The compelling true story of Nelly Benatar—a hero of the anti-Fascist North African resistance and humanitarian who changed the course of history for the "last million" escaping the Second World War.
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.
With this book, 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.
About the author
Susan Gilson Miller, Professor Emerita of History at the University of California, Davis, is the author of books on nineteenth- and twentieth-century North African history, including Disorienting Encounters (1992); In the Shadow of the Sultan (1998); Berbers and Others (2010), and The History of Modern Morocco (2013).
"Susan Gilson Miller's Years of Glory illuminates major themes: that period's refugee crisis, resistance in Morocco to the Vichy regime, a talented woman's professional advancement in a traditional society, and the life of a once-vibrant Jewish community in North Africa. An exemplary unearthing of the remarkable legal career of Nelly Benatar."
—Robert O. Paxton, author of Vichy France and the Jews and The Anatomy of Fascism
"A brilliant work of history, Years of Glory reads like a thriller. Susan Gilson Miller describes the hardships but also the glory of Jewish life in Morocco through the intrepid Nelly Benatar, one of the great heroes of modern Jewish history, whose extraordinary leadership Miller uncovers in this fascinating book."
—Susannah Heschel, author of The Aryan Jesus
"Susan Gilson Miller's groundbreaking book reveals the life of an unsung Moroccan heroine, Nelly Benatar. Years of Glory is historical detective work at its finest, showing how, in the face of an unprecedented refugee crisis, Benatar's struggle bound Moroccans of all faiths in an enduring sense of duty, love, and compassion."
"Narrating the life of a remarkable woman, Susan Gilson Miller has written a fascinating account of the herculean struggles to obtain justice for the sea of stateless and homeless people. Miller's fine book provides an excellent example of the importance of historical remembering."
—Caroline Moorehead, author of A House in the Mountains
"Susan Gilson Miller helps readers experience the war from aNorth African perspective, refocusing resistance and Holocaust history away from its usual European setting... This study of Nelly Benatar makes it clear that Morocco was an integral part of the Vichy/Nazi war machine. The issues Benatar raised about meeting the needs of stateless people, and about the role of Israel as aJewish homeland, are as important today as they everwere."
—Bettina Berch, Jewish Book Council
"Thanks to Susan Gilson Miller's marvelous new biography, Benatar's legacy is finally made legible for readers. More importantly,Years of Gloryexplores the Maghrib as a central part of the Holocaust and World War II. At the same time, Miller demonstrates just how profoundly the war disrupted the lives of those in Morocco and across French North Africa, soundly refuting historiographies that have tended to see the war as a blip in Maghribi history. And Miller does all this in lucid, beautiful prose that draws readers in: I literally could not put the book down."
—Jessica M. Marglin, The Middle East Journal