José Aboulker: A Forgotten Hero of WWII

José Aboulker was born on March 5, 1920, and raised in French Algiers in a Jewish and heavily intellectual family.

His mother was an accomplished writer and his father was a surgeon and professor of medicine. The Aboulker family, which started in Spain, would eventually give way to numerous intellectuals, rabbis, and physicians.

Resistance in Algiers

Aboulker would go on to establish a network of resistance within Algiers following the outbreak of WW2. Through his alliance with Roger Carcassonne, Aboulker came to lead the resistance movement within Nazi-backed Vichy Algeria that had begun persecuting their local Jewish population.

On October 23, 1942, in Vichy Morocco, Aboulker, along with other resistance leaders, met with General Mark Clark. The Americans agreed to supply weapons and radios for communication, and Aboulker presided over the resistance’s occupation of Algiers on November 7th, as the Allies landed in North Africa. It was there that the resistance seized the central police station. Led by group leaders within the resistance movement, Aboulker and his team were successful in halting Vichy military officials. The existence of resistance forces in the region coupled with the recent presence of Allies forces proved too much for the Vichy Government. The Allies and resistance factions were successful in neutralizing all relevant regions previously under Vichy control.

These actions prevented the Vichy government from attacking the central police station. This Allied-Resistance collaboration, coupled with Aboulker’s order for his fellow leaders to evacuate their positions and replace their presence with barricades in an effort to halt enemy progress— stirred confusion amongst Vichy forces and allowed the Allies to form a circle around Algiers, thereby trapping the Vichy government.

After the War

Aboulker would later go to London where he joined the Free French movement in May of 1943. He survived and resumed his medical studies after the war.

When looking at acts of Jewish resistance during WW2, the story of Aboulker in North Africa is often overlooked even though he had true military success; as opposed to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which was largely symbolic in nature.