Some 4,000 North African Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, but Moroccan Jewry survived virtually unscathed thanks to the efforts of Sultan Mohammed V, who had been placed on the throne by the French in 1912 when they made his country a protectorate. Richard Hurowitz writes:
When Paris fell to the Germans in July 1940, the sultan, then thirty, was put in a precarious position as Morocco came under the rule of the collaborationist French Vichy regime. Among their first acts, the new overseers sought to impose anti-Semitic laws in Morocco. Jews had lived in that part of the world since well before Carthage fell, and over a quarter-million called Morocco their home in 1940. Members of the community had served the sultans’ court as ministers, diplomats, and advisers. Mohammed V took seriously his role as “commander of the faithful,” which he viewed to include all “people of the book,” meaning Jews, Christians, and Muslims. . . . “There are no Jews in Morocco,” he declared. “There are only Moroccan subjects.”
Vichy authorities soon forced Mohammed V to promulgate two laws restricting certain professions and schools to Jews and requiring them to live in ghettos. In an act of resistance, the sultan declined to enforce the laws fully. . . . In 1941, for the first time, Mohammed V made a point of inviting senior representatives of the Jewish community to the annual banquet celebrating the anniversary of his sultanate and placing them in the best seats next to the French officials. . . . Although there were limits to his power, Mohammed V ensured that there were never round-ups of Jews in Morocco. . . . During Vichy rule—which lasted a little more than two years—no Moroccan Jews were deported or killed; nor were they forced to wear the yellow star. . . .
Throughout the sultan’s reign, he continued to protect his Jewish subjects. When the Arab world reacted violently to the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948, the sultan reminded Moroccans that Jews had always been protected in their country and should not be harmed.