Story of Muslim Shoah heroes is finally told

By Andrew Rosemarine, March 22, 2012

A French film that premiered in London this week, Les Hommes Libres, depicts the heroic stand of a gentile against Nazi mass-murderers.

It may come as a surprise but, in this case, the hero is a Muslim.

The film, by Moroccan director Ismaƫl Ferroukhi, tells the story of the rector of the Mosque of Paris, Ben Ghabrit, who risked his life for hundreds of Jews after Hitler's troops marched into Paris. He issued them with fake certificates stating that they were Muslims, to fool the Nazis and their French accomplices.

A then-famous singer, Salim Halali, who popularised Andalusian music in Europe and North Africa, was one of the Jews saved by the rector. Ghabrit had a tombstone in the Muslim cemetery inscribed with the name of Halali's father to trick the Nazis into thinking he was a Muslim.

Hundreds of Jews were saved by Ghabrit. The Sultan of Morocco saved many more - up to 200,000. Yet few know of the deeds of either, apart from the families of those saved, and Yad Vashem has not given either the status of Righteous Among the Nations. This lack of recognition may lead some to believe that there is discrimination against Arab saviours of Jewish lives.

A Yad Vashem spokesman explained that there are no "primary sources" to confirm what happened. But others believe it is time Jews trumpeted the valour of these two Muslims from the rooftops.

Last updated: 4:27pm, March 22 2012