Professor Shmuel Moreh was shocked to discover that the Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles made no mention of the 1941 Nazi pogrom known as the Farhud, in which 145 Iraqi Jews were murdered. The Arab world and the media, even in Israel, have maintained a conspiracy of silence. But with the recent publication of two important books on the Farhud, Moreh, in this must-read article in Cutting Edge News, hopes perceptions are about to change :
Since the traitorious and vicious massacre in Iraq, known as the Farhud, the pogrom of 1941 in Baghdad following the sack of Basra on 7-8 May, 1941, many scholars among the Jews who left Iraq have been trying in vain to keep it alive in the Jewish collective memory. The Jewish Holocaust is believed to be confined to European Jewry only, and it overshadowed all other WWll calamities outside Europe.
In the Arab world, mainly in Iraq, a conspiracy of silence was carefully maintained against the successive massacres committed against Jews since the Farhud of 1941 and the Arab defeat in 1948 war. In Iraq the conspiracy started immediately before the blood of the innocent victims had dried, when army and police officers roamed the streets of Baghdad, warning the Jews not to testify against the murderers and looters. Even the official report on the massacre was not published until 1958 by the Iraqi historian ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Hasani in Saida in Lebanon.
Later on, a few articles were published in Hebrew and English by well known historians such as Dr. Haim Cohen, of the Hebrew University, in 1966, and Prof. Elie Kedourie of LSE, London University, in 1970. These researches drew the attention of few scholars and Orientalists, especially British and German, even when a collection of articles and documents was published in Hebrew in book form edited by Shmuel Moreh & Zvi Yehuda entitled Hatred of Jews and the Farhud in Iraq. (Or Yehuda, The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Research Institute of Babylonian Jewry, 1992).
This strange indifference towards the Farhud continued even in Israel: almost no officials or MKs attend the memorial anniversary of the Farhud held every year at the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda.
The important Hebrew edition on the pogrom did not manage to attract the necessary attention of the Israeli media, since the latter is known for its indifference to subjects which are considered Oriental, communal and sectarian topics. This is due to the fact that many journalists are not aware of the reality: the Farhud and the transport of the Jews of Libya to Nazi concentration camps in Europe, were in fact a part of the Nazi global plan to annihilate the Jews wherever they were, including the Middle East.
This satanic task was handed over by the Nazis to their Arab supporters, headed by Hajj Amin al-Husayni (1895-1974), the Mufti of Jerusalem and a good student of the German Templars in Palestine. These Arabs did their best to take an active part in the Nazis’ anti-Jewish operations.
As in the case of Nazi Germany, the Arab majority believed, under the influence of the Arabic translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, that the Jews, who helped the British authorities to build a modern administration in Iraq, were thought to be planning a conspiracy to control and exploit the Iraqi economy and dominate important posts in various Iraqi ministries.
The Palestinians refugees of the 1936 and 1939 revolts in Palestine, who escaped to Iraq, were led by Hajj Amin al-Husayni (1892-1965). They were shocked to see the great Jewish influence on the Iraqi economy. They imposed their political ideology upon the Prime Minister of Iraq, Rashid ‘Aali al-Gailani and his national government instigated attacks against the British military air bases in Habbaniya on 2 May, 1941.
The defeat of the Iraqi army aroused panic among the pro-Nazi government. Its members and the Palestinians who joined the revolt escaped to Iran and Turkey and later on to Germany. In the resulting vacuum, the pogrom of the Farhud took place on 1-2 June 1941. According to a temporary list of names compiled by Dr. Zvi Yehuda, 137 Jews were killed in Baghdad, and 8 Jews outside Baghdad, forming a total of 145 killed and 2,500 injured and children and women were raped, hundreds of Jewish houses and stores were looted and burned. These tragic facts in the East were dimmed by the atrocities of the Holocaust in Europe, the greatest disaster in Jewish history.
The failure of the Israeli media to see the connection between the pro-Nazi Arab nationalists, directed, backed and equipped by Nazi Germans in the Arab world, with that of the Holocaust, was among the main reasons why Western Jewry have not been aware of the Farhud and the tragedy of the Jews of Libya and Iraq.
When the writer of these lines visited in 1986 the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Los Angeles, he was astonished to find that there was no mention of the Farhud. He wrote a letter to the Director of the Museum, but to this day, no answer was received.
Strangely enough, it was only during 2003 that the American scholar Samuel Edelman heard of the Farhud. This happened not in Israel or the USA, but in northern Iraq when he was on a mission to interview Kurdish survivors of chemical warfare. There he heard for the first time of the Farhud, the massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1941. (Black, The Farhud, p. 362).
