Kurdish piece ignores archive’s Jewish heirs

 Saad Eskander, the Kurdish director of the Iraq National Library

This article in the Kurdish outlet of Rudaw on the ‘Jewish archive’ backs the unwavering view of Doris Hamburg of the US National Archives:  the archive is bound to go back to Iraq. The Kurdish director of the National Library in Baghdad,  Saad Eskander, is not only keen to put the returned archive on display, but regrets that it ever left Iraq. Missing from Judit Neurink’s report is what the Iraqi Jews themselves think. They are treated as an obsolete and invisible community, although some of the archive’s Jewish owners are still living.  (With thanks: Torbjorn)

My comment: Eskander is a mass of contradictions: on the one hand the archive should never have left Iraq, and that the Americans should have taught the Iraqis how to care for the documents – although Iraq demonstrably did not have the resources or the specialist equipment, let alone the expertise. On the one hand the archive is ‘culturally worthless’ and Iraq retained the most valuable pieces. On the other hand, these pieces remained neglected in the cellars of the National Library and Museum, ‘where they still are’, he admits. He is not interested in doing justice to the still living Jewish heirs outside Iraq, only in the political significance of the archive as an illustration of Saddam Hussein’s crimes.

Rudaw reports:

ERBIL: “The army contacted the National Archives and told them what they
had. When Hamburg arrived in Baghdad soon after, the wet
documents had already started moulding in the heat of May.

“We did not know if someone had opened a tap,”
Hamburg recalls 10 years later, on the phone in Washington. The documents
needed immediate attention but salvaging them in Baghdad was not possible. So
they were flown to the United States.

Most Jews left Iraq after Israel was founded in
1948 and only thousands remained after the big exodus that continued until
1952. Most who stayed left after anti-Jewish campaigns under Saddam in 1969 and
the year after. Nowadays, only a handful of elderly Jews remain in Baghdad.
What remains of the community can no longer be recognised as Jewish, following
conversions to Islam or Christianity. (The latter is most unlikely – ed)

Yet, for decades the Jews of Baghdad formed the
economic and intellectual heart of the city, thanks to their roles as bankers,
money changers, traders, doctors, thinkers and artists. Jews had their own
schools and organizations. The documents found seem to stem mainly from
organizations that were closed one-by-one in the 1960s and early the following
decade.

Because of their importance for researchers, the
documents will all be freely available online, Hamburg says proudly.

A special
exhibition was planned, but it is unclear when that will open due to the
shutdown of the American federal government.

After that, the originals will return to Iraq,
Hamburg says.

“From the start, we have worked closely with the Iraqi
authorities, and that’s what we agreed on.”

 “Director Saad Eskander of the National Library in
Baghdad will be glad to receive the archives.

From the start, he was against
their trip to the United States, although he admits that Iraq could not look
after them in 2003. “Iraq was in a chaos. Nobody was interested in our cultural
heritage.”

“Yet, the documents should have stayed, he says:
“Instead of taking them away, the Americans should have taught the Iraqis how
to repair and maintain them.

”When he was invited to the US to see what was
happening to the documents, he admitted the National Archives had done a great
job. But when the Americans asked to send more documents to restore, he
refused. Instead, he set up the National Library’s own laboratory with help
from abroad.

 “My staff can now do it by itself,” he says
proudly. “And our documents can also be found on our website.”

 Eskander will use the return of the documents next
year to put on a special exhibition. It will be “the first Jewish one in Iraq
in many years. We want to show how multi-religious Iraq was, and what crimes
have been committed by the former dictatorial regimes,” he says.

To the returning collection, the National Library
will add its own Jewish documents, many of them received under Saddam’s rule.
When Saddam confiscated the books and documents of the Jews who left the
country, the most valuable pieces were kept.

“They went to us, and to the Iraqi
Museum. Only a third went to the Mukhabarat,” Eskandar explains.

But the library and museum were not allowed to
study or handle them in any way. “We could read nor classify them. They have
been kept in dark cellars for many years,” Eskandar says.

In the Iraqi Museum, that is where they still are,
he adds.

“In 2004, I had them taken out to be repaired and maintained.”For that reason he is not as impressed as the
Americans about the cultural value of the returning documents.

 “That has been exaggerated greatly.” The fact that
the Mukhabarat put them in the cellar, tells us the service did not value them
highly, he says.

“That does not make them worthless, he hastens to
add. “The political value is huge. Because they show you how Saddam Hussein
tried to destroy the cultural heritage of the Jews of Iraq.”

Read article in full

ERBIL,
Kurdistan Region – Found in a flooded cellar of Saddam Hussein’s secret
service and soon on view at the National Archives in Washington: A
treasure trove of papers and books that open a window to Iraq’s Jewish
life before it faded under emigration and the Iraqi dictator’s
crackdowns.

