Curiel Family

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family of european sephardim and marranos who became active in jewish life in egypt in the nineteenth century. most were italian nationals who entered the banking profession.

The most noted family member was Henry Curiel (19141978), who joined Marxist groups during the years between the two world wars. In 1941, he opened a bookshop in Cairo, where Marxist and antifascist elements engaged in political discussions. As a fervent proponent of Egyptianization despite his communist leaning, Curiel was instrumental in creating the Egyptian Movement for National Liberation (al-Haraka al-Misriyya lil-Taharrur alWatani; MELN) during World War II to promote the idea among Marxists. In 1946, Curiel's MELN and Hillel Schwartz's pro-communist ISKRA merged to become the Democratic Movement for National Liberation (al-Haraka al-Dimuqratiya lilTaharrur al-Watani; HADITU), and membership quickly rose to several thousand.

HADITU enjoyed an ephemeral existence, for in May 1948, in the wake of the Palestine war, many of its activists were arrested along with the Zionists. HADITU was organized into sections of students, workers, women, and even army officers. Pursuing the Soviet line, HADITU advocated the creation of a secular democratic state in Palestine integrating Jews and Arabs. Subsequently, however, it advocated the two-separate-states solutionArab and Jewish. In 1950, following the emergence of Egypt's Wafdist government, noted communists, either interned or under surveillance, were expelled from Egypt. Henry Curiel spent the rest of his life in Europe, promoting revolutionary movements. In 1978, he was assassinated in France.


Botman, Selma. The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 19391970. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1988.

Krämer, Gudrun. The Jews in Modern Egypt, 19141952. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989.

Laskier, Michael M. The Jews of Egypt, 19201970: In the Midst of Zionism, Anti-Semitism, and the Middle East Conflict. New York: New York University Press, 1992.

Michael M. Laskier