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The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust [Paperback]

Karen Gray Ruelle , Deborah Durland DeSaix
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House; Reprint edition (July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823423042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823423040
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 27.3 x 0.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 583,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

The book begins with a quote found in Islamic and Jewish traditions: Save one life, and it is as if youve saved all of humanity. Todays problems between these two Abrahamic religions are obvious, but there are moments of brotherhood. During the Nazi occupation of France, Jews were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps. One avenue of refuge was the Grand Mosque in Paris, where Jewish adults and children hid, some briefly until they could be spirited away, others for longer stays. Thanks to the mosques rector, and particularly Berbers from Algeria, many lives were saved. This is a fascinating, little-known piece of history (the afterword explains how difficult it was to research). The authors sometimes try too hard to explain too much to a middle-grade audience, but they effectively capture the desperation felt by the victims and the enormous effort made by the resistance. The evocative paintings in somber colors heighten the tension.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By Writer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has beautiful drawings and nice human story to tell. I wish this story was told more widely. It is a useful book to teach to kids as well as to adults. It is to the point simple without much embellishment. Just a nice simple story of Muslim compassion in a world of hate.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Simple but refreshing read. 27 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A lovely book! A quick easy read. It piqued my interest enough to Google for more information. I also like that the back of the book has recommended books and films. A fab book for older children and adults alike!
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Grand Mosque of Paris 28 Dec 2009
By Jewish Book World Magazine - Published on Amazon.com
The Grand Mosque of Paris is the story of the Muslim community of Paris during the Nazi occupation of World War II and their efforts to rescue Jews. The mosque constructed in 1926 had space for a community center, library, restaurant, clinic and apartments for the functionaries. It was built upon a labyrinth of subterranean tunnels and rooms, areas that had been excavated for building stones for the city of Paris. These underground passages and catacombs served as hiding places and escape routes for those hunted by the French police and Gestapo. The rescue and escape of Jews was under the leadership of the Rector, Si Kaddour Benghabrit, a sophisticated Algerian-born diplomat, who was considered the most powerful Muslim in France at the time. The clerics provided sanctuary, certificates of Muslim identity and safe passage for those who sought their help. This well written, concise history is enhanced by the beautiful double page oil paintings, which are most effective in conveying setting and mood. There is no personal narrative although this historical story has all the elements for a compelling novel as evidenced by the few examples given. It is noted that at least 100 Jews, downed Allied airmen, Resistance fighters and escaped prisoners of war, were also spirited to safety. These righteous saviors deserve to be honored and their deeds told. This book is appropriate for elementary school students who are studying WWII and/or the Holocaust, but would also interest older students and adults. An afterword, glossary and extensive bibliography is very informative and sheds light upon this important and little known story of the Holocaust. For ages 10 and up. Naomi Kramer
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book, An Essential Story 24 Dec 2009
By Señor Joel - Published on Amazon.com
Gorgeously illustrated, the book tells the story of how Muslims at the Grand Mosque saved Jews from the holocaust. Both authors speak French and did extensive interviewing in France; this follows on the heels of their much more ambitious joint undertaking, "Hidden On The Mountain: Stories Of Children Sheltered From The Nazis In Le Chambon".
This book is impressive on many levels. It is intended as a children's picture book, but to me this only adds to its power and beauty. The essential lesson of "The Grand Mosque" is the fact that Jews and Muslims in recent history worked together for survival and considered each other brothers--a story much in need of remembrance in today's world. The authors went to great effort to seek out documentation that is many cases almost impossible to find. At one point they bring the reader into the detective process regarding an old letter found recently in a Paris café:
-Was this letter read out in the café? Did it circulate among the Kabyle workers of Paris...?
These anecdotes that Ruelle and DeSaix have helped resuscitate from near oblivion are a moving tribute to humanity's capacity for compassion and valor, especially in the worst possible circumstances.
The book celebrates the Mosque itself, in addition to the kind acts of its World War II Rector, Si Kaddour Benghabrit, and his congregation. Each illustration in "The Grand Mosque" is in itself a work of art, and many of them are a respectful tribute to the beauty of Islamic architecture. A glossary of Islamic terms helps to further the author's goal of bettering our understanding of what is sacred to Muslims.
In the back with the bibliography is an annotated list of recommended books and films related to this subject. First among these is Derri Berkani's documentary, "Une Résiistance Oubliée", which inspired the book and is also used in anti-racism education across Europe. The film comes highly recommended by the authors.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should Be Required Reading for Upper Elementary and Tweens 30 Mar 2010
By Portianay - Published on Amazon.com
This is a heart-wrenching, truly beautiful account of Muslims who put themselves in harm's way in order to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. The pictures are stunning, but the story goes far beyond anything I have read in this age category on this topic to date.

The Afterword is almost more fascinating than the books itself. Every public and school library needs this book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading 16 Nov 2009
By Steven K. Sasaki - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a well researched book that should be in every library in the country.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative Picture Book About the Holocaust 2 Jun 2013
By Sandra - Published on Amazon.com
Finding enough historical facts to create a complete picture is oftentimes impossible. Nevertheless, writers remain persistent when they feel a story needs to be told. Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix fall into this category. After gathering a sufficient amount of facts to support their contention that the Muslim community protected the Jews in Paris, they wrote this multicultural picture book.

Starting with an overview of what happened after the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, upper elementary and middle school readers will learn how the French Jew were affected by World War II. After a few pages, the story shifts to the lofty presence of the Grand Mosque of Paris, a notable landmark.

The stories of the people who found refuge in the mosque are told in a narrative format alongside paintings that illustrate the mosque's beauty and the ways that some of the people were rescued. Relying on firsthand and secondhand references as well as Derri Berkani`s documentary, Une Resistance Oubliee: La Mosquee and Robert Satloff's book, Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands, the authors meticulously unveil some clandestine activities that occurred in the mosque.

The actions of these brave Muslims saved the lives of an unknown number of Jews and non Jews. This book, along with others in this genre, help to shed light on the people (righteous Gentiles) who were willing to risk their lives during the Nazi era. This book is one of many resources that can be used to teach upper elementary and middle school students about the Holocaust.
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