for considerable lengths of time, often without funds, food or other supplies, under surveillance by building concierges invested with police authority to control Jewish tenants under confinement, and supplied with firearms to render this control more effective.(10)

Sequestration and economic strangulation: under the authority of Military Proclamation No.4 'relative to commerce with British and French subjects and to measures affecting their properties' (Journal Officiel, No.88, bis A of 1 November 1956), 19 directives appeared in the Journal Officiel of Egypt. Eleven (Nos.170-177 and 186-188) overwhelmingly affected the property of Jews. Military Proclamation No.4 appeared under the heading of 'Regime of Sequestration'. It stated in Article 1 that:

The commissioner of the management of properties of persons interned or placed under surveillance, charged with the execution of the provisions of Law No. 176 of 1956, will assume the management of the properties of the following persons and institutions: 1) all persons who were interned or placed under surveillance in execution of the law relative to the state of siege; 2) every company, association or foundation, whatever its purpose may be, functioning under the control of any single person cited above, or any person having an important interest in it; 3) all persons who reside outside the Republic of Egypt and function under the control of any of the aforementioned persons or those who have an important interest in them.

A number of persons living in the United States, thoroughly familiar with the economic structure of Egypt, examined the published lists of 486 persons and firms whose properties were seized under Military Proclamation No.4. They attested that at least 95 per cent of them were Jews. It is noteworthy that these directives issued under Military Proclamation No.4 did not refer to properties owned by British and French subjects which were sequestered under Military Proclamation No.5 - also affecting a number of Jews - but exclusively refer to assets of Egyptian citizens, stateless Jews, and Jews of nationalities other than British and French. All in all, it is estimated that between November 1956 and March 1957 assets of at least 500 Jewish-owned firms were sequestered and their bank accounts frozen; 800 more enterprises under Jewish proprietorship were placed on an economic blacklist and their assets frozen.(11)

The persons and firms affected by this measure represented the bulk of the economic substance of Egyptian Jewry, the largest and most important enterprises, and the main sustenance, through voluntary contributions, of the Jewish religious, educational, social and welfare institutions in Egypt. The resulting paralysis of these institutions substantially aggravated the uprooting effect of the government's anti-Jewish policies and greatly intensified the pressure for Jews to leave the country.

In addition to depriving owners of their properties and income, the sequestration measures indirectly affected the livelihood of a much broader circle of Jews, those employed by firms placed under custodianship. It was reliably reported that all sequestered firms received instructions to discharge all employees of the Jewish faith and acted accordingly. Nor was the elimination of Jews from Egyptian economic life confined to sequestered firms and assets. There were other measures, mostly unofficial, which prevented a large, additional group of Jews from earning a living. For example, most Jews had already lost their positions in public companies and many private firms which were not subject to sequestration. At the same time, many Jews in independent private enterprises were prevented from doing business by the denial of trade permits, export and import licenses, foreign currency allocations, and other administrative facilities essential to the continuation of business. As a result, Jews were either forcibly excluded or voluntarily withdrawing from business. Likewise, a steadily growing number of Jewish physicians, lawyers and engineers were, by various means, prevented from practising their professions.(12)

The character and intent of the sequestration policy was rather clearly revealed by one of its original provisions. Sequestration order No. 189 authorized the commissioner of sequestered properties to deduct from all capital assets under his custody, ten per cent of their value, as well as ten per cent of the current income of income-producing properties, to be used for administrative and other undefined purposes. This provision transformed the measure into an instrument for at least partial confiscation of these assets, pointing, at the same time, towards the strong probability that this policy aimed at something more drastic and final than mere custody.

Egypt's policy of getting rid of its Jewish population was implemented through both expulsion and 'voluntary' emigration. But the two methods were not entirely distinct. It is estimated that as early as the end of November 1956 at least 500 Egyptian and stateless Jews had been expelled from Egypt, not including a considerable number of Jewish citizens of Britain and France. Most of the expellees were heads of families. They were ordered to leave the country within two to seven days. Whereas, in most cases, the individual served with a deportation order was responsible for supporting his family, all members of the family had to leave the country. Thus, this measure indirectly forced out of Egypt several times the number of those who received expulsion orders. However, official deportation orders were by no means the most effective instruments for thorough forced emigration. In fact, around the end of November 1956, direct, individual expulsion orders ceased, only to be replaced by the more subtle, potent techniques of intimidation and psychological warfare against the Jewish population as a whole. Under these pressures and the simultaneous economic harassment of Jews, a much larger and steadily growing emigration movement began. Jews 'voluntarily' obliged themselves, in formal declarations to the authorities, to leave the country and, in the case of Egyptian nationals, to relinquish their citizenship.(13)

Both the formal expulsion orders and the 'voluntary' pledges to expatriate oneself struck Jews of every status - citizens, stateless persons, and foreign subjects alike. All laissez-passer documents issued to them expressly stated that the person leaving Egypt would not be permitted to return, and that they voluntarily renounced all claims against Egypt.(14) More than 20,200 Jews emigrated between 22 November 1956 and 30 June 1957. In all, between 23,000 and 25,000 out of the 45,000 Jews were estimated to have left Egypt.(15) These included more than 6,000 (until June 1957) who left on ships chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) whose headquarters were in Geneva, with funds provided by the United Jewish Appeal.(16) The ICRC, as we shall see, rendered invaluable service in evacuating Jews unable to pay for their passage as well as in assisting needy Jews still in Egypt.

The emigration, expulsion and flight began on a large scale with thousands of people flocking to the offices of the Rabbinate, consulates, and embassies seeking advice, assistance and means of escape. The port of Alexandria and the airfield at Cairo were jammed with refugees leaving the country. Initially, government officials showed little leniency in customs inspections, arbitrarily confiscating any items which were believed to be of value. The pressure at points of embarkation was so great that there was no time for individual treatment. In the bedlam of this situation, thousands of people left with hardly more than the clothes on their backs.(17)

The American Embassy was seriously disturbed by the situation. On several occasions it made representations about it to the Egyptian government, warning of the impact that measures against the Jews might have on world public opinion. Because of the deterioration of Egyptian-United States relations, the American representations carried little weight. Certain officials at the US Consulate in Cairo were helpful to individual Jewish families seeking assistance in immigration matters. Perhaps more important was the intercession on behalf of the Jewish community by UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskold. Many members of the Jewish community felt that his intercession, brought about through informal advances by the Jewish community to neutral embassies, considerably lightened the Egyptian measures, particularly against stateless Jewish.

Denaturalization (deprivation of citizenship) also affected Egyptian Jews. A long-standing device to achieve 'national homogeneity' had been the Egyptian nationality law of 13 September 1950. On 22 November 1956 this law was amended by a decree-law promulgated by the President of the Republic (i.e. Nasser). Article 1 proclaimed that:

Only individuals resident on Egyptian territory before 1 January 1900, who maintained their residence until the date of promulgation of the present decree and who are not under the jurisdiction of a foreign state, are Egyptians.

The legally incapacitating intent and effect of this provision was quite manifest in spite of the camouflaging formulation. First of all, the law could easily be interpreted to mean that if an 'undesirable' individual left the country, even for a brief stay abroad, he thereby automatically failed to 'maintain his residence' until the date of the new law. Through this device, Egyptian citizens of the Jewish faith were easily deprived retroactively of their acquired citizenship. Second, an even more dangerous loophole was hidden behind the stipulation of the cut-offdate of 1 January 1900. According to informed sources familiar with conditions in Egypt, there was simply no officially valid documentation in existence there which could attest to the residence of persons in Egypt at that remote point in time. Through this loophole, not only were new certificates of nationality denied to undesired applicants, but it was now possible for the authorities to annul existing certificates retroactively.

But the 1956 Law did not stop at these stipulations. It went on to impose special disabilities expressly upon Jews alone. Article 1 further stipulated that:

Neither Zionists nor those against whom a judgement has been handed down for crimes of disloyalty to the country or for treason, shall be covered by this provision.

To make the intent of this provision clear beyond doubt, Article 1 added that:

No request for the delivery of a certificate of Egyptian nationality will be accepted from persons known as Zionists . . .

To the best of our knowledge, this was the first instance in the history of law where the concept of Zionism was applied in a nationality statute as a criterion of citizenship and as an indirect basis for denaturalization. Since the law furnished no definition whatsoever of the term 'Zionist', it was obvious that the Egyptian authorities could apply this provision at will to any person of the Jewish faith. However, at this stage of research we do not have sufficient data to determine to what extent the new decree was in fact applied.

Despite the new official policy, there were only a few isolated cases of physical mistreatment and no serious violence against Jews in Cairo and Alexandria - in sharp contrast to the summer of 1948. Yet we have scant data about the smaller communities, especially Tantah and Port Said. Be that as it may, the cumulative results of the official and numerous unofficial measures, accompanied by widespread economic difficulties, created a flight hysteria that led to the departure of close to half of the Jewish population by the end of June 1957.

Between April and July 1957, however, there were evident signs of a governmental policy to relax the pressure on the Jews. The exodus of Jews from Egypt slowed down to between 200 and 300 per month and those leaving were permitted to take larger amounts of personal possessions out of the country.(18) In more and more instances, property was returned to individual Jews who were neither French nor British subjects. On 21 April 1957 Abd al-Moneim al-Qaysuni, the finance minister, cancelled Military Proclamation No.4.(19)

Yet things were not the same. A substantial segment of the Jews had lost jobs and been replaced by non-Jews. The communal institutions faced increasing difficulties as the departure or expulsion of numerous family heads resulted in a sharp decrease in financial contributions to the communal administrative and institutional apparatus. The smaller communities of Port Said, Tantah and Mansura had all but disappeared.