On the other hand, it was only in 2006 that the Iraqi historian, Prof. Kadhim A. Habib, a resident of Berlin, was able to publish his book on the Farhud and the suffering of Jews, in his unique book in Arabic, entitled The Jews and Iraqi citizenship. The book focused on the tragedy of Iraqi Jews caught between tyrannical captivity and betrayal by forced expulsion in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyya.
The Iraqi Committee for Investigating the Events of the Farhud set up by the government of Iraq, in 1941, stated that the basic causes of the Farhud were: Nazi activities and propaganda by the German legation in Baghdad, headed by Dr. F. Grobba, his staff of beautiful young German ladies and professors who helped spread Nazi ideology among politicians and army officers; the Mufti of Jerusalem and his companions; national Palestinian and Syrian teachers who incited their students to attack Jews; anti-Jewish military and police officers who took an active part in killing and refused to give orders to shoot the plundering mobs during the massacre; the German Arab language radio station, which helped to spread Nazi propaganda in Iraq; Iraqi Radio incitement; and the pro-Nazi al-Futuwwa and Kata’ib al-Shabab paramilitary organizations headed by Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian nationalists.
All these facts convince the writer that the Farhud was an integral part of the Nazi final solution of the Jewish problem. After studying carefully the ideological bases and the Nazi and pro-Nazi elements that instigated the pogrom, I have arrived at the following conclusions, formulated in the introduction of Al-Farhud: The 1941 Pogrom in Iraq:
“The research and testimonies in this book demonstrate that the Jews of Iraq were victims of ideology, led by representatives of Nazi Germany and those Arab leaders who cooperated with them in hopes of ending British influence in the Arab world. We are grateful to the U.S. House of Representatives for unanimously passing Resolution 185 on 1 April 2008, which recognizes the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries as equal to those of Palestinian refugees.
Moreover, representatives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. visited the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda, Israel in 2008, and requested documentation on the Farhūd, emphasizing that they accept the Farhūd as part of the Holocaust. We think that it is time now to reconsider the possibility that both the U.S. authorities and German government will include the survivors of the Farhud in their list of Nazi victims and an integral part of the Holocaust. (Al-Farhud, Introduction by S. Moreh, p. 7-8).”
However, only after the publication of two comprehensive and well documented books in English by important publishing houses, in Israel and the USA is there is hope that the Farhud will take up its proper place in the Jewish history of WWII. Readers in the West can see now for themselves the clear connection between the two tragedies initiated by Nazi Germany. The first book is Al-Farhud, The 1941 Pogrom in Iraq, Ed. by Shmuel Moreh & Zvi Yehuda, (Jerusalem, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, 2010, in 380 pages).
The second is Dr. Edwin Black’s original, outstanding, comprehensive and painstakingly researched The Farhud: The Roots of Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust, (Washington, DC, Dialog Press, 2010, 448 pages). Dr. Edwin Black, arrived independently, at the same conclusion and faced not only indifference, but also strong opposition towards his daring results.
In fact, this second important book on the Farhud is considered one of the best books on the common Jewish destiny during the WWII and the cooperation between Arab-Nazi leaders and Hitler. It is Dr. Black’s seventh book on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust during the WWII. It is written by a well-known American historian whose parents were lucky enough to escape the Nazi gas chambers of Europe. Black’s intensive research in his book reveals new facts of the close cooperation between the Mufti al-Husayni and Hitler and renders great service to the history of the Jewish people during the WWII in this magnum opus.
Although Dr. Black based his arguments on heavy documentation and arrived at new and daring conclusions which upset pre conceptions and research, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a coalition of groups and institutions resisted the inclusion of “information about the Farhud and the Mufti of Jerusalem”. (Black, The Farhud, p. ix.)
The recent positive step taken by the Holocaust Memorial Museum towards the Farhud, came after a long heroic efforts made by Dr. Edwin Black and his supporters. It is hoped now that “the documentation in [Edwin Black’s] book, will help the USHMM (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) acknowledge further that of the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust, the ones who lived in Arab countries should not be forgotten. History must never be political, even in a political city.” (E. Black, The Farhud, p. x.).
Acknowledging that the suffering of the Jews in Iraq and in other Arab lands during the WWII is a part of the Holocaust will emphasize the common Jewish destiny all over the world. It will unite further the two parts of the Jewish nation, the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities, in the united memory of the Holocaust.
These facts should be taught in schools and universities in Israel and abroad. Moreover, we hope that Israel Ministry of education, Jewish institutes and university departments of Jewish History all over the world, would add these two books to their curriculum, and translate them to other languages. Taking these steps might, at last, do justice to Jewish history.
* Shmuel Moreh is Emeritus Professor of Arabic Studies, Israel Prize Laureate in Oriental Studies (1999) and Chairman of the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq.