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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Nice, France

Bernhard Blumenkranz, Georges Levitte /David Weinberg (2008, 2nd ed.)

Virtual Jewish World: Table of Contents | France | Paris

NICE (Heb. ניצה), capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department, on the Mediterranean coast of France. The first specific mention of Jews can be found in the Statutes of Nice, enacted in 1342 while the town belonged to Provence, which compelled the Jews to wear a distinguishing badge.

By 1406, when Nice belonged to Savoy, the community had a bailiff. In 1408 it owned a cemetery, and from at least 1428, a synagogue. An edict issued by the duke of Savoy in 1430, which was also intended for the Jews of Turin, protected the Jews from forced baptism, while imposing a series of prohibitions (on moneylending, on interest, etc.) and obligations (confining Jewish residence to a separate quarter, the Giudaria, etc.).

In 1449, a Jew was authorized to settle there and charge a rate of 20% interest. In 1499, Jews expelled from the island of Rhodes were permitted to settle in Nice. From 1551, the Jews were placed under the jurisdiction of a Conservator (except in cases of crimes and offenses committed against the Catholic religion) and were allowed to engage freely in moneylending. In the same period, Jews in Nice also engaged in commerce and could practice medicine freely.

Beginning in 1648, many newcomers of “Portuguese” origin (Marranos) from Italy and Holland, attracted by the free port edict, which expressly favored the Jews with numerous privileges, joined the “old Nissards.”

Twenty years later, many Jews began arriving from Oran (Algeria), often bringing with them their slaves. The newcomers, who settled outside the ghetto, were accorded full rights in the existing community institutions without having to contribute toward its upkeep. The Jewish community of Nice, which had been affiliated to that of Turin, became separated from it from the beginning of the 17th century.

The fusion of the diverse groups of Jews was achieved slowly. At the same time, the authorities allowed the legal differences, which had benefited some groups and disadvantaged others, to become obsolete. In particular, beginning in 1732, every Jew was obliged to live in the Jewish quarter, the Rue Giudaria (the present Rue Benoît Brunice). The community, known as Università, was led by massari-parnassim, deputies, councillors, and a treasurer. The Jews of Nice conversed in Judéo-Niçois, a mixture of the local dialect and Hebrew.

The temporary reunion of Nice with France from 1792 to 1814 brought emancipation to the Jews, but they lost their rights after the restoration of Sardinian administration. In 1828, for example, they were ordered to return to the ghetto, and it was only in 1848 that emancipation was finally guaranteed. T

he annexation of Nice by France in 1860 did not result in further changes in the social and economic situation of the Jews. The number of Jews did not grow substantially during the 19th century. In 1808, the population was approximately 300. In 1909, there were 500 out of a total population of 95,000, and the number did not substantially change up to World War II.

Holocaust and Contemporary Period

During World War II, Nice was in the demilitarized zone between the Vichy-controlled zone and the Italian occupied area. When Nice came under Italian control, thousands of Jews took refuge there because the Italians refused to deport them. For a while, the city became an important center for various Jewish organizations, especially after the landing of the Allies in North Africa (November 1942). When the Italians signed the armistice with the Allies, however, German troops invaded the former Italian zone (Sept. 8, 1943) and initiated brutal raids. They were aided by the French bureaucracy, which had tracked Jewish refugees and made it easy for the Germans to find them.

Alois Brunner, the SS official for Jewish affairs, was placed at the head of units formed to search out Jews. Within five months, 5,000 Jews were caught and deported from Nice and surrounding areas. A great number of others were martyred in the city itself. The courage displayed by the resistance and Jewish youth movements, however, along with the sympathy of the vast majority of the population and clergy, helped save thousands who were either hidden or were helped to escape.

After the liberation several hundred Jews, including original inhabitants of Nice and refugees, reestablished the community. With the influx of Jews from North Africa in the 1960s, the Jewish population in Nice and the vicinity increased from 2,000 to 20,000 by 1969. An estimate of the number of Jews in 2016 in Nice suggested that the population had grown to approximately 25,000.

The community has two main synagogues (Ashkenazi and Sephardi) and boasts a variety of Jewish institutions, including restaurants, butchers, and a mikveh. The Musée Marc Chagall, containing the painter's major works on biblical themes, is situated in Nice.

On July 14, 2016, a 31-year-old Tunisian-born man drove a rented truck through a crowded promenade shortly after the annual firework show on Bastille Day. A total of 85 people were killed and many others were wounded, including five Jews.


Gross, Gal Jud, 393f.; H. Meiss, A travers le ghetto… Nice (1923); Gallois-Montbrun, in: Annales de la Societé de Lettres des Alpes-Maritimes, 3 (1875), 242ff.; Giordan, ibid., 46 (1955), 103ff.; Scialtiel, in: REJ, 67 (1914), 118ff.; Bauer, ibid., 63 (1912), 269ff.; V. Emmanuel, Les Juifs à Nice (1902); J. Decourcelle, La Condition des Juifs de Nice… (1923), includes bibliography; L. Poliakov, The Jews under the Italian Occupation (1955), passim; Z. Szajkowski, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer 19391945 (1966), 156. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Guide du judaîsme français (1987), 39; Jewish Travel Guide (2002), 73. [Added by ED in August 2016: Jane Onyanga-Omara, “Death toll in Nice terror attack rises to 85,” USA Today, (August 5, 2016); “Jewish community won’t cancel Shabbat services after Nice attack,” Times of Israel, (July 15, 2016); Michal Levertov, “Dark years on the Côte d’Azur,” Jerusalem Report, (August 8, 2016).]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.