A new book provides essential facts in English about one of the most significant events to affect Jews in Iraq in the last century: the Farhud pogrom, which erupted 69 years ago today.
My 89-year old aunt recently shared her recollections of the Farhud with me for the first time. The Iraqi-Jewish Kristallnacht erupted exactly 69 years ago, in the wake of the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali coup. My aunt lived with my grandparents in their house in Baghdad. The house had an entrance on either side. As they heard the rampaging mob approach, my family fled through the back entrance and into the Muslim neighbour's house.
Although the neighbour was a Nazi sympathiser, his wife was a 'lady' and a good friend of the family. She offered them hospitality until the trouble died down. " She even made the beds for us," my aunt reminisced. Eventually the Nazi neighbour, too, turned up trumps: he remonstrated with the looters and made them return all the property they had stolen from my grandparents' house.
When I asked my aunt if she knew anyone who had been killed in the Farhud, she said, ' the lady who used to make the tea for us.' No-one knows exactly how many Jews were killed, but estimates have ranged from 100 to 900.
Now a new book, Al-Farhud: the 1941 pogrom in Iraq, by Shmuel Moreh and Zvi Yehuda, provides an indispensable record in English of the events of those fateful two days.
Al-Farhud: the 1941 pogrom in Iraq is being published on the sixty-ninth anniversary of the Farhūd, the pogrom committed by religious and nationalist Arabs against the Jews of Iraq on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost (Shavu‘ot), 1–2 June 1941.
The Hebrew edition of this book was published in 1992 by the Research Institute of Babylonian Jewry in Or Yehuda, Israel. This volume is a revised version of the Hebrew edition.
The title consists of papers on the pogrom and on the events leading up to it which were originally published in English, others which were written in Hebrew and now appear in English for the first time, and documents which have not been previously published, including an updated list of the names of victims of the Farhūd and a map indicating the places in Baghdad where rioters attacked Jews.
The book thus provides the English reader with comprehensive and updated information on the Farhūd and constitutes a memorial to the innocent victims killed during these pogroms and whose only crime was that they were Jews.
* Delivering this year's Elie Kedourie lecture on 13 May to an audience of 250 at the British Academy, the historian Simon Schama began by evoking the Farhud, which had a profound effect on the late Professor Kedourie, if not the entire Iraqi-Jewish community. Schama mentioned the incriminating role of the British ambassador Cornwallis, who told his superiors in London that 'there had been a little trouble, and some Jews had been set upon'. Schama's entire lecture, Jewish History Wars, is worth listening to. Here's the extract ,in which Schama talks about the Farhoud, transcribed on to their Memories of Eden blog by Mira and Tony Rocca.