What makes the collection special is that, though Iraq’s
centuries-old Jews have all but disappeared, some of their heritage has
not.

Items in the find include historical and cultural treasures, found
among 2,700 books in Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic and English, some dating
back to the 14th century. There are also the original documents of a
Torah, and a part of the centuries-old box where it was housed.

Next to the prayer books and religious texts, even more interesting
to the National Archives’ Doris Hamburg are mundane items like sales
bills and school reports of Iraqi Jews. “Most of these documents show us
the daily life in Iraq between the forties and the seventies,” says
Hamburg, Director of Preservation Programs at the National Archives in
the US capital.

The story of how the documents were found, and how they ended up in Washington, is itself a tale.

A month after the March 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam,
American soldiers arrived at the flooded cellar of a building that
belonged to the Mukhabarat, the dictator’s dreaded secret service.
There, the soldiers found floating boxes, which on inspection were found
to contain Jewish documents. The army contacted the National Archives
and told them what they had.

When Hamburg arrived in Baghdad soon after, the wet documents had already started moulding in the heat of May.

“We did not know if someone had opened a tap,” Hamburg recalls 10
years later, on the phone in Washington. The documents needed immediate
attention but salvaging them in Baghdad was not possible. So they were
flown to the United States.

Most Jews left Iraq after Israel was founded in 1948 and only
thousands remained after the big exodus that continued until 1952. Most
who stayed left after anti-Jewish campaigns under Saddam in 1969 and the
year after. Nowadays, only a handful of elderly Jews remain in Baghdad.
What remains of the community can no longer be recognised as Jewish,
following conversions to Islam or Christianity.

Yet, for decades the Jews of Baghdad formed the economic and
intellectual heart of the city, thanks to their roles as bankers, money
changers, traders, doctors, thinkers and artists. Jews had their own
schools and organizations. The documents found seem to stem mainly from
organizations that were closed one-by-one in the 1960s and early the
following decade.

Because of their importance for researchers, the documents will all
be freely available online, Hamburg says proudly. A special exhibition
was planned, but it is unclear when that will open due to the shutdown
of the American federal government.

After that, the originals will return to Iraq, Hamburg says. “From
the start, we have worked closely with the Iraqi authorities, and that’s
what we agreed on.”

Director Saad Eskander of the National Library in Baghdad will be
glad to receive the archives. From the start, he was against their trip
to the United States, although he admits that Iraq could not look after
them in 2003. “Iraq was in a chaos. Nobody was interested in our
cultural heritage.”

Yet, the documents should have stayed, he says: “Instead of taking
them away, the Americans should have taught the Iraqi’s how to repair
and maintain them.”

When he was invited to the US to see what was happening to the
documents, he admitted the National Archives had done a great job. But
when the Americans asked to send more documents to restore, he refused.
Instead, he set up the National Library’s own laboratory with help from
abroad.

“My staff can now do it by itself,” he says proudly. “And our documents can also be found on our website.”

Eskander will use the return of the documents next year to put on a
special exhibition. It will be “the first Jewish one in Iraq in many
years. We want to show how multi-religious Iraq was, and what crimes
have been committed by the former dictatorial regimes,” he says.

To the returning collection, the National Library will add its own
Jewish documents, many of them received under Saddam’s rule. When Saddam
confiscated the books and documents of the Jews who left the country,
the most valuable pieces were kept. “They went to us, and to the Iraqi
Museum. Only a third went to the Mukhabarat,” Eskandar explains.

But the library and museum were not allowed to study or handle them
in any way. “We could read nor classify them. They have been kept in
dark cellars for many years,” Eskandar says.

In the Iraqi Museum, that is where they still are, he adds. “In 2004, I had them taken out to be repaired and maintained.”

For that reason he is not as impressed as the Americans about the cultural value of the returning documents.

“That has been exaggerated greatly.” The fact that the Mukhabarat put
them in the cellar, tells us the service did not value them highly, he
says.

That does not make them worthless, he hastens to add. “The political
value is huge. Because they show you how Saddam Hussein tried to destroy
the cultural heritage of the Jews of Iraq.”

– See more at: http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/18102013#sthash.X2lwDol0.dpuf

ERBIL,
Kurdistan Region – Found in a flooded cellar of Saddam Hussein’s secret
service and soon on view at the National Archives in Washington: A
treasure trove of papers and books that open a window to Iraq’s Jewish
life before it faded under emigration and the Iraqi dictator’s
crackdowns.

What makes the collection special is that, though Iraq’s
centuries-old Jews have all but disappeared, some of their heritage has
not.

