Today is International Farhud Day

 Daniel Khazoom tells his story of Farhud survival (video: JIMENA)

Update: scroll down to see a video recording of the event.

June 1, 2015 International Farhud Day will be proclaimed at a live
globally streamed side event at the United Nations featuring a keynote
lecture by author Edwin Black entitled “The Farhud and the Creation of 850,00 Post-War Refugees From Arab Lands”. The event will be broadcast liveat 1:15 PM EDT.

Jews were an integral part of Iraqi society, who dated their heritage
back to the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. The security and
confidence of Iraqi Jews was shattered by the pro-German military coup
of April 1941. While the coup leaders were quickly defeated by British
forces, their departure was followed by a large-scale Farhud or pogrom
against the Jews of Baghdad.


 When Baghdad burned – the 1941 June Farhud massacre by Edwin Black

“Violent dispossession.” In an Arabic dialect, the word is Farhud.
For decades after it occurred, many thought the nightmare was a sudden
and unexpected convulsion that afflicted the Iraqi Jewish community, one
that lived in that land for some 2,600 years. But in truth, the wild
rape and killing spree of June 1–2, 1941 was not unexpected. For years,
the Jew hatred, anti-British rage, and Nazi agitation seethed just below
the surface, like a smoking volcano waiting to erupt.

Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, Germany’s chargé d’affaires in Baghdad, German Arab specialist Fritz Grobba, acquired the Christian Iraqi newspaper, Al-Alem Al Arabi, converting it into a Nazi organ that published an Arabic translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in
installments. Then, Radio Berlin began beaming Arabic programs across
the Middle East. The Nazi ideology of Jewish conspiracy and
international manipulation was widely adopted in Iraqi society,
especially within the framework of the Palestine problem that dominated
Iraqi politics. 

As Arab Nationalism and Hitlerism fused, numerous Nazi-style youth clubs began springing up in Iraq. One pivotal group known as Futuwwa was nothing less than a clone of the Hitler Youth. In 1938, Futuwwa
members were required to attend a candlelight Nazi Party rally in
Nuremberg. When the delegation came back from Germany, a common chant in
Arabic was, “Long live Hitler, the killer of insects and Jews.”

By the outbreak of World War II in September
1939, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and a coterie
of transnational Palestinian agitators, had thoroughly permeated
Baghdad’s ruling circles. For example, Taha al-Hashimi, Iraqi Chief of
Staff, doubled as the head of the Committee for the Defense of

To lure more Arabs to the Nazi cause, Grobba
employed such tactics as dispensing lots of cash among politicians and
deploying seductive German women among ranking members of the army.
German radio broadcasting in Baghdad regularly reported fallacious
reports about non-existent Jewish outrages in Palestine. Grobba, in
conjunction with the Mufti, cultivated many Iraqis to act as surrogate

By April 1, 1941, with WWII in full swing, a
group of pro-Nazi Iraqi military men known as the Golden Square staged a
coup, ousting the British-dominated government. Quickly, the Golden
Square welded Iraqi actions to Berlin’s iron will. Why did they become
partners? The Golden Square wanted Germany to destroy the British and
Jewish presence in their country. The Third Reich craved what was
beneath the ground — oil. Without that oil, still controlled by a
British oil company, Germany could not invade Russia.

An abortive effort to seize British oil and
military facilities in Iraq roiled throughout May 1941. But on May 28,
1941, a British military column determined to protect the oil
installations finally punched toward the outskirts of Baghdad to defeat
the insurgency. The Nazi-allied Golden Square and the Reich’s
wirepuller, Grobba, fled the capital. On May 31, at 4 a.m., with the
morning still more dark than dawn, the acting mayor emerged with a white
flag on behalf of the residuum of official authority in Iraq.

The next day, on June 1, with British
authority nominally restored but still withdrawn beyond the outskirts of
Baghdad and the Golden Square coup plotters out of the country, the
British puppet regent, Prince ‘Abd al-Ilah, returned to Iraq. During the
few hours surrounding the regent’s return, a power vacuum existed in
the country. It resulted in the bloodbath of June 1–2 that became known
as the Farhud.

The original plans for a sweeping anti-Jewish
action on June 1, organized before the pseudo-success of the British,
were intended to mimic Nazi mass murder campaigns in Europe. Lists of
Jews had already been compiled. Jewish homes had been marked in advanced
with a blood-red hamsa, or palm prints, to guide the killing.
The text announcing the mass murder and expulsion was already prepared
and scheduled for radio broadcast.

But Jewish leaders who learned of the
impending disaster begged for mercy from the temporary local mayoral
authorities, who successfully engineered the expulsion from Baghdad of
the massacre planners. The radio broadcast on May 31 merely announced
that the British-appointed regent would return to his palace from his
temporary refuge in Trans-Jordan.