It was noted about the time of the 1956 crisis and its immediate aftermath that the Nasser regime had used Nazi-type propaganda against the local Jews. >From the mid-1950s the World Jewish Congress (WJC) had become quite forcefully outspoken in the Jewish campaign against the Nasser regime. The Congress argued that from November 1956 the anti-Jewish measures, despite the non-existence of official antisemitic legislation, were deliberately designed according to the pattern of Nazi Germany's persecution of Jews. Nasser's intent, it said, was to destroy the ancient Jewish communities and deprive them of their rights and means of existence. The doctrine of 'Egyptianization [was] a sinister replica of Hitler's "Aryanization" plans which resulted in the wholesale robbery and eventual mass murder of six million Jews in Europe.'(20)

The American Jewish Congress (AJC) also compared Nasser to Hitler. Viewing Nasser as a shrewd dictator, an AJC pamphlet noted that whereas both Hitler and Nasser conducted an antisemitic campaign with ruthless efficiency, the latter had learned to avoid the errors committed by the former. Nasser's antisemitism was concealed: whereas Hitler openly attacked the Jews, Nasser resorted to the pretence that his campaign was limited to 'Zionists'. In fact, the AJC suggested, the regime in Cairo had learned from Hitler's experience that it would be more expedient to conduct its anti-Jewish policy in a way that would avoid international notoriety.(21)

Jewish organizations and the Jewish press often raised the issue of Nasser's regime and German Nazis residing in Egypt from the end of the Second World War. It was well known that German scientists and former Nazi officers had contacts with members of the new regime from 1952 and even earlier. Within the RCC of the pre-1956 period it appears that Anwar as-Sadat was the main liaison between the regime and the Germans.(22) Israeli sources pointed out that the policy of expelling and/or pressuring Jews to leave Egypt, beginning in November 1956, was carried out, in part, under the guidance of German-Nazi veterans and with Soviet assistance.(23)

The WJC also pointed to Nazi activity inside Egypt and went so far as to suggest that there existed a division of Jewish Affairs within the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National Guidance (created in 1954 or 1955), which was operated or at the very least assisted by former Nazi-German technocrats. Its aim, WJC maintained, was to monitor the activities of Jews closely without interfering with their daily life.(24) A French journalist of Jewish background, David Lambert, who visited Egypt, also referred to the Jewish Division. He claims that it blacklisted Jews and that Nazis aided Nasser to create the 'National Committee for the Struggle against Zionism' which disseminated antisemitic literature in clubhouses, buses and trams. These propaganda leaflets were mainly translations from the Nazi Der Sturmer. During the October 1956 war, one such tract advocated compelling Egyptian Jews to wear the Yellow Star of David as in Nazi-occupied Europe.(25) Among the Nazis listed by this journalist as advisers and technocrats were Johann von Leers, Dr Werner Wietschenke, Baron von Harder (former assistant to Goebbels), and Willy Beiser (former chief of the Gestapo in occupied Serbia).(26)

Maurice Mizrahi, an Egyptian Jewish community activist, stated that Nazis in Egypt adopted Arab names and several occupied key positions in the Egyptian administration, notably at the Ministry of the Interior. Referring to a document published by Simon Wiesenthal on 9 June 1967, he mentioned several of the Germans active in Egypt, among them: Ludwig Heidenn (El-Hadj, author of an Arabic translation of Mein Kampf; Franz Bartel (working in the Jewish Section of the Ministry of National Guidance), known as El-Husayn; Dr Willermann (a physician employed at the internment camp of Samara near Alexandria); Johann von Leers, known in Egypt as Amin Omar, who had first settled in Argentina and then moved to Egypt in 1955 in the wake of Peron's downfall. While in Germany von Leers had held the rank of S.S. Hauptsturmfuhrer in the Amt IV of the Third Reich Security Service; he was responsible for antisemitic propaganda in Egypt after 1955.(27) (These illustrations notwithstanding, extensive Egyptian archival material is needed to verify this claim.)




General Political and Social Developments: 1957-60

According to reports submitted to the United Nations, some 36,000 Jews left Egypt from 1956 to 1960. Between 8,000 and 10,000 remained until the end of 1960. The Nasser regime aspired to deprive the foreign, ethnic and religious minorities of the economic and social influence they had exercised for so long. The drive toward national homogeneity had led - even before the 1956 Suez/Sinai War - to the abolition of Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious tribunals (on 1 January 1956). This move was motivated by the government's strategy of closing the Muslim religious courts as part of its campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood.(28) A government spokesman characterized the law as 'an effective means for achieving democracy' by eliminating 'all semblance of a special order which limits the authority of the State and its sovereignty' and 'realizing the unity of the judiciary' for all Egyptians regardless of religious affiliation.(29)

We have already seen that in November 1956 the regime modified its citizenship and nationality laws in order to keep Jews - and other minorities - from becoming Egyptian citizens. Then came the 1958 nationality law which included similar provisions and, while not specifically excluding non-Muslims from citizenship, was even more clearly of an ethnic-religious and political nature. It showed that the Nasser regime desired an Arab-Muslim country. Thus, Zakariyya Muhieddin, the Minister of the Interior, was permitted - by law - to accord 'Arab nationality' to aliens who have 'rendered eminent service to the State, to Arab nationalism or to the Arab fatherland', as well as to certain categories of people 'whose religion is Islam'.(30) The 1958 law emerged at the time when Egypt and Syria had combined under the name of the United Arab Republic (UAR), and was clearly a measure to promote Arab unity.

As for the Jews, the new law made it rather easy for Egypt to deprive any Egyptian Jew of citizenship at will. Whereas Article 18 of the November 1956 Law provided that 'Egyptian nationality may be declared forfeit by order of the Ministry of the Interior in the case of persons classified as Zionists', the new law was explicitly anti-Jewish. The new law was issued as a decree of the Minister of the Interior published in the Journal Officiel of 15 April 1958. Under the heading 'Prohibition of Access', it stipulated:

(Article - 8) Jews who possess ordinary or special residence as well as Jews deprived of Egyptian nationality will be inscribed, in case they depart from the country for good, on the list of persons to whom access to the national territory is denied. (Emphasis added - ML)

This decree, applying to persons who had left the country, supplies concrete evidence of the anti-Jewish intent of the Egyptian regime's legislation.

In applying this measure, Egypt did not permit the return of British and French Jews who wanted to come back to look after their assets or for other reasons, although treaties had been signed with both Britain and France which ensure the fight of expellees to return. In fact, in August 1958, a Franco-Egyptian agreement was concluded in Zurich, providing for desequestration of, or reimbursement for, properties and businesses of French citizens expelled from Egypt. A similar agreement was signed in February 1959 with Britain. We also know of an Egyptian-Italian agreement regarding assets of Italian citizens.(31) Stateless Jews who left or were expelled were in a worse situation, since no government could or would present their case or negotiate on their behalf. They left behind assets estimated at $28 million.(32) Many Egyptian and stateless Jews who remained in Egypt, as we have seen, had their properties returned to them in 1957. Yet those who left were deprived of their assets.(33)

A parallel development to the April 1958 law was a significant switch in language on the radio, in the press, and in speeches by government officials. Prior to the Sinai/Suez War, and even through 1957, Egyptian official speeches and the press and radio made a distinction between 'Jews' on the one hand and 'Israelis' and 'Zionists' on the other. After 1958, however, such distinctions disappeared. Added to attacks on Israel and Zionism were verbal onslaughts on 'International Jewry' and world Jewry's alleged plots against Egypt. The Jew inside Egypt was now, by implication, considered an enemy of the country.

Socially and economically, there were laws and decisions - old and new - which constricted the Jews during the years 1957-67. In the first place, laws obliging all corporations to employ certain prescribed percentages of 'Egyptians' were extended by Law No. 26 of 1952 to all joint stock companies. These percentages grew over the years. Numerous Jews who were salaried employees lost their jobs and could not obtain new ones because they did not belong to the category of Jews with Egyptian nationality. In point of fact, Egyptian nationality was really of little help for Jewish workers, for the change-over of personnel meant the substitution of 'real' Egyptians (Muslims) for Jews.

Second, another law prescribed obtained a special permit from the Public Security Service for accepting employment 'with foreigners' in Egypt and elsewhere. The government so interpreted this law, furthermore, that it applied to all associations of whatever nature, foreign or Egyptian, among whose members were foreigners.

Third, a government decree was issued in 1959 stipulating that all employees, foreign or Egyptian, must have a work card. Interestingly, this card asked for the person's religion immediately after his name. Enterprises were told by the authorities, unofficially, that it was not wise to hire Jews. Moreover, when a business had a post vacant, it had to apply to the government employment service for someone to fill it. Jews were not recommended by the employment service.

Fourth, a decree of August 1959 required all importers, exporters, and agents of foreign firms to be inscribed in a new Commercial Register. The requests of Jews to be inscribed were not refused - but they were not registered either, except in a very few cases where the Egyptian government felt that the person concerned engaged in endeavours which could not be taken over by Muslims. There were cases of Jewish and non-Jewish merchants (Italians and Greeks) presenting their requests for registration at the same time, but only the non-Jews were officially registered. Similarly, import and export licences were not granted to Jews except in very rare cases.

Fifth, come the various nationalization decrees. The Egyptian economy underwent considerable nationalization in the period 1960-64. The private sector was eliminated completely from the branches of banking, insurance and the import trade. Rigorous measures were adopted to ensure the implementation of the overall plan for economic and social development, the building of a 'socialist' society, and the ending of 'monopolist exploitation'. The assets of some 820 'capitalist reactionaries' were seized (foreign sources believed the number to be higher). Non-Arab names, mainly Jewish, Greek and Armenian, as well as Lebanese and Syrian names, were much in evidence on the lists.(34) The various nationalization decrees, as the Egyptian government took over sectors of the economy, often hit the Jews particularly hard because the measures affected areas of the economy in which Jews had been prominent, including banking and insurance.(35)

Finally, the effects of the sequestration measures of 1956-57 were still felt in 1960. True, on 21 April 1957, Abd al-Moneim al-Qaysuni, the finance minister, cancelled Military Proclamation No. 4, and many of the sequestered properties were returned; but the administration of Management of Properties of Persons Interned refused to implement the new policy unless and until the owners had completely and definitely relieved the administration of all responsibility for loss or damage. Many of the businesses had suffered severe losses or such damage that they could not be reopened. Besides, as late as the end of February 1960 a number of businesses were still in the hands of the administration which did not want to turn them back to their owners. Furthermore, the government was still sequestering properties of Jews on various grounds, as was the case with two prominent Cairo businessmen, Abraham Adda and Abi Cassis, whose businesses were taken over and liquidated.(36)


As stated above, between 23,000 and 25,000 Jews are estimated to have left Egypt from November 1956 to the end of 1957. These included at least 6,000 stateless persons. By the middle of 1957 the exodus of Jews moderated, partly because of limited resettlement possibilities. Nevertheless, as late as January 1958, the emigration of Jews from Egypt continued and the ICRC assisted about 300 stateless emigrants per month. From November 1956 and up to 31 October 1957, Israel admitted nearly 13,500 Egyptian refugees via European ports, while Latin American countries absorbed 2,050 Jews during the first nine months of 1957. In January 1958 there were still some 5,000 refugees in France, 1,100 in the Netherlands, and smaller numbers in Greece and Italy. The Jewish Agency directed the emigration to Israel; and the United HIAS Service (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society - UHS hereafter) took care of immigration to Latin America, the United States, Canada, Australia, and other regions - directly from Egypt, as well as from France, Italy, Greece and Britain. As no Jewish organization - Zionist or non-Zionist - could function in Egypt itself, it was the co-operation between the UHS and the ICRC that made it possible to accomplish movement of population. The Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) agreed to finance, to a significant degree, the movement of Egyptian refugees - once they arrived in Europe - to Israel and other lands. Furthermore, early in 1957 and at least up until 1959, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) declared that many of the escapees from Egypt came under the mandate of his Office. The UNHCR, Dr Auguste Lindt, agreed to contribute funds, together with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) for the placement of one hundred Jewish aged and disabled persons still to be taken out of Egypt.(37)

France, more than other countries of transit, supported stateless refugees. Holders of foreign passports, however, received assistance from AJDC-financed French-Jewish agencies which, in January 1958 provided cash relief to 1,400 persons. To meet the difficult problems of housing in France, the AJDC contributed 15,000,000 francs to a housing fund, with the French government and the UNHCR providing similar sums.(38)

Further, Dr Lindt, the UNHCR, and the United Nations Relief Fund (UNREF) ruled that refugees from Egypt were eligible for United Nations protection. Since such a ruling had to be based on the assumption of 'well-founded fear of persecution', 'although the Office of the UNHCR was considered a political in nature and engaged in humanitarian work, the decision obviously had a political side-effect in that Nasser's government stood publicly condemned for engaging in persecution. After referring to the Hungarian refugee problem following the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Lindt informed the UNREF executive committee that another emergency had arisen: that of refugees from Egypt. Those refugees unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of the government of their nationality fell under the mandate of his Office.(39)

The AJDC continuously pressured Lindt and his deputy, James M. Read, to intervene on behalf of Jews who had left Egypt and whose properties were sequestered. The AJDC pointed out to Lindt as early as February 1957 that Article 8 of the Statute of the Office of the UNHCR stated that the High Commissioner would provide for the protection of refugees falling under the competence of his Office by:

[Category B] promoting through special agreements with governments the execution of any measure calculated to improve the situation of refugees and to reduce the number requiring protection; [and Category E] endeavouring to obtain permission for refugees to transfer their assets and especially those necessary for their resettlement.

