The Jewish Question in the British Colonial Imagination: The Case of the Deportation to Mauritius (1940-45)

Roni Mikel-Arieli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In December 1940, 1,580 Jewish refugees who fled Nazi-controlled Europe survived a long journey to Haifa only to be deported by the British Mandate authorities in Palestine to the British colony of Mauritius. Using this case study, this article explores British perceptions of the Jewish Question during World War II. It builds on a transnational archive that includes British colonial records from Britain, Palestine, and Mauritius, together with memoirs, letters, diaries, and oral testimonies from the Jewish detainees and the local Mauritians who remember them. In doing so, it asks three interconnected questions: How did the British authorities perceive the Jews deported to Mauritius? How did the deportees perceive Mauritius, their new destination, and its local population? And how were the detainees received and perceived by Mauritians? This three-pronged inquiry invites an exploration of the ambiguity of attitudes toward Jewish refugees inside and outside British colonial frames.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)58-87
Number of pages30
JournalJewish Social Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was made possible thanks to the author’s tenure as a Junior Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Holocaust Studies at the Institute for Contemporary History, Munich, Germany; a Phyllis Greenberg Heideman and Richard D. Heideman Fellow at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Holocaust Research, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem; a Rosa Luxemburg Research Fellow at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre; and a Research Fellow of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 The Trustees of Indiana University.


  • British colonialism
  • Holocaust
  • Mauritius
  • refugees


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