Items in the find include historical and cultural treasures, found
among 2,700 books in Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic and English, some dating
back to the 14th century. There are also the original documents of a
Torah, and a part of the centuries-old box where it was housed.

Next to the prayer books and religious texts, even more interesting
to the National Archives’ Doris Hamburg are mundane items like sales
bills and school reports of Iraqi Jews. “Most of these documents show us
the daily life in Iraq between the forties and the seventies,” says
Hamburg, Director of Preservation Programs at the National Archives in
the US capital.

The story of how the documents were found, and how they ended up in Washington, is itself a tale.

A month after the March 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam,
American soldiers arrived at the flooded cellar of a building that
belonged to the Mukhabarat, the dictator’s dreaded secret service.
There, the soldiers found floating boxes, which on inspection were found
to contain Jewish documents. The army contacted the National Archives
and told them what they had.

When Hamburg arrived in Baghdad soon after, the wet documents had already started moulding in the heat of May.

“We did not know if someone had opened a tap,” Hamburg recalls 10
years later, on the phone in Washington. The documents needed immediate
attention but salvaging them in Baghdad was not possible. So they were
flown to the United States.

Most Jews left Iraq after Israel was founded in 1948 and only
thousands remained after the big exodus that continued until 1952. Most
who stayed left after anti-Jewish campaigns under Saddam in 1969 and the
year after. Nowadays, only a handful of elderly Jews remain in Baghdad.
What remains of the community can no longer be recognised as Jewish,
following conversions to Islam or Christianity.

Yet, for decades the Jews of Baghdad formed the economic and
intellectual heart of the city, thanks to their roles as bankers, money
changers, traders, doctors, thinkers and artists. Jews had their own
schools and organizations. The documents found seem to stem mainly from
organizations that were closed one-by-one in the 1960s and early the
following decade.

Because of their importance for researchers, the documents will all
be freely available online, Hamburg says proudly. A special exhibition
was planned, but it is unclear when that will open due to the shutdown
of the American federal government.

After that, the originals will return to Iraq, Hamburg says. “From
the start, we have worked closely with the Iraqi authorities, and that’s
what we agreed on.”

Director Saad Eskander of the National Library in Baghdad will be
glad to receive the archives. From the start, he was against their trip
to the United States, although he admits that Iraq could not look after
them in 2003. “Iraq was in a chaos. Nobody was interested in our
cultural heritage.”

Yet, the documents should have stayed, he says: “Instead of taking
them away, the Americans should have taught the Iraqi’s how to repair
and maintain them.”

When he was invited to the US to see what was happening to the
documents, he admitted the National Archives had done a great job. But
when the Americans asked to send more documents to restore, he refused.
Instead, he set up the National Library’s own laboratory with help from
abroad.

“My staff can now do it by itself,” he says proudly. “And our documents can also be found on our website.”

Eskander will use the return of the documents next year to put on a
special exhibition. It will be “the first Jewish one in Iraq in many
years. We want to show how multi-religious Iraq was, and what crimes
have been committed by the former dictatorial regimes,” he says.

To the returning collection, the National Library will add its own
Jewish documents, many of them received under Saddam’s rule. When Saddam
confiscated the books and documents of the Jews who left the country,
the most valuable pieces were kept. “They went to us, and to the Iraqi
Museum. Only a third went to the Mukhabarat,” Eskandar explains.

But the library and museum were not allowed to study or handle them
in any way. “We could read nor classify them. They have been kept in
dark cellars for many years,” Eskandar says.

In the Iraqi Museum, that is where they still are, he adds. “In 2004, I had them taken out to be repaired and maintained.”

For that reason he is not as impressed as the Americans about the cultural value of the returning documents.

“That has been exaggerated greatly.” The fact that the Mukhabarat put
them in the cellar, tells us the service did not value them highly, he
says.

That does not make them worthless, he hastens to add. “The political
value is huge. Because they show you how Saddam Hussein tried to destroy
the cultural heritage of the Jews of Iraq.”

– See more at: http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/18102013#sthash.X2lwDol0.dpuf

ERBIL,
Kurdistan Region – Found in a flooded cellar of Saddam Hussein’s secret
service and soon on view at the National Archives in Washington: A
treasure trove of papers and books that open a window to Iraq’s Jewish
life before it faded under emigration and the Iraqi dictator’s
crackdowns.

What makes the collection special is that, though Iraq’s
centuries-old Jews have all but disappeared, some of their heritage has
not.

Items in the find include historical and cultural treasures, found
among 2,700 books in Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic and English, some dating
back to the 14th century. There are also the original documents of a
Torah, and a part of the centuries-old box where it was housed.

