In the early 1940s France was home to a large population of North Africans, including thousands of Sephardic Jews.
The Jews spoke Arabic and shared many of the same traditions and everyday habits as the Arabs. Neither Muslims nor Jews ate pork.
Both Muslim and Jewish men were circumcised. Muslim and Jewish names were often similar.
The mosque, a tiled, walled fortress the size of a city block on the Left Bank, served as a place to pray, certainly, but also as an oasis of calm where visitors were fed and clothed and could bathe, and where they could talk freely and rest in the garden. It was possible for a Jew to pass.
Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help. Yet during that perilous time, many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place–the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris.
Not just a place of worship but a community center, this hive of activity was an ideal temporary hiding place for escaped prisoners of war and Jews of all ages, especially children.