Therefore, the AJDC urged Lindt to send UNHCR legal experts to Egypt to investigate the sequestration of Jewish assets. The AJDC also urged Lindt to negotiate with the Nasser regime the transfer abroad of assets of refugees under UNHCR care as well as to provide for safeguarding by the UNHCR of property in Egypt that could not be readily transferred, so as to preserve the rights and interests of the owners until fair and equitable liquidation and transfer could be achieved. At that time, there were many Egyptian refugees under UNHCR sponsorship in France, Italy, Greece, and Israel whose property had been detained, sequestered, or otherwise blocked in Egypt.(40)

Indeed, AJDC pressure was effective insofar as the UNHCR needed to take the initiative of contacting the Egyptian authorities, although we do not know whether a special mission was dispatched there. In a report by Lindt to Mahmud Fawzi, then Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the UNHCR emphasized that a considerable number of Jewish refugees had property in Egypt. It was the task of this Office to seek permanent solutions for the refugees in countries of permanent residence. These efforts, he indicated, would be greatly helped if the persons concerned were able to arrange for the administration and liquidation of the assets left behind and for transfer of these assets to the countries of the refugees' resettlement.(41)

This plea by the UNHCR to the Egyptian foreign ministry was made well after the time when the regime had ended the sequestration policy and when many properties had been returned to owners who remained in Egypt. However, this did not benefit the refugees. Lindt drew Fawzi's attention to Article 8(c) of the Statute of his Office (UN General Assembly Resolution No. 428(v) of 14 December 1950) that charged the UNHCR with 'endeavouring to obtain permission for refugees to transfer their assets and especially those necessary for their resettlement'.(42)

Yet Lindt's plea notwithstanding, it appears that the UNHCR was not about to go out of its way to pressure Egypt to adhere to Article 8(c). In fact, Lindt merely expressed hope that the Nasser regime would favourably consider measures to arrange for the refugees to liquidate assets and transfer them abroad:

The work of my office is purely humanitarian and of an entirely nonpolitical character. I should like to emphasize that it is only with humanitarian considerations in mind that I approach you in the matter.(43)

We know, of course, that - as emphasized above - Jewish refugees, particularly the stateless ones, were unable, during the 1958-59 Anglo-Egyptian and Franco-Egyptian negotiations over sequestered assets of expellees, to obtain concessions from the Egyptian government. With the exception of small amounts of money (eventually much larger sums), clothing, and moveable assets, significant property could not be disposed of.

The UHS, the leading Jewish immigration agency, entered the Egyptian Jewish refugee scene too, in 1956-57. Looking into the UHS's efforts to transfer Egyptian Jews to Latin America, we learn that in 1958 the Latin American programme of the UHS underwent the impact of the mass emergency influx of the 4,000 refugees admitted there in 1957, including 2,500 Egyptian and 1,300 Hungarian Jews. In carrying out its programme in Latin America on behalf of the Egyptian refugees, UHS had the invaluable assistance of various international organizations such as the UNHCR and ICEM as well as the United States Program in addition to that of the Latin Jewish communities and Jewish organizations such as the AJDC and the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA). As a result of the financial and technical assistance of these various organizations, all interested in the successful resettlement of refugees, the progress achieved by 1959 provided an incentive for widening opportunities for Jewish immigration to and effective resettlement in Latin America in subsequent years.(44)

The services provided by the UHS to Egyptian refugees under this arrangement were complex and divided into ten items:(45)

1. The UHS, unable to operate in Egypt, channelled funds to the ICRC to arrange all travel procedures for Jews from Egypt to European ports. There may have been an arrangement for direct travel from Egypt to a Latin American country (or elsewhere), but we do not possess sufficient data to substantiate this fully.

2. In Europe, the UHS furnished the refugees reception and embarkation services at the port of embarkation, and payment of necessary transit, maintenance, luggage and related costs.

3. In Latin America, the UHS provided reception of refugees at ports of debarkation and payment of baggage charges. This was carried out through port reception workers versed in several languages and experienced in immigration regulations. These UHS workers established excellent rapport with ship and customs personnel as well as government officials.

4. UHS paid initial maintenance expenses, including cost of hotel accommodation, pocket money and local transportation.

5. UHS paid for inland transport to small Latin American communities, such as Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, and Petropolis in Brazil.

6. It provided a counselling, guidance, and technical service for securing housing and employment and paid initial settlement costs including rent, furniture, and food allowance.

7. Its personnel secured identity cards, work permits and other such required documents. Through its local co-operating committees, UHS provided funds and technical assistance for various kinds of documentation which were required for employment. It intervened with the authorities in order to expediate issuance of these documents where there were delays or complications.

8. The UHS provided medical care for families whose members were chronically ill, unemployable and physically and emotionally handicapped.

9. It referred refugees to vocational training and retraining facilities.

10. UHS extended loans through special facilities already in existence in the countries of emigration. Loans continued to be made through associations established jointly by local communities in conjunction with the AJDC and JCA, most notably in Sao Paulo, Rio, Montevideo and Santiago.

The amount of money spent for these projects in the countries of resettlement in 1958 was as follows:(46)

Brazil $113,361

Venezuela 12,350

Argentina 3,119

Ports of Embarkation (costs) 22,733

Total $151,563

Between November 1956 and 31 December 1963, of the 27,883 Egyptian Jews assisted in emigrating (another 9,000-10,000 apparently left independently or, at least, paid for their own transportation, upkeep, and integration), UHS assisted 12,160 persons, whereas the Jewish Agency assisted 15,723 persons whose final destination was Israel. (See Table 1 on comparative UHS/Jewish Agency emigration data.)

The Jewish Agency, the other major organization responsible for Egyptian Jewish refugees, had been involved with them in Europe through its offices in Paris, Marseilles and Geneva since the 1956 crisis. As late as 1957 (see Table 1), the greater part of the Jewish refugees coming out of Egypt were emigrating to Israel. As early as December 1956, the Jewish Agency's representative for Europe, Eran Laor and Charles H. Jordan, director-general of AJDC overseas operations, contacted the ICRC headquarters in Geneva. As the ICRC had a delegation and offices in Cairo, and as the Jewish Agency and the AJDC - like the UHS - could not function directly in Egypt, Laor and Jordan sought to assist the several hundred interned Jews, as well as several thousand of their dependants, to leave Egypt for israel as soon as possible. Secondly, the AJDC/Jewish Agency wanted to organize the departure of another 5,000-10,000 Jews who wanted to leave Egypt as soon as they could. Jordan and Laor were ready to finance the movement but suggested that the ICRC, through Maurice Thudicum, its Cairo delegate, find out how many Jews were capable of meeting transportation costs. They felt that:

. . . Jewish public and private assets such as may exist and which are being sequestered, and blocked, and confiscated, should be put by the Egyptians at your (ICRC) disposal for the financing of this movement. You have agreed to explore this matter. We know that you will wish to exploit this resource to the fullest. Under the circumstances we undertake to meet what deficit there may remain in the movement costs for the first priority group.(47)

It is not altogether clear what the ICRC, fearful of governmental reactions to its continued presence in Egypt, could have done, but it is clear that these assets were not put at its disposal; the international Jewish organizations together with ICEM (in Europe) had to bear the financial brunt of resettlement and transportation of those Jews unable to meet the costs. The Jewish Agency advanced funds to the ICRC in Geneva to be channelled to its Cairo Delegation for transportation to Europe and maintenance expenses. In 1956-57, most Egyptian Jewish refugees headed via Europe to Israel. After 1958, however, the situation changed somewhat inasmuch as many Egyptian refugees arriving in Europe were leaving for countries other than Israel under the auspices of the UHS. Therefore, while continuing to attend to Jewish refugees from Egypt in Europe, the Jewish Agency requested in November 1958 that the original agreement in 1956 between the Jewish Agency/AJDC and the ICRC be reversed: the funds advanced to the ICRC would be those of the AJDC (and UHS) for immigration destinations in Europe, Latin America, Australia and Canada. For those Jews in Egypt who, on arrival in Europe, would choose Israel as their country of resettlement, Jewish Agency personnel would attend to them at the ports of Genoa, Marseilles, and Athens; the Jewish Agency would then reimburse the AJDC for transportation costs from Egypt to Europe.(48)

While we do not have further information on whether the original arrangement was changed as requested, the Jewish Agency's role - important until early 1958 - was greatly challenged in subsequent years. On the surface, at least, an increasing number of Jews preferred countries other than Israel. On the other hand, one should not rule out the possibility of greater immigration trends to Israel - during the late 1950s and early 1960s - clandestinely via Israeli agents or the ICRC, or both. Therefore, it is likely that the Jewish Agency refrained from publishing in its official statistical tables the exact number of those who arrived in Israel. Be that as it may, the Jewish Agency provided assistance in 1956-58, such as reception and embarkation services, maintenance and medical care to approximately 14,000 Egyptian Jewish refugees in transit until necessary shipping space was available for their transportation to Israel. The costs involved for the above operation amounted to $601,943 in accordance with the following breakdown:(49)

Transportation expenses from European ports to Israel were not included into the above figures, since ICEM - though helpful at the time, together with the UHS, in financing the emigration movement to other countries - participated in the movement to Israel with $50 per capita from Greek ports and $78 per capita from French and Italian ports.