Next to the prayer books and religious texts, even more interesting
to the National Archives’ Doris Hamburg are mundane items like sales
bills and school reports of Iraqi Jews. “Most of these documents show us
the daily life in Iraq between the forties and the seventies,” says
Hamburg, Director of Preservation Programs at the National Archives in
the US capital.

The story of how the documents were found, and how they ended up in Washington, is itself a tale.

A month after the March 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam,
American soldiers arrived at the flooded cellar of a building that
belonged to the Mukhabarat, the dictator’s dreaded secret service.
There, the soldiers found floating boxes, which on inspection were found
to contain Jewish documents. The army contacted the National Archives
and told them what they had.

When Hamburg arrived in Baghdad soon after, the wet documents had already started moulding in the heat of May.

“We did not know if someone had opened a tap,” Hamburg recalls 10
years later, on the phone in Washington. The documents needed immediate
attention but salvaging them in Baghdad was not possible. So they were
flown to the United States.

Most Jews left Iraq after Israel was founded in 1948 and only
thousands remained after the big exodus that continued until 1952. Most
who stayed left after anti-Jewish campaigns under Saddam in 1969 and the
year after. Nowadays, only a handful of elderly Jews remain in Baghdad.
What remains of the community can no longer be recognised as Jewish,
following conversions to Islam or Christianity.

Yet, for decades the Jews of Baghdad formed the economic and
intellectual heart of the city, thanks to their roles as bankers, money
changers, traders, doctors, thinkers and artists. Jews had their own
schools and organizations. The documents found seem to stem mainly from
organizations that were closed one-by-one in the 1960s and early the
following decade.

Because of their importance for researchers, the documents will all
be freely available online, Hamburg says proudly. A special exhibition
was planned, but it is unclear when that will open due to the shutdown
of the American federal government.

After that, the originals will return to Iraq, Hamburg says. “From
the start, we have worked closely with the Iraqi authorities, and that’s
what we agreed on.”

Director Saad Eskander of the National Library in Baghdad will be
glad to receive the archives. From the start, he was against their trip
to the United States, although he admits that Iraq could not look after
them in 2003. “Iraq was in a chaos. Nobody was interested in our
cultural heritage.”

Yet, the documents should have stayed, he says: “Instead of taking
them away, the Americans should have taught the Iraqi’s how to repair
and maintain them.”

When he was invited to the US to see what was happening to the
documents, he admitted the National Archives had done a great job. But
when the Americans asked to send more documents to restore, he refused.
Instead, he set up the National Library’s own laboratory with help from
abroad.

“My staff can now do it by itself,” he says proudly. “And our documents can also be found on our website.”

Eskander will use the return of the documents next year to put on a
special exhibition. It will be “the first Jewish one in Iraq in many
years. We want to show how multi-religious Iraq was, and what crimes
have been committed by the former dictatorial regimes,” he says.

To the returning collection, the National Library will add its own
Jewish documents, many of them received under Saddam’s rule. When Saddam
confiscated the books and documents of the Jews who left the country,
the most valuable pieces were kept. “They went to us, and to the Iraqi
Museum. Only a third went to the Mukhabarat,” Eskandar explains.

But the library and museum were not allowed to study or handle them
in any way. “We could read nor classify them. They have been kept in
dark cellars for many years,” Eskandar says.

In the Iraqi Museum, that is where they still are, he adds. “In 2004, I had them taken out to be repaired and maintained.”

For that reason he is not as impressed as the Americans about the cultural value of the returning documents.

“That has been exaggerated greatly.” The fact that the Mukhabarat put
them in the cellar, tells us the service did not value them highly, he
says.

That does not make them worthless, he hastens to add. “The political
value is huge. Because they show you how Saddam Hussein tried to destroy
the cultural heritage of the Jews of Iraq.”

– See more at: http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/18102013#sthash.X2lwDol0.dpuf

2 Comments

  • there will be NO official exhibit of Jewish artifacts in Iraq, no matter what Eskander said. Either he is a liar or a fool, or maybe a dreamer [a kind of fool]. But we can all see that whatever Eskander may want to do, he will not be allowed to put on an exhibit of Jewish artifacts or to remind the world of the former Iraqi Jewish community.

    Reply
  • This article is completely ridiculous on almost all fronts: There is no chance that his staff can replicate the work of archivist restoration teams in the US. They will have received minimal foreign training and minimal funding for acquiring specialist equipment. Fundamentally, the Iraqi museum is closed, not operational and is in a poor state after $13 million US funding and several more millions from Europe. This building hasn't had that type of investment and tell me they have security enough to fight off groups of thieves and criminals? Goodbye Iraqi Jewish artifacts, I am glad I will have the opportunity to see you for the first and last time in America. Shame on the United States for allowing this to go ahead.And do Iraqi Jews have a say in their artefacts? No they don't.

    Reply

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