Susan Gilson MillerFeb 3, 2022
Years of Glory
Nelly Benatar and the Pursuit of Justice in Wartime North Africa
Stanford University Press 2021
When France fell to Hitler's armies in June 1940, a flood of refugees fleeing Nazi terror quickly overwhelmed Europe's borders and spilled across the Mediterranean to North Africa, touching off a humanitarian crisis of dizzying proportions. Nelly Benatar, a highly regarded Casablancan Jewish lawyer, quickly claimed a role of rescuer and almost single-handedly organized a sweeping program of wartime refugee relief. But for all her remarkable achievements, Benatar's story has never been told.
In Years of Glory: Nelly Benatar and the Pursuit of Justice in Wartime North Africa (Stanford UP, 2021), Susan Gilson Miller introduces readers to a woman who fought injustice as an anti-Fascist resistant, advocate for refugee rights, liberator of Vichy-run forced labor camps, and legal counselor to hundreds of Holocaust survivors. Miller crafts a gripping biography that spins a tale like a Hollywood thriller, yet finds its truth in archives gathered across Europe, North Africa, Israel, and the United States and from Benatar's personal collection of eighteen thousand documents now housed in the US Holocaust Museum.
Years of Glory offers a rich narrative and a deeper understanding of the complex currents that shaped Jewish, North African, and world history over the course of the Second World War. The traumas of genocide, the struggle for anti-colonial liberation, and the eventual Jewish exodus from Arab lands all take on new meaning when reflected through the interstices of Benatar's life. A courageous woman with a deep moral conscience and an iron will, Nelly Benatar helped to lay the groundwork for crucial postwar efforts to build a better world over Europe's ashes.
Avery Weinman is a PhD student in History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She researches Jewish history in the modern Middle East and North Africa, with emphasis on Sephardi and Mizrahi radicals in British Mandatory Palestine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.