Thanks to a link supplied by reader Aaron S., over at Messyness Chic I found a heartwarming story demonstrating that when people are willing to put aside differences of faith or theology, and recognize their common humanity, great things can be achieved.
A recent French film, Free Men, brought to light the remarkable true history of how Muslims gave sanctuary to French Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris during Second World War. An untold “Oscar Schindler” story, the film is inspired by actual events and in this case, our ‘Schindler’ is Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris until 1954.
Underneath the fortress of mosaics and tranquil gardens occupying an entire city block in the Latin Quarter, it is revealed the mosque’s underground caverns once served as a refuge for resistance fighters and French Jews, where they could be provided with certificates of Muslim identity. Meanwhile upstairs, Benghabrit, a wise Algerian-born religious and political leader, was giving tours of the mosque to Nazi officers and their wives, unaware of what was transpiring right under their feet.
A North African Jewish man named Albert Assouline, who had escaped from a German prison camp, wrote about his experience hiding in the mosque:
“No fewer than 1,732 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.”
. . .
The most notable case of the mosque refuge was Simon Hilali, a Sephardic Jew who survived the Holocaust by pretending to be an Arab named Salim with the assistance of Benghrabit and later went on to become the most popular Arab-language singer of the time. According to Hilali’s obituary, Germans were so suspicious of the Jewish musician that Benghabrit had the name of Hilali’s made-up Muslim grandfather carved on a headstone in a Parisian Muslim cemetery.
There's more at the link. Highly recommended reading.
Here's the trailer for the film.
It's available on Amazon for download or on DVD (both with English subtitles). It's definitely on my must-see list now.