Not least important was the financial and political role played by the AJDC. Looking first into its activities in Europe on behalf of the refugees, the AJDC spent $551,000 on them in 1957 - in addition to expenses covered by the UNHCR.(50) It was part of the various efforts to help settle or integrate many of the assisted families into the local economies. Of this amount $361,000 was spent in France (see Table 2), $187,000 in Italy, and $3,000 in other European countries. Obviously, France, the traditional centre for refugees in transit, emerged as the main theatre of operations for the AJDC, particularly between 1957 and 1960. Care and maintenance was provided through two AJDC-subsidized agencies - the Comite Juif d'Action Sociale et de Reconstruction (COJASOR) and the Service Social des Jeunes (SSJ). The budget was calculated to cover minimal rent and food. The difficulties of finding housing in France, particularly in Paris, became rather acute from the outset and had to be attended to regularly. Meals were provided in canteens operated by a number of AJDC-subsidized institutions in Paris, such as the Foyer Amical, the Cantine Sepharade Passage Charles Dallery, and the Cantine of the Asile de Jour et Nuit.(51)

Most important perhaps was the AJDC-ICRC connection for work inside Egypt. Much of the $163,979 the AJDC spent between November 1956 and August 1957 for various needs of the stateless Jews in Egypt was transferred through ICRC channels. It included contributions to the administrative expenses of the ICRC whose personnel acted as the AJDC's spokesmen.(52) After 1957, meetings were held regularly in Geneva at the ICRC headquarters between the ICRC and representatives of the AJDC, UHS and the Jewish Agency. On examining the minutes of the meetings, we get a clear grasp of AJDC-ICRC ties as well as of internal Egyptian political and Jewish communal developments.

During the 18 November 1957 session at Geneva, Pierre Galliard, one of the ICRC chiefs, informed the AJDC, on the basis of information obtained from the ICRC Cairo delegation, that starting with the second half of 1957, ICRC efforts had been more markedly directed toward 'assistance sur place', that is assistance to needy people through the ICRC and the office of the Rabbinate, using AJDC funds. Whereas in 1956-57 (until the end of June 1957) the ICRC chartered ships with United Jewish Appeal funds because of massive departures, the particularly large-scale movement out of Egypt gave way in the Fall of 1957 to emigration on a more individual basis. Finally, Gaillard announced, while the ICRC was committed to remaining active in Egypt a while longer on behalf of needy Jews, mainly the stateless, it could not be there indefinitely.(53)

Gaillard added that he had discussed with the UHS office in Paris a possible formula under which emigration work could continue if and when ICRC decided to withdraw from Egypt. The director of UHS, James P. Rice in the United States, raised the idea, according to Gaillard, of calling in an American citizen to assume responsibility for assisting the Jews, perhaps a former US consul. The idea was broached with Maitre Albert Romano, the administrative head of the Cairo Jewish community. Romano believed that such an alternative formula would endanger the two major communities of Cairo and Alexandria. But he offered no solution of his own.(54)

Charles H. Jordan, director-general of the AJDC, stated at the meeting that closing down the ICRC delegation in Cairo would add an important psychological facet to the problem of emigration: already rumours in the past about an ICRC withdrawal had led to the invasion by stateless Jews of the ICRC Cairo offices to register for departure. When Maurice Thudicum, the ICRC delegate in 1956-57, sent reassuring letters to the Jewish communities explaining that ICRC withdrawal was not imminent, the departure panic stopped and not more than forty or fifty of the original group of 1,800 left Egypt. Jordan noted that the presence of a strong ICRC delegation gave the Jews a sense of reassurance and protection which automatically led them to believe that the time might not have come for giving up their present life. Therefore, they might go on living in a fools' paradise, in the fallacious belief of possible survival in Nasser's Egypt, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. From this perspective, Jordan thought that cutting the ICRC staff would be essential and would provide Jews with a useful reminder of the need to get out while it was still possible. At the same time, it was imperative for the ICRC to maintain a small unit for providing services. This would give an impetus for emigration without liquidating the whole operation.(55)

It is interesting that Jordan raised another important issue by comparing the Nasser regime's emigration policy to that of other Arab governments: Egypt was the only Muslim Arab state with the exception of Habib Bourguiba's Tunisia(56) - which allowed Jews to leave the country in 1957. Yet all available indications suggested that this attitude of the Egyptian regime was temporary, for it was in flagrant contradictions with the declared policy of the Arab League, particularly considering that in 1957 most Jews still went to Israel."

During the 25 February 1958 ICRC meeting at Geneva, it was made clear that Egypt had only partially reversed its emigration policy. Jews continued to leave the country, now at the rate of 100 per month as opposed to 300 per month in mid-1957. More than one-third of those leaving had applied to the ICRC for the handling of documentation and technical preparation for emigration. February 1958 was also a political turning point, for Egypt and Syria had then joined in forming the United Arab Republic (UAR). Jordan was deeply concerned with the future of emigration, although not only did Egypt enable Jews to leave, and European countries, especially France, continued to liberally grant asylum to refugees, but the United States - through a special law - was beginning to grant visas to 14,500 refugees from around the world, a significant advantage and another avenue of emigration for Egyptian Jews. He feared that Egypt, possibly under Syrian pressure, would close down the ICRC delegation and then Jews would be unable to leave.(58)

The Syro-Egyptian union worried Jordan on later occasions too. During the ICRC meeting of 24 March 1958, he stated that it was more than likely that the Egyptians would function to a greater extent in accord with Syria. On the other hand, Jordan urged the ICRC to become increasingly involved with Syrian Jewry now that Egypt and Syria were joined. Would the ICRC extend its work into Syria? Jordan accurately stressed that while the Egyptian Jews were until then still able to leave Egypt, although under hardships, their Syrian counterparts had been denied exit permits for many years and, therefore, permission to leave was important. He said that there were three major trouble spots for Jews - the regions of Kamishli, Aleppo and Damascus -particularly the latter two where Jews had been placed in internment camps. Both Jordan and Harold Trobe, the UHS Paris office director, pressed the ICRC to contact Nasser personally so that the position of Syrian Jewry might improve and emigration might begin.(59)

It is ironic that on comparing the Egyptian and Syrian regimes, not to mention comparing the conditions of the Jews in both countries, Nasser not only emerged as a lesser villain, but was seen as the person to contact on behalf of Syria's Jews. And this was at a time when the AJDC and UHS were expressing fears as to the continued flow of emigration out of Egypt. The ICRC agreed that Jordan's suggestions were worth pursuing but insisted that the suggestion of contacting Nasser over Syrian Jewry or the extension of the ICRC into Syria be kept with utmost secrecy.(60) In the final analysis, nothing came of the suggestion, either because the ICRC refused to become committed on behalf of international Jewish organizations in yet another Jewish community in the Arab world, or due to Nasser's unwillingness or obstacles placed by the Syrian government.

How precisely did the ICRC in Geneva and Egypt serve the interests of the AJDC inside Egypt? According to AJDC sources, the ICRC collaborated with the AJDC in four major ways as late as 1961. First, by assisting the emigrants. This included all pre-emigration expenses paid by the community of Cairo and reimbursed by the ICRC upon presentation of monthly accounts, using AJDC funds. Second, assisting the communities. Until the first half of 1961, and perhaps later, the AJDC channelled funds through the ICRC to the Cairo community councils, contributing towards their budgets and covering part or all of their administrative costs. Third, 'assistance sur place' - assistance to needy people through the Office of the Rabbinate in Cairo against reimbursement by ICRC with AJDC funds upon presentation of monthly accounts.(61) Fourth, the ICRC deals with the communities as the AJDC's agent in obtaining detailed accounts of income and expenditures, namely the justification for the exact amount of the subsidies.(62) (See Table 3 for AJDC financial assistance inside Egypt.)

In regard to emigration, the ICRC in Egypt and Geneva undertook the task of explaining and interpreting the 'real' emigration picture with respect to Israel, Latin America, the United States and other countries. In Cairo, the ICRC delegation served as the registration office for cases wishing to emigrate; in Alexandria, the ICRC maintained, as late as July 1961, a liaison office to the Jewish community there which conveyed to the Cairo office all information stemming from that Jewish community as well as documentation on those wishing to emigrate from Alexandria who were registered with the community.(63)

In 1960, Edmond Muller, the then chief ICRC Cairo delegate, was called to the office of the Minister of the Interior and told in no uncertain terms that the activities of the ICRC in Egypt on behalf of the Jews were not looked upon favourably by the Egyptian government. Muller was clearly told that he had to reduce at least the visible part of his activities if he did not wish the Egyptian government to put a complete stop on the entire operation. Muller was also informed that the Egyptian government was aware of the fact that he was assisting people to emigrate to Israel, and he was ordered to stop this.(64) On the one hand, Muller may be described as a courageous man deeply convinced of the need of the stateless Jews for the kind of assistance which only he and his delegation could supply. On the other hand, he was a realist, and he conveyed to his superiors the point that other arrangements for dealing with the problems of the Jews should be made which would make it possible for the ICRC to maintain its position in Egypt - and thereby in the Arab world - unimpaired.(65)



Year Administration Relief

(in Dollars) (in Swiss Francs)

1957 78,000 300,000 -

1958 59,500 130,000 11,400

1959 45,000 378,950 10,000

1960 31,875 250,000

1961 3,750 120,000

$218,125 SF 1,178,950 $21,400


Administrative $218,125.00

Relief + 274,174.42 (equivalent of SF 1,178,950)

Relief 21,400.00

Total: $513,699.42

Source: AJDC. Arch., 250C-251A/C.17.1 (14 February 1961).

A special emergency meeting was called by the ICRC in Geneva on 6 September 1961 to discuss Muller's report on recent internal developments in Egypt affecting the Jews. The meeting, held just three weeks before the collapse of the Syro-Egyptian Union, but without anyone knowing that this would occur, centered around the July 1961 decrees enacted by the Nasser regime. The July decrees came to be known as the 'socialist revolution'. They constituted a 'completion' or rather a continuation of a process whereby the private sector of the economy was completely eliminated from banking, insurance and the import trade. Besides the nationalization of major enterprises, changes took place in the government. Abd al-Hamid al-Sarraj, Syria's strongman (President of the Syrian Executive Council, Minister of the Interior, and head of the security service in Damascus) was brought to Cairo by Nasser. He was made Vice-President of Internal Affairs, taking temporary charge of much of Egypt's police and security apparatus under Nasser's watch. The latter wanted Sarraj out of Syria, given the threat he posed to his rule.

Muller related that he was informed about Sarraj's intention to disrupt the activities of all humanitarian organizations - foreign and national. Sarraj, he said, had a record full of wrongdoing, particularly in dealing with the Jewish minority of Syria. He had created a special department in Syria for Jewish affairs and had ordered the confiscation of relief funds for Syrian Jews coming from the United States. These he had transferred to Palestinian Arab refugees from the 1948 War.(66)

Muller now gave this background as the real reason why he, in agreement with ICRC headquarters, had delayed entering Syria. They had anticipated that it would be impossible to reach any understanding with Sarraj, the key man at that time in Syria and now the master in Cairo of the whole police apparatus of the UAR. This appointment and the July 1961 decrees, in Muller's opinion, inaugurated a situation which had to be treated as an emergency. This was made still worse by the recent notification received from the police requesting the ICRC to close its offices in Cairo and Alexandria. Muller expressed the hope that 'closing does not necessarily mean expulsion', but Pierre Gaillard stated at the meeting that 'it is better to properly read the signs of the time and to leave the country before being actually expelled'.(67)

When the question of how Jews, notably the stateless, would leave Egypt with a special agency handling their affairs, Muller reported on his demarche at the Quai d'Orsay. He had intended to inform the French of the recent developments and obtain their agreement to a liberalization of the procedure for granting visas to France. The general idea was the possibility of providing Jews with the necessary papers for transit to France through the Swiss Legation in Cairo which represented France and her interests in Egypt.(68)

We have no way of knowing at this stage of research whether the ICRC, whose offices were officially closed down in January 1962, did not maintain some official or non-official representative who continued the old work for emigration. As we shall see, the ICRC did function again in Egypt several years later on the Jews' behalf using AJDC funds. Yet this occurred during the late 1960s in the wake of the June 1967 war with the need to assist refugees and the needy on a large scale once again. On the other hand, it is equally possible that the Swiss-French connection constituted a substitute for the old system. If this was the case, we have no way of determining whether the AJDC or other international bodies provided financial assistance.

