|Part of Holocaust|
Mass grave for the victims of the Farhud, 1946
|Date||June 1st-2nd, 1941|
|Attack type||Violent pogrom, massacre|
|Deaths||175 - 780 Jews killed|
|Injured (non-fatal)||1,000 injured|
|Perpetrators||Rashid Ali, Yunis al-Sabawi, al-Futuwa youth.|
Farhud (Arabic: الفرهود) refers to the pogrom or "violent dispossession" carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1–2, 1941 during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. The riots occurred in a power vacuum following the collapse of the pro-Nazi government of Rashid Ali while the city was in a state of instability. Before British and Transjordanian forces arrived, around 175 Jews had been killed and 1,000 injured. Looting of Jewish property took place and 900 Jewish homes were destroyed. By 1951, 110,000 Jews—80% of Iraqi Jewry—had emigrated from the country, most to Israel. The Farhud has been called the "forgotten pogrom of the Holocaust" and "the beginning of the end of the Jewish community of Iraq", a community that had existed for 2,600 years.
The Jews lived in the land of Babylon for more than 2,500 years following the Babylonian captivity. There had been at least two earlier comparable pogroms in the modern history of Iraqi Jews, in Basra in 1776 and in Baghdad in 1828. There were many instances of violence against Jews during their long history in Iraq, as well as numerous enacted decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues in Iraq, and some forced conversion to Islam.
After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the First World War, the League of Nations granted the mandate of Iraq to Britain. After King Ghazi who inherited the throne of Faisal I, died in a 1939 car accident, Britain installed 'Abd al-Ilah as Iraq’s governing regent. By 1941, the approximately 150,000 Iraqi Jews played active roles in many aspects of Iraqi life, including farming, banking, commerce and the government bureaucracy.
Events preceding the Farhud
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2011)|
Between 1932 and 1941, the German embassy in Iraq, headed by Dr. Fritz Grobba, significantly supported antisemitic and fascist movements. Intellectuals and army officers were invited to Germany as guests of the Nazi party, and antisemitic material was published in the newspapers. The German embassy purchased the newspaper Al-alam Al-arabi ("The Arab world") which published, in addition to antisemitic propaganda, a translation of Mein Kampf in Arabic. The German embassy also supported the establishment of Al-Fatwa, a youth organization based upon the model of the Hitler Youth.
The Golden Square coup
Michael Eppel, in his book "The Palestinian Conflict in Modern Iraq" blames the Farhud on the influence of German ideology on the Iraqi people, as well as extreme nationalism, both of which were heightened by the Golden Square coup:
In 1941, a group of pro-Nazi Iraqi officers, known as the "Golden Square" and led by General Rashid Ali, overthrew Regent Abdul Ilah on April 1 after staging a successful coup. Iraq's new government then was quickly involved in confrontation with the British over the terms of the military treaty forced on Iraq at independence. The treaty gave the British unlimited rights to base troops in Iraq and transit troops through Iraq. The British arranged to land large numbers of soldiers from India in Iraq to force the country to show its intentions. Iraq refused to let them land and confrontations afterward occurred both near Basra in the south and to the west of Baghdad near the British base complex and airfield. The Germans dispatched a group of 26 heavy fighters to aid in a futile air attack on the British airbase at Habbaniya which accomplished nothing.
Winston Churchill sent a telegram to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning him that if the Middle East fell to Germany, victory against the Nazis would be a "hard, long and bleak proposition" given that Hitler would have access to the oil reserves there. The telegram dealt with the larger issues of war in the middle east rather than Iraq exclusively.
On May 25, Hitler issued his Order 30, stepping up German offensive operations: "The Arab Freedom Movement in the Middle East is our natural ally against England. In this connection special importance is attached to the liberation of Iraq... I have therefore decided to move forward in the Middle East by supporting Iraq."
On May 30, the British-organized force called Kingcol led by Brigadier J.J. Kingstone reached Baghdad, causing the "Golden Square" and their supporters to escape via Iran to Germany. Kingcol included some elements of the Arab Legion led by Major John Bagot Glubb known as Glubb Pasha.
On May 31, Regent Illah prepared to fly back into Baghdad to reclaim his leadership. To avoid the reality of a British-organized countercoup, the regent entered Baghdad without a British escort.
Antisemitic actions preceding the Farhud
Sami Michael, a witness to the Farhud, testified: "Antisemite propaganda was broadcast routinely by the local radio and Radio Berlin in Arabic. Various anti-Jewish slogans were written on walls on the way to school, such as "Hitler was killing the Jewish germs". Shops owned by Muslims had 'Muslim' written on them, so they would not be damaged in the case of anti-Jewish riots."
Shalom Darwish, the secretary of the Jewish community in Baghdad, testified that several days before the Farhud, the homes of Jews were marked with a red palm print ("Hamsa"), by al-Futuwa youth.
Two days before the Farhud, Yunis al-Sabawi, a government minister that proclaimed himself the governor of Baghdad, summoned Rabbi Sasson Khaduri, the community leader, and recommended to him that Jews stay in their homes for the next three days as a protective measure. An investigative committee later found that Yunis had the intent of killing the Jews, although his rule of Baghdad lasted only a few hours, to be seized by a public security committee.
