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Portrait of two Tunisian Zionist youth.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 44539

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    Portrait of two Tunisian Zionist youth.
    Portrait of two Tunisian Zionist youth.

Pictured are Nadia and Yehudah Cohen.


    Portrait of two Tunisian Zionist youth.

    Pictured are Nadia and Yehudah Cohen.
    Circa 1947
    Tunis, [North Africa] Tunisia
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Nadia Cohen Franco

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Nadia Cohen Franco

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Rachelle Franco (born Nadia Cohen) is the daughter of Nachum (b. 1890 Tunis) and Terese (b. Jan. 6, 1902, Tunis) Cohen. She was born on January 17, 1924 in Tunis, Tunisia where her father served as a representative of the Ceylon Tea company. Nadia had an older brother Marcel (b. 1922) who died when he was 28 years old and a younger sister Danielle (b. Feb. 23, 1933). Nadia's parents came from Orthodox households but her father left the yeshiva at the age of seven to study Italian, Arabic and accounting in a French school. In 1938 Nadia was sent to Lycee Victor Duruy, a boarding school in France. She returned home for a visit in the summer of 1939 but could not return to school that fall due to the outbreak of the war. Immediately after the Allied landings in Algeria and Morocco, the Germans occupied Tunisia. In just six months from November 1942 to May 1943, the Germans and their local collaborators implemented a forced labor regime, confiscation of property, hostage taking, deportations and executions. They required Jews in the countryside to wear the Star of David. An SS officer came to the Cohen's house and confiscated everything leaving only the table and chairs for the Germans to use. They gave the family 24 hours to pack and leave and then expropriated their home to use as a barracks for their soldiers. Nadia's family moved to the office of her maternal grandparents and then went to live with her aunts. They continued moving from place to place for the six months that Tunisia was occupied.

    Two weeks after the Germans entered Tunis they took Nachum hostage and sent him to an Arab prison. Conditions were not too harsh, and he even engaged in sports and received food and visits from the family. He was released two months later in good health. Nadia helped in the health clinic located in the Hara (Jewish quarter). Her brother was supposed to have been sent to forced labor but her mother persuaded the Jewish community to leave him alone by saying that she could not remain at home without a man in the house since at that time her husband was in prison.

    After the liberation of Tunis in May 1943 Nadia hoped to attend college to study chemistry. She wrote to fourteen universities in the Free Zone of France and was rejected everywhere, probably on account of her last name. Instead she went to Algeria along with two friends from the youth movement, Zeirei Zion. Together they founded a youth movement in Algiers. In June 1944 her friends received certificates to immigrate to Palestine, and Nadia hoped to obtain one as well. When her parents learned the news they called the Head of the Jewish Federation in Algiers and threatened to call the police. Shocked at what her parents did, Nadia left school without taking her final exam and returned to Tunis. She told her parents that the day would come when they would beg to go to Palestine.

    After returning, Nadia began a year of Hachshara training and prepared youth for immigration to Palestine. In 1946 Nadia was sent to Algiers for a self-defense seminar. She remained there to work and help send the first group of youngsters to Palestine. Between 1945 and 1947 they could not continue to send any others as legal immigration ceased. Some of the counselors went to Paris and met with the Mossad for Aliyah Bet. They said if they could gather together 450 youngsters they would help send a group to Palestine and would provide a ship. Jaakov Ostrovsky and Yaakov Karoz (from Nahalal, Palestine) established a camp site some 200 km from Algiers near the beach. Nadia was responsible for bringing youth from Algeria, and in six weeks they gathered 650 children. The site was close to an Arab village where they were able to barter clothes for food and other supplies. The children sailed to Palestine on the ship "Yehuda Halevi" in June 1947.

    Afterwards Nadia attended the first meeting of the Dror and Kibbutz HaMeuhad movement which in Indersdorf, Germany. She traveled to Germany on a Dutch passport and was stopped and arrested in Prague. As she was dark skinned the authorities did not believe she was Dutch. She created a story about why she was so sun burnt, but when the conference ended and she had to go back to Tunis, she was told that she couldn't use her passport as it had expired. She then went to Austria and climbed the Brenner Alps with other survivors. From there she went to France and then Tunisia.

    After the establishment of Israel, Nadia was working on the border of Morocco in Oujda when a deadly pogrom took place the very day that she was there. Nadia was sent to Paris to contact various institutions which could help. In October 1948 she finally immigrated to Israel on the ship "Casserta." At first she went with the youngsters to Kibbutz Shfayim and then moved to Kibbutz Regavim where she still lives today with her husband Sergio. Nadia has 4 children and 11 grandchildren.
    Record last modified:
    2009-07-14 00:00:00
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