The Jewish Communities: Internal Turmoil (1957-67)

Rabbi Aron Angel, Alexandria's Chief Rabbi until the 1956 war, was on his way to Buenos Aires as an emigrant in February 1958. He stopped in Geneva where he was met by AJDC representative, Henri Elfenbein. According to Angel, Egyptian Jews as individuals very much wanted to leave Egypt eventually. However, the aged and people with substantial assets preferred to remain behind. Although the political climate was not reassuring, the situation of the Jews early in 1958 was better than in 1956-7, and that is why Jews who wanted to emigrate were putting off their plans for the time being. They were reluctant to give up the few comforts they still retained for an unknown future either in a country of immigration or in a country of transit, such as France. Angel emphasized that Jews from the middle class sought to obtain some kind of reliable assurance from the UHS and other bodies that should they arrive in a country of transit they would be taken care of until they leave. In any case, Angel predicted quite accurately that within a decade or fifteen years those remaining in Egypt would probably be in the 60-plus age category.(69)

So far as assistance to the Jews of Egypt was concerned, Angel believed that AJDC assistance, or any assistance, had to be entirely around the issue of emigration. He thought that outside aid should be provided for transportation if necessary, for clothing and suitcases, as well as assistance to the emigrants while in transit and in their countries of reception. However, assistance such as AJDC gave to the community councils in Cairo had to be solely a local responsibility. So far as Alexandria was concerned, the community took care of internal needs and was virtually self-sufficient. Cairo had to emulate this example. While personal bank accounts, frozen in 1956-7, were now available to the Jews, there was nevertheless a serious problem with the indigent: people were in fact becoming indigent because of disappearing income, either due to age and retirement or to the replacement of Jewish labour in the private and public sectors of the economy by Muslims.(70)

According to reports and fact-finding missions initiated by the AJDC and ICRC in 1957-8 and undertaken by Elisabeth Bertschi, director of the Geneva-based association for emigrants - the Section Suisse du Service Social International - there were basically two Jewish communities in Egypt during the post-1956 period, those of Cairo and Alexandria. The smaller communities had virtually disappeared through emigration abroad and migration to Cairo and Alexandria. The Cairo community council, the main leadership body, composed to a large extent of Sephardim, was headed by Maitre Albert Romano, while the Ashkenazi community was separately led by a committee headed by Maitre Joseph Weinstein. Visiting the Cairo community, Bertschi studied the Jewish quarter where in 1956 some 20,000 Jews had resided and where, in September 1957, only a few thousand were left. Homes sold or abandoned by Jews were now occupied by Muslims. The Jewish hospital in Cairo was closed in 1956 and never reopened. The private Jewish home for the aged, Maison Vidon, founded and run by the Vidon family until they left Egypt in May 1957, afterwards administered by the Rabbinate, still catered to Jewish patients. The Vidon Hospital was well-kept and located in the more fashionable Heliopolis neighbourhood. The Sephardic synagogue and the Centre Social, also functioning with funds provided by the Vidons, were administered by the Rabbinate, the latter body having increasingly become (in both Cairo and Alexandria) the Jews' main representative institution vis-a-vis the regime. Describing the synagogue, Bertschi wrote:

Des plaques commemoratives indiquent qu'elle a ete construite et amenagee grace aux dons des membres du Rabbinat et surtout grace a la generosite de la famille Vidon. On m'a egalement montre un tabernacle contenant des reliques de tres grande valeur; on a d'ailleurs peur qu'elles soient sequestrees un jour par le gouvernement. Cette synagogue a la particularite d'etre construite entierement sur le Nil qui coule en-dessous. Il y a dans ie sous-sol une cage par laquelle on peut voir si son niveau monte ou descend. En souvenir d'un grand Rabbin du Caire, il y a aussi deux petites cellules dans lesquelles toutes les personnes qui ont des peines peuvent venir se recueillir pendant une nuit - afin d'obtenir l'exaucement de leurs prieres. Ce lieu est sacre et l'on ne peut passer devant ou y penetrer sans oter ses souliers . . .(71)

Bertschi indicated that the Ashkenazi community of Cairo as of September 1957 was separately situated in the centre of the city, although the more affluent members, as in the Sephardic community, were scattered through the fashionable neighbourhoods. In contrast to the buildings and institutions of the Sephardim, the sanitary conditions and upkeep were poor. The Ashkenazi cemetery had recently been plundered by Muslims, and Weinstein accused extremists indoctrinated by Nasser's propaganda.(72) According to Weinstein, the Ashkenazi community of Cairo had been founded in 1865 by Jews from Russia, Poland, Romania, Austria and Germany. On the eve of the Second World War, 4,000 of them resided in Cairo, and there were 6,000-7,000 in the whole of Egypt out of 80,000 Jews. By September 1957 not more than 200-250 families were left: 150-175 in Cairo. Though there was a tiny stratum of the well-to-do, the majority of the Ashkenazim in Cairo were from humble socioeconomic backgrounds - bank employees, office workers, small merchants. The community possessed a synagogue, a home for the aged, eating facilities for the indigent, a daily distribution service of bread to the poor, and a special fund to assist emigrants.(73) The revenue of the community derived from annual fees from active members ranging from 60 to 120 piasters yearly; and donations on the occasions of marriage and deaths of members. As of September 1957, the community apparently had not yet received any subsidies, allocations, or compensation from the AJDC or other local and foreign organizations.(74)

The Sephardic community, headed by Romano, encompassed most of the Jews (including several Ashkenazim on its council). It was the only one officially recognized as the community and its council as the institution representing all Jews. By May 1958 this once active and well-organized community had very few responsible people left to whom leadership duties could be assigned. The continued departure of prominent members of the community in 1958 - such as Salvator and Rene Cicurel who left in 1956 but returned temporarily, apparently to sell their properties endangered the maintenance of normally organized communal and administrative life. Financially, the Sephardic community was in very difficult financial straits. The 1958 deficit was LE 18,000 or LE 1,500 per month. Their cash balance at the end of March 1958 was LE 10,000 or the equivalent of expenses for three months. Their monthly expenses - and deficit - were bound to grow because of aid to the sick and needy. Sales of communal property covered the deficit for 1957. However, recent governmental restrictions on the sale of the community's holdings made it impossible in 1958 to continue to finance its activities from its own assets. The Sephardic community, recognized by the Nasser regime as a cultural institution, had to register, like all foundations, with the Ministry of Social Affairs. It was barred from selling its assets: company shares and real estate.(75)

In Alexandria, the community was in a better financial situation. It functioned under the presidency of M. Mizrahi. It was less exposed to governmental interference. Attempts to coordinate and possibly merge the Cairo and Alexandria communities had failed.

In regard to religious life, both the Cairo and Alexandria communities lacked religious leadership. In 1958 Alexandria's Chief Rabbi, Aron Angel, had emigrated to Argentina, and Cairo's (as well as Egypt's) Chief Rabbi, Hayyim Nahum Effendi, was 88 years old and very sick. None had the time to train successors, and no one was left to perform properly the various religious services and functions.(76)

In the area of education, changes were significant. By the end of 1956 all French and English schools were closed or placed under sequestration, this going on until 1959. Only two Jewish schools in Cairo the Sybil school and the Ecole professionnelle - still operated in 1959. The Sybil school was built to accommodate 2,000 children; in 1958-9, only 500 attended it, 300 of them Jewish, the rest Muslims. Operating the school cost the community LE 12,000 per year, far in excess of funds available. Moreover, it became increasingly difficult to retain the teachers who were leaving for better paying positions with government schools or were leaving the country."

Although Jews could leave the country, the regime imposed difficulties and a variety of restrictions from time to time. In May 1958 the authorities invented two obstacles to emigration. First, the Department of Passports announced that all Jews leaving Egypt would receive an Egyptian passport - instead of a laissez-passer - valid for only six months. In order to 'protect' itself from financial involvement due to the possible return of such passport-bearers, the authorities demanded a 'guarantee deposit' of LE 250 per person. In some exceptional cases, ICRC aided emigrants by substituting its guarantee in lieu of a bank deposit by the emigrants. Second, the Ministry of Finance made it imperative in 1958 for emigrants to obtain a certificate of payment of taxes prior to the issuance of travel documents. In numerous cases, they in fact demanded 'guarantee deposits' to cover possible tax evasion and unpaid taxes. In some cases of less affluent emigrants without sufficient cash in the bank, the ICRC guaranteed payments of taxes.(78)

The major problem was one of leadership. With Salvator and Rene Cicurel, two key leaders out of Egypt by 1957, with Rabbi Angel from Alexandria out in 1958 and Chief Rabbi Nahum Effendi ailing, there was a search for suitable substitute lay and spiritual leaders to guide the communities during a difficult time. Given the inability to find such leaders, everyone hoped that Nahum Effendi would not resign. When he offered his resignation in 1956, he was under pressure from the Cairo Community Council and Zakariyya Muhieddin, head of the Ministry of the Interior, to continue as Chief Rabbi and as Egyptian Jewry's main link with the regime. His vast experience going back to the final years of the Ottoman Empire when he had served as the Chief Rabbi of all Jews in the empire and the respect he had earned from friends and foes alike, remained major assets.

In the late summer or early fall of 1959, Nahum Effendi underwent medical treatment in France and Switzerland. Following his return to Egypt in October 1959, he indicated that his failing health would compel him to step down. On 17 January 1960 he informed the Governor of Cairo that by March 1960 he would have completed 35 years as Egyptian Jewry's Chief Rabbi. Given his physician's advice, he would have to abandon his post and pass the little time he had left in peace.(79) Nevertheless, on 25 April of that year he withdrew his request to resign, informing the Governor of Cairo that:

. . . Grace a Dieu, depuis plusieurs semaines, ma sante s'est amelioree sensiblement. Aussi, le Conseil General de la Communaute m'a demande de revenir sur ma decision de resigner mes fonctions etant donne que les circonstances qui ont motive ma demission ont change. Accedant a ce desir, j'ai accepte de demeurer a mon poste et j'estime qu'il est de mon devoir de vous faire part de cette decision, tant en vous priant d'avoir l'obligeance de la porter a la connaissance de Zakaria Mohieddine, Ministre de l'Interieur . . .(80)

Did the Chief Rabbi change his mind under pressure from both the communities and the authorities? We have not been able to confirm this possibility. Be that as it may, in November 1960 Nahum Effendi passed away and was succeeded by Rabbi Hayyim Douek. During this period the Cairo and Alexandria communities not only suffered from a leadership crisis. They were increasingly vulnerable to the whims of the regime and its police measures.

