WJC mourns passing of Jacques Lazarus z''l, former director of its Algiers office

The World Jewish Congress mourns the passing of Jacques Lazarus z’’l, long-time director of its Algiers office. Lazarus fought in the French Resistance movement during World War II and became the principal advocate for the Jews of Algeria after 1948, and especially during the Algerian War from 1954 to 1962.

The Frenchman was born in Switzerland on 2 September 1916 to Jewish parents from Alsace. After World War I, when Alsace returned to France, the family moved back to Colmar.

Jacques Lazarus joined the French Army in the 1930s and served until the 1940 armistice with Germany, when he was discharged from the military for being a Jew. In 1943, he became a leader of the clandestine ‘Armée juive’, a Jewish resistance movement. In July 1944 he was arrested on his way to Britain on a secret mission. He was sent to Auschwitz together with 50 other men on the last train to leave Paris for the death camps, but managed to escape four days later by jumping from the train. These war-time experiences are chronicled in his 1947 book ‘Juifs au Combat’.

In May 1946, Lazarus traveled to Algeria to recruit North African men into a Jewish Maritime League. He returned shortly afterwards to open the first ORT vocational schools in Algeria, where he ran the WJC’s Algiers office until the mass exodus of Algerian Jews in 1962, following the country’s independence from France. He founded and edited the newspaper ‘Information Juive’ which reported Jewish news and advocated on behalf of the Jewish community during the war of independence.

In 1962, the World Jewish Congress’ North African Department was moved to France and Lazarus became a director in the WJC Paris Office. There, he continued to edit ‘Information Juive’, making it a medium of communication for the hundreds of thousands of North African Jewish immigrants in France.

Jacques Lazarus retired from the World Jewish Congress in 1980. He passed away in Paris  at the age of 97.

May he memory be a blessing.

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