Ruth Pearl recalls the Farhud


Diarna has an exclusive interview with Ruth Pearl. It’s not always audible, but it’s the first time that the mother of the beheaded reporter Daniel Pearl has spoken on the record of her childhood in Baghdad.

A recurring nightmare haunted Ruth Pearl (nee Rejwan) 20 years after she survived the Farhud pogrom in 1941: even after she had had her children, she imagined she was being pursued up the stairs of her home by a Muslim with a gun.

This would not be her only nightmare: Ruth’s son Daniel, a reporter with the Wall St Journal, would fall victim to Islamist kidnappers in Pakistan.

For a child of only six, Ruth remembers quite a lot about the Farhud in which 179 Jews were killed and many more injured. She remembers hearing stories of shops being looted. On the way to fetch a cigarette for her father she saw a wounded looter, whom the Muslim neighbours were not interested in helping: in fact the Muslim neighbours had put the rioters off attacking her family’s home. “There are no Jews here”, the neighbours had told them.

The family sheltered in their cellar from bombing by German and British aircraft: the Nazis and the British were engaged in a war for control over Iraq in the month before the Farhud. Of all the areas where Jews lived, it must be said that Bataween, a prosperous, modern district of Baghdad, was least affected by the Farhud. Compared to Takht-el Takia and Bab-el Sharq, the old Jewish quarters, there were few Jewish casualties in Bataween. But there was shooting, and Ruth remembers seeing two bullet holes in her house, which narrowly missed the residents.

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