“Jewish resistance during the Holocaust is an important story and one, I believe, that has not been accurately told.”

- Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize winning author and member of Shadows of Freedom advisory board


ALGERIA, November 1942

The story of the Jewish French/Algerian resistance movement has been largely neglected by history and was an incredible triumph for a small group of largely non-combatant young, mostly Jewish men and women. The success of the resistance was instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews in North Africa, who were targeted as the next victims of Hitler’s “Final Solution”. This resistance helped changed the course of the war and definitively impacted its final outcome.

November 8th, 1942 was the fateful day that an overwhelmingly Jewish force – that also identified strongly as French – led by Henri D’Astier, José Aboulker, Bernard Karsenty and Colonel Germain Jousse – among others – staged a coup in the capital of Algiers. This coup had been planned in conjunction with the Allies to help launch “Operation Torch”, the Allied invasion of North Africa. Surprise was the single most crucial condition of success. Surprise for the pro-Nazi French leaders, the Vichy generals, and the leaders of the pro-Nazi militias arrested in their beds as well as the chief of police incarcerated in his own station.  Incredibly, the resistors were able to neutralize a whole battalion in order to allow the Allies to invade Algiers and demand a cease fire from the French who grossly overestimated their numbers. For two years, these young men and women risked their lives organizing the resistance movement. “Operation Torch” was an extraordinary success whose tremendous importance was commented on by Eisenhower, DeGaulle, Churchill and even high ranking Nazi officials.
In 2012, Prof. Sarah Carlen, whose area of specialty is the history of North African Jews, came across an out of print book called The Jewish Resistance in Algeria, 1940-1942 in a small Jerusalem bookstore. Shocked that she had never heard about this amazing story before, she became determined to turn it into a movie. Many years later, after finally securing funding and a team able to make the movie a reality, Shadows of Freedom was completed in late 2019. Principal filming was done over period of a year in Algiers, Washington D.C., Virginia, Paris and London.
Many hours were spent scouring archival footage from myriad sources and the filmmakers attempted to highlight some of the rarer and more striking images and film excerpts of the WWII era.
Directors’ statement:

Shadows of Freedom has been, from the very beginning, a true passion project. The intense love and curiosity that Prof. Carlen brought to the movie’s subject matter was felt by both of us right from the beginning of pre-production.
We were very pleased to come across a story that presented a different narrative to the overwhelming & tragic reality that the Jews were victims in World War II. Here was an historical moment where Jews were active and effective participants in a resistance movement that had a significant impact on the course of WWII. And hardly anyone knows about it.
Over time, we also found ourselves drawn to the remarkable achievement of Operation Torch and this slowly became a secondary theme of our movie: highlighting this historical moment that even ardent WWII buffs often know very little about.
Finally, we were simply amazed by these young resistors who saw their lives being drastically altered when the Nazis marched into France.  In our opinion, there is a strong parallel with this movement and today’s vibrant youth mobilization that has risen up against governments and corporations in an attempt to save the world for future generations.

- Amos Carlen & Aline Robichaud


Shadows of Freedom is largely told through the words of our 6 interviewees. Below is a brief biography of each of them.


Robert Satloff:

Robert B. Satloff is an American writer and, since January 1993, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Satloff’s expertise includes U.S. policy, public diplomacy, Arab and Islamic politics, Arab-Israeli relations, U.S.-Israel relations, peace process and Middle East democratization. Some of his books include: Among the Righteous and The Battle of Ideas in the War on Terror.
Robert Gildea:
Robert N. Gildea is professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford and is the author of several influential books on 20th century French history. Some of his books include: Marianne in Chains : In Search of the German Occupation, 1940-1945, Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914 and Fighters in the Shadows : A New History of the French Resistance.
Helen Fry: 
Helen Fry is a historian, lecturer and author specializing in World War II history. She is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies at University College London and also teaches at the London Jewish Cultural Centre. She has written over 20 books including Churchill’s German Army, The London Cage: The Secret History of Britain’s WWII Interrogation Centre and Freud’s War.
Christopher Kolakowski:
Christopher Kolakowski is the Director of The General Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk Virginia. He is an eminent historian with an emphasis on American military history, from the Civil War to WWII. Some of his books include The Civil War at Perryville: Battling for the Bluegrass and Last Stand on Bataan.
Jeannine Verdès-Leroux:
Jeannine Verdès-Leroux is an eminent political sociologist and a PhD in History. She is also research director at CNRS, the French center for scientific research. She has a special interest in Algeria having written Les Français d’Algérie de 1830 à aujourd’hui and co-authoring José Aboulker’s first hand account of the resistance La Victoire de 8 novembre 1942 : La Résistance et le débarquement des Alliés à Alger. She is the only interviewee who personally knew José.
Brian Lane Herder:
Brian Lane Herder graduated with a BA in History from the University of Kansas in 2003, and a Masters of Library Science from Emporia State University in 2009. He is a legislative librarian for the Kansas state government and his historical research interests include the US military, naval warfare, and World War II. His books include Operation Torch 1942: The Invasion of French North AfricaandThe Aleutians 1942-1943: Struggle for the North Pacific.