Farhud (June 1–2, 1941)
According to the Iraqi government and British sources, violence started when a delegation of Iraqi Jews, sent to meet the Regent Abdullah arrived at the palace of flowers (Qasr al Zuhur) and was attacked by the mob as they crossed Al Khurr Bridge. Violence in Al Rusafa and Abu Sifyan districts followed, and got worse the next day, when Iraqi policemen joined in on the attacks on the Jewish community. Shops belonging to Jews were burned, and a synagogue was destroyed.
However, Prof. Zvi Yehuda alleges that the event leading to the riots was anti-Jewish incitement in the Jami-Al-Gaylani mosque, and that violence was premediated. Prof Yehuda points to eyewitness testimonials and analyzes the different methods of operation to support his claim.
Only at the afternoon of June 2, two days into the riots, British forces quelled the violence by imposing a curfew and shooting violators on sight. An investigation conducted by the journalist Tony Rocca of the London Sunday Times attributes the delay to a personal decision by the British ambassador of the time (Kinahan Cornwallis), who did not execute orders received from London and refused pleas by his officers to act against the riots. Other testimonies suggest that the British delayed their entry into Baghdad for 48 hours because they wanted passions in the city to boil over and had an interest in a clash between Jews and Muslims.
The precise number of victims is unclear: Some sources say that about 180 Jews were killed and about 240 were wounded, 586 Jewish-owned businesses were looted and 99 Jewish houses were destroyed. Other accounts state that nearly 200 Jews were killed and over 2,000 injured, while 900 Jewish homes and hundreds of Jewish-owned shops destroyed and looted. Bernard Lewis writes that according to the "official" statistics 600 Jews were killed and 240 injured, but the unofficial estimates were much higher. The Israeli-based Babylonian Heritage Museum maintains that in addition to 180 identified victims, about 600 unidentified victims were buried in a mass grave. An estimate published in Haaretz newspaper cites 180 killed and 700 wounded.
Eight assailants, including army officers and police, were condemned to death after the violence by the new pro-British Iraqi government.
Long term impact
In some accounts the Farhud marked the turning point for Iraq’s Jews who, following this event, were targeted for violence, persecution, boycotts, confiscations, and near complete expulsion in 1951. Historians such as Orit Bashkin, however, see the pivotal moment for the Iraqi Jewish community much later, in 1948, as systematic persecution of the Jews did not begin in earnest until the height of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Rather than being a turning point, the Farhud marks the start of a process of politicization of the Iraqi Jews in the 1940's. In the direct aftermath of the Farhud, many joined the Iraqi Communist Party in order to protect the Jews of Baghdad, yet they did not want to leave the country and rather sought to fight for better conditions in Iraq itself. After the Farhud, the ICP saw a massive influx of new members, and organized rallies against the Iraqi government became more frequent.
At the same time the course of the Iraqi government which had taken over after the Farhud reassured the Iraqi Jewish community, as ringleaders of the coup d'etat and the riots were imprisoned or hanged and normal life soon returned to Baghdad, which saw a marked betterment of its economic situation during World War II. It was only after the Iraqi government initiated a policy shift towards the Iraqi Jews in 1948, curtailing their civil rights and firing many Jewish state employees, that the Farhud began to be regarded as more than just an outburst of violence instigated by foreign influences, namely Nazi propaganda. Once Shafiq Ades was executed on October 23, 1948 for selling weapons to Israel, after a short show trial and despite the fact he was an outspoken anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish violence in Iraq had become institutionalized, and as such the Farhud could no longer be dismissed as an isolated incident. After the execution of Ades, staying in Iraq was no longer an option for most Iraqi Jews, and once the opportunity presented itself to leave the country, they left the country. And aiding the massive logistical effort that it took to organize Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, the airlift of Iraqi Jews to Israel, were the young generations of Iraqi Jews which had joined the ICP and Zionists after the Farhud.
It is estimated that in 2003, the Iraqi Jewish population numbered less than 100. In 2008 the Iraqi Jewish population dwindled to an estimated 7 people.
- List of massacres in Iraq
- Islam and antisemitism
- Antisemitism in the Arab world
- 1945 Tripoli pogrom
- Shafiq Ades
- The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism
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- United States. Dept. of State. External Research Division. Middle East, Volume 14, Europa Publications, 1960. pg. 139.
- Abraham H. Miller. Remembering the Farhud, Frontpagemag.com., June 01, 2006.
- The terror behind Iraq's Jewish exodus by Julia Magnet (The Telegraph, April 16, 2003)
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- The Middle East's Forgotten Refugees by Semha Alwaya
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- A distorted historiography
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- Shamash,Violette (2008,2010) "Memories of Eden: A Journey Through Jewish Baghdad."(Forum Books, London; Northwestern University Press, Evaston, IL, USA) ISBN 978-0-9557095-0-0
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- The Farhud: Sephardic Holocaust Project
- The Farhud of 1941 in Iraq.
- The Iraq Coup Attempt of 1941, the Mufti, and the Farhud
- The Jews of Iraq
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- Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center
- The Iraqi Jews
- The Farhud (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
- PDF (137 KiB) Lecture given by Dr. Zvi Yehuda on June 4, 2006 at the Babylonian Heritage Center in Or-Yehuda during the Memorial Evening of the 129 Jewish Victims of the Farhud (International Sephardic Leadership Council)
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-  review of "memories of eden", Haaretz.