At the end of September 1960, the Cairo community was asked to send its representative to the Investigation Department of the Ministry of the Interior. The representative was told to inform the Community Council that, from then on, delegates from the Investigation Department and the State Security Office would attend all meetings of the Council. Consequently, the Secretary of the Council would henceforth send to the Ministry all meeting notices, minutes and, in general, all information concerning the Council's activities. After long and laborious discussions, the Cairo Community Council decided to comply with the orders. Indeed, from that time and until an unknown date, delegates from the Police attended the meetings of the Council. This resulted in the paralysis of community life.(81)

These draconian measures did not prevent Council members from meeting secretly and making necessary decisions. Yet the situation was most uncomfortable. And besides, the Investigation Department succeeded in recruiting informers among community members, and it was impossible to denounce them publicly. The question of relations between the communities and the ICRC delegation was one of those which was of particular interest for the Ministry of the Interior. They sought to find out the nature of these relations - whether the ICRC delegation transmitted funds or distributed subsidies to the community and the exact source of these funds.(82) The spokesman for the Cairo Council responded that no link existed between the communities and the ICRC Delegation but that, as far as he knew, the latter assisted stateless Jews who benefited from no other protection. The same police measures were adopted towards the Alexandria community.(83)

The anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli propaganda campaigns intensified in 1961. The French, English and Arabic-language press, as well as Radio Cairo, controlled by the Nasser regime, continuously attacked Israel, Zionism and American Jewry. At the beginning of 1961, about 7,000 Jews remained in Egypt, about 2,000-3,000 in Alexandria and 3,000-4,000 in Cairo. Approximately 2,000 of the 7,000 Jews were Karaites, most of them unskilled labourers and/or small artisans. About 500 were members of the Ashkenazi community. The rest belonged to the Sephardic community. They were predominantly white-collar workers, employed in offices as well as running businesses: retail shops and big businesses.(84) This, of course, was prior to the enactment of the July 1961 decrees.

In September 1961 the Syro-Egyptian union collapsed. By then, Nasser had extended his influence throughout the Arab world and Africa, appearing as a progressive and radical symbol for Third World nations in the immediate post-colonial era. Following the collapse of the union with Syria, Nasser reorganized the government in Egypt once again, creating a new political structure, the Arab Socialist Union, which replaced the National Union Party founded in 1956-57. A 'Charter for National Action', promulgated in 1962, set new national goals by exalting Islam, Arab nationalism and socialism. A series of arrests and trials broke the ranks of the Communist Party and further restricted the political opposition. From the early 1960s until 1967 Nasser's regime committed vast resources in support of Republican Yemen against the royalist guerrillas whose king was overthrown in September 1962. The war was a considerable burden on the Egyptian economy and strained Saudi-Egyptian relations. The fluctuation of ties with the radical regimes in Syria and Iraq after 1963 and the tension between Cairo and the conservative/monarchical regimes exacted a toll on Egypt and its leadership. A further deterioration in relations with the United States and, on the other hand, even stronger ties with the Soviet Union, characterized the period immediately preceding the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Even though Nasser and his associates did seek secret contacts with Israeli diplomats or intelligence agents in the mid-1960s, the political and economic status of the remaining Jews in post-1956 Egypt, and of other religious and ethnic minorities, caused deep concern.

Emigration from Egypt in 1962 was not large-scale. One reason which may have affected the emigration of Jews was the confiscation of factories. This automatically blocked the owners from emigrating. There were even cases of Italian, Greek and Swiss nationals who, after having been deprived of their assets, were prevented from leaving the country by refusing them exit permits.(85)

As of 1 March 1963, UHS had a caseload in Egypt of 1,284 persons, 635 of whom wanted to emigrate to the United States. In addition, approximately 500 Jewish refugees from Egypt were processed in France, 174 in Italy and close to 100 in a number of other countries. All told, as of 1 March 1963 UHS was responsible for nearly 2,100 refugees from Egypt. The Greek-owned shipping company in Egypt which was in charge of transporting Jews to France and Greece had been nationalized in 1963 as was the case with all other shipping lines and travel agencies. The leaders of the Jewish community were seriously disturbed by this. They found it increasingly difficult to continue to certify people eligible to have their passages paid abroad because it was the generally prevalent belief that the regime might look unfavourably on anyone who aided others to leave Egypt. The rate of emigration was 100 Jews per month. It was once again hinted that the UHS arranged their passage and transit to France, with the Swiss Legation distributing French visas.(86)

For a number of years after the Sinai/Suez crisis, the Jewish communities in Egypt - as seen above - hesitated to use their capital assets for the care and maintenance of their people on the assumption that these were to be preserved to insure the future of the communities. In 1961, however, the communities admitted for the first time that Jewish life in Egypt was most likely to disappear entirely in a very few years at most, or at least be reduced to a tiny nucleus. Consequently, during the early 1960s they resolved to use their existing income from assets and from the sale of unneeded real estate to finance their various ongoing activities. In 1962 the officially-recognized Jewish council of Cairo spent $25,000 above income. It provided relief to the needy of all Jewish communities in the city; it allotted $45 to each emigrant; it maintained the Vidon Home for the Aged in Heliopolis; it allocated money to improve the life of the mental patients in Abbasiyya; and, in addition, they met all the expenses of the community: administration, salaries and the maintenance of synagogues.

In 1962-63 the Jewish community of Alexandria spent in excess of its income, mainly on account of the Jewish school that adjoined the main synagogue. Although there were only 70 pupils left, it was felt that it was essential to carry on in order to avoid the expropriation of the school by the government, as this would create a very serious problem for the religious services at the synagogue. The operation cost the Alexandria community $10,000 a year. They also maintained a home for the aged and paid for medical care for the sick at the Greek hospital.(87)

Meanwhile, in Cairo, unlike Alexandria, communal rivalries intensified, especially at the point of self-liquidation. Romano, still head of the main - Sephardic - council, complained that he no longer had a good working relationship with the Sephardic community and the council members. New members had been appointed between 1962 and 1964. Romano doubted their integrity and found them impossible to work with. Until 1961 Isidore Gruenberg was Romano's right-hand man on the Council. He resigned in 1964 for two main reasons: he agreed with Romano that a serious working relationship with the Council was not possible; and he planned to leave Egypt and he, his wife and two children had immigration visas for Canada. Once Gruenberg left, Romano's position became difficult. The new members of the Council accused Romano of holding 'vast amounts of money' given to him by international Jewish organizations and for which they had no accounting and which they wanted turned over to them. There were one or two members of the Council who, according to Romano, were security agents who reported whatever went on among the Cairo community leadership.(88)

Regarding Askhenazi-Sephardi communal relations, Romano claimed that he and Adolphe Deutch of the Ashkenazi leadership were on the best of terms. In reality, however, and on broader lines, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities were not on good terms. At Passover in 1964 the Ashkenazi community made their request for matzot which the Sephardic community traditionally supplied to them. This time they were refused for no clear reason. When a complete scandal broke out, the Sephardic community backed down and finally sold the Ashkenazi community the required matzot.

Another incident took place involving the Ashkenazi community. It owned its own apartment buildings which it rented to members of the community. In 1964, one apartment became vacant. When it was about to be occupied, Deutch discovered that the proposed tenant was a security man, and he categorically refused to give the apartment to him.(89)

Which elements of the Jewish communities of Cairo and Alexandria were leaving Egypt during the early and mid-1960s? By and large, these were families whose children had graduated from secondary schools, in the 17-18 age group. These families had no intention of sending their children to Egyptian universities. Since the children were capable of adapting to French or English-language education, they wished to leave Egypt and place them in universities in other countries. Families with young children preferred to stay put. At the time, it was already virtually impossible for Jews or Christians (with the exception of the Copts) to obtain a good position. No matter what employment a non-Muslim got, he - especially a Jew - was never sure of being allowed to hold on to it.(90)


Egypt's defeat in 1967 created serious problems for the remaining 2,500 Egyptian Jews. Two or three days after the start of the war, the police rounded up the great majority of Jewish males. Rumours circulated that Chief Rabbi Hayyim Douek and Albert Romano were under arrest and that Rabbi Jacques Nefussi of Alexandria had been imprisoned.(91) In all, at least 425 Jewish males were arrested. Within a week, 75 Jews of foreign nationality were taken from prison, packed into army trucks and driven directly from Cairo to Alexandria where they boarded ships together with non-Jewish foreigners who were leaving Egypt or being expelled.(92) Until 19 September 1968, Jews who had not been imprisoned were permitted to leave the country once they had renounced Egyptian citizenship and pledged never to return. They were obliged to leave all their assets behind. By the end of 1968, only 1,000 Jews remained.

Nevertheless, on 19 September 1968, when a group of 26 Jews (men, women and children) tried to leave from Alexandria aboard the S.S. Cynthia, they were suddenly told they would not be permitted to leave. According to Jewish organizations, among them the UHS, the decision to prevent their departure was taken at top Egyptian government levels, and its implementation was entrusted to the army. Apparently the authorities decided that few or no Jews inside prison or out would be allowed to leave Egypt. This applied to: a) Jews who held Egyptian citizenship; b) stateless Jews whose families had resided in Egypt for generations; and c) Jews who held foreign nationality acquired after 5 June 1967, the day war broke out. Those with foreign citizenship acquired before 5 June 1967 were permitted to emigrate.(93)

Following the release of the 75 Jews of foreign nationality, 350 remained under detention. Most were taken to the Abu-Zaabal prison 40 km outside Cairo. Many of them were later transferred to the Tourah prison south of Cairo. Following the intervention of foreign government and international agencies, the Egyptian authorities gradually released the Jewish prisoners. According to UHS and American Jewish Committee (Paris office), 112 Jewish males were released by late December 1967 and expelled from the country. Twelve other released Jews were permitted to stay. This meant that 223 (240 at the very most) Jewish men remained in prison after December 1967. Sharawi Gomaa, Minister of the Interior, said in an interview that Nasser had given precise and clear instructions for the liquidation of internment camps, and that the cases of the 223-240 Jews in jail were being studied 'with a view to liberating them, now that the circumstances that necessitated their internment have lost their acuity'.(94) However, none of them had been set free as late as October 1968. Thus, they had spent over 15 months in prison. On 23 December 1967, the prisoners - with several exceptions - were transferred to the Tourah prison.

