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Egypt in World War II

January 2, 2018

 

This photo of British servicemen enjoying an outing on camels, and led by Egyptian men in traditional dress, shows only a tiny aspect of British occupation of Egypt during WWII.

 

Alexandria, Egypt, became the headquarters of Britain's Mediterranean Fleet in the mid 1930s, because their previous location in Malta was too close to Fascist Italy. The harbor in Alexandria was not as large, and lacked submarine nets, but was much further away from Italian and German bombs. The main task of the Allies in Egypt was to protect the Suez Canal, and to rout the Axis forces from North Africa.

 

Although Britain unilaterally declared Egypt "independent" in 1922, in reality it functioned like a British colony. Not surprisingly, the Egyptians resented the occupation. Some citizens demonstrated their displeasure by cooperating with Germany to a limited extent: distributing pro-Nazi, anti-Jewish flyers, for instance.

 

Egypt had long been home to several distinct Jewish groups, but with the persecution of Jews in Europe, many Jews settled, at least temporarily, in Egypt, including Alexandria, one of the settings in my book, Another Ocean to Cross. At the end of WW2, there were over 20,000 Jews in Egypt.

 

In Another Ocean to Cross, I focus on the struggles of European Jewish refugees who were placed in camps, not that dissimilar to refugee camps for African and middle-Eastern refugees of today. 

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