Thursday, January 10, 2008

Iraq library director rescues 846 Hebrew books

Dr Saad Eskander returned to Baghdad from 21 years of exile in London, shortly after the fall of Saddam, to lead the rescue of the books and archival treasures of Iraq as director of Iraq's National Library. He found that 40 percent of them had been destroyed. (With thanks: Avril)

One of the first things he did was to search for and rescue 846 Hebrew books, dating back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. All Jewish schools, synagogues and colleges had been closed by Saddam's regime and the Ministry of Interior had seized all books and archives.

In an inspiring BBC interview with Fergal Keane (first broadcast on 8 January) to which you can listen online, Dr Eskander told how he had braved personal death threats and how some of his staff had suffered a horrific fate. His harrowing blog of the period November 06 to July 07 is hosted on the British Library website.

Despite all this, Dr Eskander, an ethnic Kurd vehemently against all sectarianism and tribalism, is as sure today as on the day Saddam's statue fell, still the happiest day of his life, that the US invasion was the right, the only solution. He believes that it had proved impossible for such a powerful regime to be destroyed from within.

Funds lacking to restore Jewish documents rescued from Baghdad (NPR)

Saddam's secret hoard of Jewish manuscripts (The Art newspaper - January 2004)

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