Here’s one they left out of the history textbooks. A recent French film, Free Men, brought to light the remarkable true history of how Muslims gave sanctuary to French Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris during Second World War. An untold “Oscar Schindler” story, the film is inspired by actual events and in this case, our ‘Schindler’ is Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris until 1954.
Underneath the fortress of mosaics and tranquil gardens occupying an entire city block in the Latin Quarter, it is revealed the mosque’s underground caverns once served as a refuge for resistance fighters and French Jews, where they could be provided with certificates of Muslim identity. Meanwhile upstairs, Benghabrit, a wise Algerian-born religious and political leader, was giving tours of the mosque to Nazi officers and their wives, unaware of what was transpiring right under their feet.
A North African Jewish man named Albert Assouline, who had escaped from a German prison camp, wrote about his experience hiding in the mosque:
“No fewer than 1,732 resistance fighters found refuge in its underground caverns. These included Muslim escapees but also Christians and Jews. The latter were by far the most numerous.”