Paris has been associated with terror attacks since 2015, with a flurry of violence against military personnel and members of the public, marking this beautiful city as unsafe in the minds of many. As a result, what has happened is that sometimes innocent French Muslims have been unfairly tarnished with the brush of responsibility.
An incredible fact of French history that most people don’t know is that the Great Mosque of Paris sheltered Jews during the Holocaust and supplied them with Muslim identity certificates. The people involved demonstrated an incredible level of selflessness, despite the danger of their actions and the difference in religious beliefs, playing an enormous role in saving thousands of lives.
One North African Jewish man called Albert Assouline, who had escaped from a German prison camp, wrote about his experience hiding in the mosque: ‘No fewer than 1732 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.’
This act of humanity is largely left out of history textbooks, but its history can be traced when you visit the Latin Quarter in Paris. Beneath the myriad mosaics and leafy gardens spanning an entire block in this Quarter, resistance fighters and French Jews would be given certificates of Muslim identity in the mosque’s underground caverns.
It was a strictly hidden affair that gave people the chance for a second life. Sometimes political leaders would give tours of the mosque upstairs to Nazi officers and their wives, completely unaware of the secret business going on down below.