Remembering The Farhud, The Pogrom That Ended Iraqi Jewish Life

By Karam Mnashe, Charles Recknagel

June 1, 2010

Source: Radio Liberty

An Iraqi boy plays in front of a closed synagogue in Baghdad. Only a few Jews remain in Iraq today. June 01, 2010

Few people in Iraq know what happened in Baghdad exactly 69 years ago.

But on June 1-2, 1941, something previously unthinkable in the city occurred. Mobs attacked the capital’s prosperous and influential Jewish community, killing more than 100 people and looting homes.

By the time the orgy of murder and pillaging was done, the Jewish community was so shaken that it would never recover. Within 10 years, the vast majority would leave the country, leaving behind just the handful of people who tend the capital’s empty synagogue today.

The two days of terror are known in Iraq as the Farhud, the Arabic word for pillaging or looting an enemy. Yet most Iraqis know very little about the event because Iraq’s history books rarely speak of them. Those writers who do mention those days simply explain the violence as the result of the Iraqi Jewish community’s “Zionist activities,” without detailing more.

But people who survived the attacks and remember the events tell another story — like Layer Abudia, who now lives in Israel, who was a child at the time of the pogrom.

“I watched people killing at least four to five Jews in front of me,” Abudia says. “Every car that passed by was stopped by the mob that pulled Jews out and killed them. I heard they killed 20 to 25 people in the airport area.”

Abudia and the others who experienced the two days of horror will never forget standing on the rooftops of their apartments as the violence started on the first night.

For many, the first warning was a dull orange glow that appeared over the very heart of the city center where the Jewish and Muslim communities abutted. Then came distant screams and banging, which grew louder as looters moved deeper into the Jewish neighborhoods. Finally, up close, there was the horrifying sight of the neighbors desperately trying to leap with their children to an adjoining rooftop as armed men broke down their doors.

“That night we heard screams coming out of the houses of Jews,” recalls Nassim al-Qazzaz, another survivor who now lives in Israel. “They were killed and their homes were pillaged. This continued for less than 24 hours.”

“The next day, approximately at noon, the regent Abdul Illah issued an order to fire on the mob,” Qazzaz says. “He could have done that the same day of course, before things got worse, but he preferred not to interfere so the mob could release their anger at the Jews.” READ MORE…

Barb’s note: Want to know more about the Farhud? GO HERE…

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