It does appear, however, that during 1969 and perhaps toward the end of 1968, but definitely by early 1970, Jews did leave Egypt. Were they only prisoners? Were they prisoners and dependants of such prisoners or of prisoners released in the past? According to a released prisoner who arrived in Paris on 19 January 1970, at the time there were still 79 or 80 prisoners left in Tourah. They were crammed into three cells, each containing 25-30 men, in a building block of 12 cells. The other nine cells were occupied by Muslim Brothers. The prisoners in the block of 12 cells mingled freely at all times, for only the block and not the individual cells were locked as of 1970. The prisoners slept on cement floors and sanitary facilities were poor but improved somewhat after the end of 1967 or the beginning of 1968 when the Jews were brought to Tourah. They even had a television set for the whole block, contributed by the Jewish community. Visits by Cairo relatives took place weekly after August 1967 and a bus came once a month with Jews from Alexandria.(95)

Based on this released prisoner's testimony, the Egyptian authorities brought the prisoners regularly before a special court, presumably to consider their requests for release under the amnesty law of January 1969. Yet this arrangement came to an abrupt end before 1970, and numerous requests were rejected. The procedure to which this released prisoner and other prisoners were subjected was as follows: the day after a prisoner was notified that he was leaving Tourah, he was taken handcuffed to Cairo officially to renounce his citizenship (if he was an Egyptian national). At this juncture, he met a representative of the Jewish community who helped to arrange his air passage and luggage. Then he was brought to the French Consulate in Cairo and given a French laissez-passer. Subsequently, he would spend several days at Les Barrages prison, after which he would be escorted to the Cairo airport. Of the 79 or 80 prisoners in January 1970, six were stateless, 26 held Egyptian passports, while the rest were considered to be Egyptian citizens by the authorities - even though they did not have the proper papers and documents to this effect just because their fathers were classified as Egyptians.(96)

While Jews were imprisoned, considerable attention was focused on them. The AJC, the WJC and the UHS demonstrated a particular interest in their status. Israel's Premier, Golda Meir, said in a statement to the Knesset on 20 January 1970:

To this day some one hundred Jewish men, heads of families, who together with their families constitute about half of the Egyptian Jewish population . . . are imprisoned at the Tourah jail, known as one of the worst and most repressive in Egypt.(97)

Yet very little is known at this stage about Israel's use of international diplomatic channels in connection with the Abu Zaabal and Tourah prisoners, or for that matter, if Israel considered a rescue operation. On the other hand, in 1967-68, a group of Egyptian Jews interned since 1954 on the charge of spying for Israel, was released in exchange for Egyptian war prisoners following the 1967 war. Chief among this group were Marcelle Ninio, Philip Nathanson and Robert Dassa (the latter two were at Tourah and Abu Zaabal).

The systematic release from Tourah began in May or June 1970. The prisoners received their first notice of release on 24 May when an Egyptian security officer came to the prison to ask which of them would agree to sign away his Egyptian nationality and be expelled from Egypt in exchange for his freedom. Most of the 79-80 prisoners accepted this offer and were released and flown to Europe. Twelve rejected the offer.

There were still 400 Jews in Egypt during the summer of 1970. As late as 15 June 1970 Jews could leave for Europe only if they could confirm they were dependent on prisoners already released and out of the country. By September 1970 the last of the Jewish men imprisoned in June 1967 had been released and expelled from Egypt, their families following them.(98)

Two interesting points emerge regarding the Jewish communities during the crisis. First, though we have no data about AJDC/ICRC collaboration during the years 1962-67, it appears that between 1967 and 1970, at least, the AJDC channelled funds into Egypt through the ICRC, which apparently maintained some representation in Egypt (we do not know when this began), to aid the Jews. The fact that the AJDC was the source of these funds was not revealed. Until the fall of 1968, the funds were said to be emanating from the ICRC. Afterwards, in accordance with stipulations laid down by the Nasser regime, each cash transfer to a Jew in Egypt was described as coming from relatives or friends abroad. The funds were sent to the needy Jews in Cairo (including Karaites) upon the joint recommendation of the Cairo communities and the ICRC delegate in Cairo. There were practically no Karaites in Alexandria, and the Alexandria community, as in the past, was wealthy enough to support is own needs. From 1967 to 1970 AJDC assistance in Egypt averaged $21,000 per year.(99)

Second, the communities of Cairo and Alexandria were severely reduced after May-June 1970. It is estimated that by the end of July or early August only 200 Rabbanite Jews remained as compared with 100 Karaites; among those staying there was a high proportion of the aged, the handicapped and the totally indigent. In Alexandria, the aged and indigent were also noticeable. Yet the community of 250 persons, as of September 1970, was in a better financial situation than its Cairo counterpart, with an estimated income of LE 2,000 per month, an ample amount for its reduced needs. It was unfortunate that the regime recognized the Cairo and Alexandria communities as distinct entities, and required that each of them use its funds only for the registered members of their community. Consequently, although the Alexandria community had more than sufficient funds for its own needs, it could not transfer either funds or property to Cairo.(100)


In September 1970 there were no more than 300 Jews left in Egypt where a community of at least 80,000 had existed in 1948. The process of self-liquidation was hastened by the regime's political and socioeconomic policies, particularly after the mid-1950s. Of course, these developments were deeply rooted under the ancien regime, during the years immediately following the Second World War and just prior to the 1948 Egyptian-Israeli War.(101) In fact, the political situation of the Jewish minority in most Muslim countries, mainly those of the Middle East (as contrasted with the Maghreb) where political independence had been granted by the colonial powers, had steadily deteriorated. Egypt of the post-1945 period avidly demanded 'Egypt for the Egyptians' insensitive to the problems of foreigners or national and religious minority groups, who were depicted as elite forces remote from the masses and supportive of Britain and other imperialist powers. These minorities were now vulnerable to the whims of extremist Islamic fundamentalist groups or Egyptian patriotic societies with increasing pan-Arab and/or pan-Islamic leanings, later supported by political forces within the government. Moreover, though the Jews figured prominently on the list of victims of these prevailing trends, they were by no means the only ones under threat. The Greeks, Armenians, Italians and other Christian groups were affected as well.

Following the signing of the Anglo-Egyptian accord of October 1954 which emphasized that British troops stationed at the Suez Canal Zone would be evacuated completely within a span of 20 months from the date of signing, one of the last vestiges of Britain's 72-year political and military presence in Egypt was removed. It was also a time when Nasser was gradually emerging as the leading political and military figure in the country. If until then hostility towards Jews had been an aggressive phenomenon only during the 1948 war and its aftermath, the rise of Nasser in 1954 and the aforementioned accord provided the regime with the absolute freedom to adopt measures unfavourable to the Jews and other minorities. The policies during the 1956 and 1967 wars, as well as the implementation of official decrees during the interwar period (1957-67) effectively demonstrate Egypt's strategy for mistreating these groups, an effort which continued until Nasser's death on 28 September 1970.

True, all minorities suffered, and it may be safe to assume that had Israel not been in existence and wars not been fought, the Jews and other minorities would nevertheless have been prey to internal political, social and economic setbacks in addition to pan-Islamic and pan-Arab tendencies - as part of the general struggle against European imperialism and colonialism. Still, the creation of Israel and the wars that ensued between the young state and Egypt aggravated the position of the Jews well beyond the precarious position of the other minorities. Whereas the latter were depicted as overly privileged or collaborators and sympathizers of the European imperialists, not part of the Egyptian people, in the 1950s and 1960s the Jews were caught in a double dilemma: they were described like the Greeks as exploiters and profoundly pro-Western, but simultaneously were portrayed after 1948, and most notably following Nasser's rise to power, as agents of Israel working against Egypt's best interests. Consequently, the Jews were hurt the hardest by the severe, punitive measures enforced by the authorities.

As pointed out, the granting of independence to Middle Eastern countries by Britain and France in the 1940s, as contrasted with the continued French colonial presence in the Maghreb, severely curtailed the rights and freedom of the Jews. Whereas in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, as this author's current research on these countries indicates, the French authorities permitted the Mossad le-aliyah and the Jewish Agency after 1949 to prepare Jews educationally for emigration to Israel and legally to engage in the technical procedures to facilitate emigration via Marseilles - albeit with certain periodic restrictions - this was not the case in Egypt, Syria or Iraq. If in Morocco and Tunisia of the pre-independence period (before 1956), Zionist pioneer movements survived legally or semi-legally, such movements in the Middle East did not function, or operated underground. Not only was Nasser's Egypt totally independent by 1954, but it became a centre of refuge for Third World revolutionaries and the centre of Arab radicalism, along with Syria. These developments were not conducive to Zionist activity by ordinary Israeli emissaries of the Jewish Agency. Thus, to accomplish the work of emigration - which the Egyptian authorities tolerated part of the time - the procedure had to be accomplished and organized by the ICRC and not directly by the Jewish Agency, the State of Israel, or the AJDC or UHS.

Jordan pointed out in 1957 that Egypt and Tunisia were the liberal Arab states tolerating emigration. Yet Egypt did place administrative obstacles in their way. He was mainly referring to Tunisia, at a time when Tunisia and Morocco had already become independent and Algeria was fighting a major revolution against the French presence. And this is important. When Morocco became independent in 1956, it placed restrictions on Jewish emigration. These restrictions were particularly severe during the late 1950s as Morocco became a member of the Arab League. Therefore, further emigration, which was mainly directed to Israel, was conducted underground. We still need to study Algeria's position on Jewish emigration after it obtained independence in 1962. The flow of emigration from Algeria was mainly to France and not Israel. The point, however, is that once Morocco gained independence, it behaved in a similar way to Syria over Jewish emigration but in contrast to Egypt, Tunisia or Iraq (the latter agreed to let the Jews leave in 1950-51). The position of the Tunisian authorities was: Jews were free to leave but those who stayed had to demonstrate loyalty and collaborate in the vital task of nation-building. In other words, Bourguiba aspired to create a society where national heterogeneity was welcome, and where freedom of expression and movement would not be threatened. In Morocco, the opposite was the case from 1956-57 until 1961 when freedom of movement for the Jews was renewed. There, restrictions on large and small-scale emigration, mainly to Israel, were clearly the result of internal nationalist pressure as well as external pressures originating from Arab League sources. But support for the Arab League or Middle Eastern Arab states alone cannot account for Morocco's overall pre-1961 emigration policy, Internal political upheaval meant that there was not one unified force willing or able to take the emigration issue seriously. The successive Moroccan governments between 1956 and 1961 did not speak in one voice over a variety of issues, some of which were far more important to Morocco than Jewish emigration. Finally, whereas in Nasser's Egypt, Jews and other minorities were expelled or encouraged to leave in 1956-57 and subsequently they managed to leave despite certain emigration restrictions, Moroccan politicians frequently spoke of ethnic diversity, even though Moroccan Jewry were often portrayed in the local press as disloyal and were isolated from Moroccan society on various levels. They were prevented from choosing the emigration alternative because the Moroccan authorities expected them to participate in nation-building, to invest their efforts and capital in Morocco and not elsewhere, certainly not in Israel.


This article expands on research published in Michael M. Laskier, The Jews of Egypt: 1920-1970 (New York, 1991).

