Canadian radio focuses on the Farhud

Anna Maria Tremonti, host of The Current

With thanks: Sarah

On Canadian radio today, you can hear Steve Acre’s sobs and sniffles as he recalls the screams of Jewish women raped in Baghdad as if it were yesterday. These are memories he has only recently spoken about, but although they happened 70 years ago, they are still raw. Steve, then aged nine, spent two hours sheltering in a palm tree in the courtyard of his home, while a brave Muslim neighbour resolutely protected his family from the rampaging mob.

Steve tells his harrowing story on The Current, a CBC programme broadcast today on the eve of Shavuot – the anniversary, according to the Hebrew calendar, of the Farhud pogrom. He makes the wider point that in spite of their long sojourn in the region, Jews were never equal citizens to the Muslims; that after the Farhud, Jews joined an underground self-defence movement called the Tnu’a to prevent a second Farhud. They left Iraq as refugees, but never waited for the UN to bring them food. Israel was their new Jerusalem, but it is Jerusalem, a city constantly in Jewish prayers, that the Arabs, with their 23 states, now propose to divide.

From the programme summary:

“We start this segment with the Ten Commandments being recited in Judaism’s Babylonian tradition. Today is Shavuot, the holiday commemorating the day its believed God gave Moses the laws on Mount Sinai. But for the former Jews of Baghdad, it is hardly a day for celebrations.

Steven Acre remembers this time well from seventy years ago. He was just nine years old when racial attacks broke out in the Iraqi capital in an event known as the Farhud. The massacre marked the beginning of the end of 2600 hundred years of Jewish history in Iraq. Today Steven Acre lives in Montreal and that is where we reached him.

Last year, investigative reporter Edwin Black wrote about those two bloody days seventy years ago in his book The Farhud: Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust. We reached him in Melbourne, Australia.

Tony Rocca immersed himself in the story of Iraq’s Jews when he researched and edited the book Memories of Eden: A Journey Through Jewish Baghdad. He is a former features writer for the Sunday Times of London. Tony Rocca joined us from London, England.”

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  • As a North American, my primary education really excludes both the history of the Middle East, the culture and current events. Now in University, I try my best to expand my horizons by learning the history of other nations. Thanks to that broadcast yesterday, I was actually led to your blog by looking for the book 'The Farhud' by Edwin Black to learn more. I just wanted to say that the program itself was one of the best I have heard on CBC and I'm glad as it has opened me up to a whole new topic of learning. I had no idea about the strife of the Jewish community within the Middle East, as primarily our education and literature focuses on European cases. I just wanted to say its been a pleasure to read this blog and learn more about the topic.


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