Baghdad’s Jews had every reason to celebrate.
June 1 was the joyous holy day of Shavuot, commemorating when the Law
was given to the Jews on Mt. Sinai. Baghdad’s Jews thought stability had
returned to their 2,600-year existence in Iraq. They were so wrong.

At about 3:00 p.m. that June 1, Regent ‘Abd
al-Ilah had landed at the airport near Baghdad. He was making his way
across al-Khurr Bridge to the Palace when a contingent of Baghdadi Jews
went out to greet him. As the group came to the bridge, they encountered
a contingent of dejected soldiers just returning from their dismal
surrender to British forces. The mere sight of these Jews, bedecked in
festive holiday garb, was enough to enrage the soldiers.

Suddenly, the Jews were viciously attacked
with knives and axes. Several were hacked to death right then and there
on the bridge. The planned systematic extermination, now foiled, broke
down into a spontaneous citywide slaughter.

Baghdad became a fast-moving hell. Frenzied
mobs raced throughout the city and murdered Jews openly on the streets.
Women were raped as their horrified families looked on. Infants were
killed in front of their parents. Home and stores were emptied and then
burned. Gunshots and screams electrified the city for hours upon hours.
Beheadings, torsos sliced open, babies dismembered, horrid tortures, and
mutilations were widespread. Severed limbs were waved here and there as
hideous trophies.

As Baghdad burned, Jewish existence became
smoke spires against the sky. Jewish shops and homes were looted and
then torched. A synagogue was invaded and its Torahs burned in classic
Nazi fashion. Yet British troops remained minutes away, under orders
from London not to move in lest it stir Arab sentiment against the oil

The streets were not safe for Jews. Their
homes, already well-marked as Jewish residences, were even less safe.
Gangs comprised of soldiers, police, and civilian looters invaded Jewish
neighborhoods with impunity.

In home after home, furniture was moved up
against the door to create a barricade. As the invaders pushed at the
doors, more and heavier furniture was shoved into place. The ceaseless
battering and kicks eventually made progress, and inevitably, in house
after house, the killers broke in. As the Arabs breached the entrances,
many families would escape to the roof, one step ahead.

Fleeing Jews jumped from one roof to another.
In some instances, parents and siblings threw children down from roofs
to waiting blankets below. When there was no place beyond the roof, some
Jews held off their attackers with boiling oil, stones, and whatever
other makeshift defenses they could muster.

Women were defiled everywhere. Arabs broke
into the girl’s school and the students were raped — endlessly. Six
Jewish girls were carted away to a village fifteen kilometers north and
located only later. One young girl was raped, and then her breasts
slashed off — an all too typical crime that day. Young or old, Jewish
females were set upon and mercilessly gang raped and often mutilated.

Finally, the Mayor telephoned the Regent,
momentarily the supreme authority in the country, and beseeched him to
issue orders to loyal troops. That he did. As the order circulated,
loyal units began opening fire on the rioters, especially when they
turned to Muslim neighborhoods to continue their pillage. Once the
shooting began, rioters fled.

Days later, when the Regent eventually
restored order, the British entered the city limits. The oil was secure.
The Jews of Baghdad were not.

In truth, no one will ever know many were
murdered or maimed during those two dark days. Official statistics,
based on intimidated and reluctant witnesses, listed about 110 Jews
dead. Hundreds were listed as injured. But Jewish leaders said the real
numbers were far greater. One Iraq historian suggested as many as 600
were murdered during the overnight rampage. The Jewish Burial Society
was afraid to bury the bodies. The corpses were ignominiously collected
and entombed in a large, long, rounded mass grave that resembled a
massive loaf of bread.

Read Edwin Black’s article in full (Times of Israel)

Same article in Israel National News

Farhud was Iraq’s Shoah (Jewish Chronicle)

Jerusalem Post


Huffington Post (Lyn Julius)

JPost blog (Harif – Clash of Cultures)

Anne’s Opinions (blog) 

The Forward(Shayna Zamkanei)

Response in The Forward by Shulamit Binah

Edy Cohen (i24 News)

Reut Rory Cohen inNew English Review

June 2, London: 74th anniversary commemoration of the Farhud:Harif/Sephardi VoicesUK/JW3

One Comment

  • you can find at the link a primary source for the British police of not intervening to stop
    the massacre and pogrom. A British officer explained that FM anthony Eden was giving the army orders not to intervene. At that time, Eden had made a major speech urging the Arabs to form an association, what later became the Arab League. His excuse may have been that he didn't want any intervention against Arab pogromists to interfere with his policy for getting the Arabs to set up an Arab League. He also ordered the BBC to not report on the ongoing Holocaust, for instance, as far as Poland was concerned.


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