1. On the Jews in Egypt and Zionist activities during the 1930s until 1952, see Sylvia G. Haim, 'The Palestine Problem in al-Manar', in Amnon Cohen and Gabriel Baer (eds.), Egypt and Palestine (Jerusalem and New York, 1984), pp.299-313; James Jankowski, 'Zionism and the Jews in Egyptian Nationalist Opinion', ibid., pp.314-31; Gudrun Kramer, The Jews in Modern Egypt: 1914-1952 (Seattle, 1989); Michael M. Laskier, 'From War to War: The Jews of Egypt from 1948 to 1970', Studies in Zionism, Vol.7, No.l (1986), pp.111-47; idem., 'Illegal and Semi-Legal Emigration from Egypt to Palestine and post-1948 Israel: 1946-1952', in Anita Shapira (ed.), Illegal and Legal Immigration to Eretz-Yisrael (Tel Aviv, Am-Oved, at press); idem., 'Egyptian Jewry during the 1930s and 1940s' (Hebrew), Yalkut Moreshet, 42/43 (1987), pp.209-30; idem., 'Egyptian Jewry in the Post-World War II Period (1945-1948)', Revue des Etudes Juives (at press); Thomas Mayer, Egypt and the Palestine Question, 1936-1945 (Berlin, 1983).

2. Al-Ahram, 14-16 and 19 May 1948; New York Times, 16 May 1948.

3. Journal Officiel, Numero Extraordinaire, 64 (30 May 1948). The scope of the decree was extended to include the property of Jews residing, even temporarily, in Palestine.

4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Middle East Division, 'The Situation of the Jews in Egypt', Addenda to special issue no. 6, 28 September 1948, Israel State Archives (hereafter ISA) FM 2563/10.

5. Alexander L. Easterman, Political Secretary, World Jewish Congress, to Joseph Linton, Provisional Government of Israel, London, 19 January 1949, ISA, FM 2563/10, confidential.

6. Frederick Douek and Felix Rosenblum, Rome, to the Va'ad Hapoel of the Histadrut, 10 April 1949, ISA, FM 2387/7.

7. Yaakov Tsur to Gideon Rafael, Paris, 28 October 1954, ISA, FM 2519/12a.

8. Communaute israelite du Caire: assemblee generale ordinaire (Cairo, March 1954), pp.3-6.

9. On the 1954 trial, see Isser Harel, Anatomy of Treason [Hebrew] (Tel Aviv, 1980), pp.20-3; Sessions of the Public Committee in the Defense of the Accused Jews in Egypt, Jerusalem (Hebrew), ISA, FM 2387/7; Michael M. Laskier, 'From War to War', pp.129-31; idem., 'A Document on Anglo-Jewry's Intervention on behalf of Egyptian Jews on Trial for Espionage and Sabotage: December 1954', Michael X (Tel Aviv, 1986), pp.143-57.

10. 'The Situation of the Jews in Egypt at the beginning of 1957', Unpublished Report, Diaspora Research Institute Collection, Tel Aviv University (DRIC), A1/969, unsigned. Prepared by the American Jewish Committee.

11. Maurice Moch, 'Le sort critique de la communaute juive d'Egypte', Les Cahiers de L'Alliance Israelite Universelle 104 (decembre 1956), p.16; Journal Officiel No. 90 bis, 11 novembre 1956, decret no. 189.

12. See note 10.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Moses A. Leavitt, 'Refugees from Egypt: Still They Cross the Border', American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, pp.5-6: DRIC, A1/226-4.

16. Ibid.

17. The American Jewish Committee, 'Jews in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, July 1957', Confidential Report, DRIC Collection A1/969.

18. Don Peretz, 'Egypt', American Jewish Year Book, 59 (1958), pp.397-8.

19. Ibid.

20. World Jewish Congress, The Persecution of Jews in Egypt: The Facts (London, 1957), DRIC, A1/22-19.

21. The Black Record: Nasser's Persecution of Egyptian Jewry, American Jewish Congress (New York, 1957), p.2.

22. Dan Avni to Research Department: Conversation with Edouard Sablier, Le Monde, Correspondent, Paris, 1 Sept. 1953, ISA, FM 2409/2a.

23. Report to Western Europe Department, Confidential, 26 Nov. 1956, ISA, FM 2519/12B.

24. The World Jewish Congress, Institute of Jewish Affairs, The Institute Annual for 1956 (New York, 1957), pp.418-19.

25. David Lambert, 'Les juifs d'Egypte sous la terreur', L'Arche, 2 fevrier 1957, pp.5-6.

26. Ibid.

27. Maurice Mizrahl, L'Egypte et ses juifs (Lausanne, 1977), pp.164-6.

28. Don Peretz, 'Egypt', pp.399-400.

29. Ibid., p.400.

30. Report on Egypt Submitted to the United Nations (26 February 1960), Archives of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Jerusalem (AJDC. Arch.), 307 b/36.

31. Ibid. See also Joseph B. Schechtman, On Wings of Eagles (New York, 1961), pp.204-5.

32. Schechtman, ibid.

33. The properties of Jews who remained in Egypt were once again subjected to sequestration and to nationalization, as will be seen below.

34. 'Economic Survey of the UAR (Egypt)', Middle East Record, Vol.2 (1961), p.580.

35. See note 30.

36. Ibid.

37. Moses A. Leavitt, 'Refugees from Egypt: Still They Cross the Border', American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, p.6, DRIC, A2/226-4.

38. Ibid.

39. 'Implicit Condemnation of the Nasser Regime', Manchester Guardian, 5 February 1957.

40. Jerome J. Jacobson to Dr Auguste R. Lindt, Paris, 21 February 1957, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/77.

41. Dr August Lindt to Mahmud Fawzi, 16 January 1958, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/77.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. United HIAS Service, 'Narrative Progress Report under UHS/UNREF Project in Latin America of Egyptian Refugees'; attached to letter from Irving Haber, UHS European Headquarters (Paris) to Henri Elfenbein of the AJDC in Geneva, 10 September 1959, AJDC, Arch., 307C-308A/78.

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid. It should be noted that the UHS assisted many stateless Jews but also Jews of French, Greek and Italian nationalities.

47. Eran Laor and Charles H. Jordan to Michel Martin, 20 December 1956, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/77.

48. Jewish Agency to Herbert Katzki of the AJDC, Geneva, 11 November 1958, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/78. Copy sent to Harold Trobe of UHS in Paris.

49. Jewish Agency to Raymond Gastambide (Implementation Section), Office of the UNHCR, 3 January 1958, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/78.

50. 1957 Expenditures and 1958 Requirements for Care and Maintenance of Hungarian and Egypt Refugees, AJDC. Arch. 307C-308A/77.

51. Charles H. Jordan to Dr Auguste R. Lindt, Paris, 13 August 1957, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/78. In Italy, 87 million lire have been spent on refugees from Egypt, about one-half of whom were stateless.

52. Ibid.

53. Meeting at the ICRC Headquarters, Geneva, Monday, 18 November 1957, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/77. Galliard noted that with respect to the UHS emigration cases, ICRC assistance included booking and procurement of exit permits from the authorities.

54. Ibid.

55. Ibid.

56. On Tunisia's and Morocco's emigration policies regarding their Jewish communities, see Michael M. Laskier, 'Tunisia's National Struggle and Tunisian Jewry: 1952-1961', Mediterranean Historical Review, Vol.2, No.2 (December 1987), pp.188-222; idem., The Alliance Israelite Universelle and the Jewish Communities of Morocco: 1862-1962 (Albany, 1983), pp.338-40; idem., 'Zionism and the Jewish Communities of Morocco: 1956-1962', Studies in Zionism, Vol.6, No. 1 (1985), pp.119-39; idem., 'The Instability of Moroccan Jewry and the Moroccan Press in the First Decade after Independence', Jewish History, Vol. 1, No. 1 (spring 1986), pp.39-54; idem., 'Jewish Emigration from Morocco to Israel: Government Policies and the Position of International Jewish Organizations: 1949-1956', Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.25, No.3 (July 1989), pp.323-62.

57. Ibid.

58. Summary Report of the Meeting at the ICRC on 25 February 1958 on the Situation of the Jews in Egypt, AJDC. Arch., 307C/36.

59. Meeting at ICRC Geneva Headquarters, 24 March 1958, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/77.

60. Ibid.

61. Henri Elfenbein, AJDC-Geneva - Aide Memoire of AJDC-Egyptian program, AJDC. Arch., 250C-251A/C. 17.1 (14 February 1961).

62. Confidential Information.

63. Ibid.

64. Ibid.

65. Ibid.

66. Meeting on Egypt, Wednesday, 6 September 1961 at ICRC Headquarters, AJDC. Arch., 307C-308A/79.

67. Ibid. As Muller hinted in 1962, in the final analysis it was Galliard who masterminded the closing down in January 1962 of ICRC operations in Egypt; and pressure from the Egyptians to do so was not particularly great after the collapse of the Syro-Egyptian union. See Muller Report, Zurich, 12 June 1962, AJDC. Arch. 308B-309A/80.

68. Ibid.

69. Herbert Katzki, Memorandum for the Files: Meeting in Geneva between Chief Rabbi Aron Angel of Alexandria, 18 February 1958, AJDC. Arch. 307C-308A/77.

70. Ibid.

71. E. Bertschi, SIS, 'Rapport sur mes visites dans le quartier juif, son Centre social, a la Maison de Vieillards Le Vidon et a la Communaute Aschkenaze', 9-25 septembre 1957, AJDC Arch., 307B/37.

72. Ibid.

73. Ibid.

74. Ibid.

75. Henri Elfenbein, 'Report on Egypt', end of May 1958, AJDC. Arch.,307B/34.

76. Ibid.

77. Ibid.

78. Ibid.

79. Hayyim Nahum Effendi to the Governor of Cairo, Cairo, 17 January 1960, in French.

80. Ibid., 25 April 1960, in French.

81. Confidential Information.

82. Ibid.

83. Ibid.

84. Charles H. Jordan to Henri Elfenbein, 9 March 1961, AJDC. Arch. 250C-251A/17.1

85. Henri Elfenbein to Charles H. Jordan, Report on a meeting in Zurich between Elfenbein and Edmond Muller, Geneva, 12 June 1962, AJDC. Arch. 308B-309A/80.

86. Confidential Information. It should be reiterated that we do not know if this was the new system followed. Nor can we say with utmost certainty that there was not a single official or non-official representative of the ICRC in Egypt.

87. Confidential Information.

88. Ibid.

89. Ibid.

90. Ibid.

91. The Times (London), 15 June 1967; L'Express, 25-31 December 1967; Abraham Karlikow, 'Jews in Arab Countries', American Jewish Year Book, 69 (1968), p. 134.

92. Information Juive, p.181 (March 1968).

93. Middle East Record (MER) (Tel Aviv, 1968), p.467.

94. Al-Ahram, 22 December 1967.

95. Interview with Zaki Charbit, 23 January 1970, Paris, Confidential Information.

96. Ibid.

97. Middle East Record (1969/70), p.785.

98. Confidential Information.

99. Ibid.

100. Ibid.

101. On these developments see Michael M. Laskier, 'Egyptian Jewry in the Post-World War II Period (1945-1948)', Revue des Etudes Juives, Vol. 148 (July-Dec. 1989), pp.337-60.

COPYRIGHT 1995 Frank Cass & Company Ltd. (UK)

COPYRIGHT 1995 Information Access Company




Newsletter Sign Up
For more information send mail to  webmaster@hsje.org with questions or comments about this web site.  
Copyright © 1999-2008. Historical Society of Jews From Egypt