Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wiesenthal recalls MENA Holocaust as well as Baghdad hangings

Today, January 27,  is Holocaust Memorial Day. According to the records of the Wannsee conference in January 1942, it is clear that the Nazis planned to exterminate 11 million Jews, including those in North Africa and the Middle East. January 27 is also the date in 1969 when ten Jews were executed by the Ba'ath regime in Iraq on trumped-up spying charges. In this article for the Jerusalem Post, Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the leading organisation fighting antisemitism, has incorporated the impact of the Holocaust on Middle East and North African Jewry. He also mentions the Farhud in Iraq and the Baghdad hangings. It was noted that Samuels was present at a Zoom commemoration of the Baghdad hangings organised by the Spanish synagogue in Montreal on 24 January. 

The villa at Wannsee where the Nazis planned to exterminate 11 million Jews. The figure listed for Jews in France is 7000, 000, thus incorporating the North African Jewish communities, and the figure for Italy is 59,000, including the Jews of Libya and Ethiopia.

  In the spirit of the Abraham Accords, there is a growing interest in the Holocaust and its impact on the Jews of MENA (Middle East/North Africa). On this Yom Ha’Shoah / International Holocaust Commemoration Day on January 27, we should contemplate what the fate of MENA Jewry would have been had German general Rommel won the Desert Campaign. Would the Mufti Haj Amin al Husseini’s calls for Nazi Germany’s extermination of the Jews have been activated across the Arab world, despite the stories of protection from Vichy by Moroccan King Mohammed V and Tunisia’s Moncef Bey?
Italo-German occupied Libya was a story of deportation persecution. Even after the Allied victory, a November 1945 pogrom in Tripoli killed 130 Jews (36 of them children), destroyed five synagogues and plundered most remaining homes and businesses.
In brief, the Jews of French North Africa, Syria and Lebanon and the British mandates of Palestine and Iraq, and even – until the British/Soviet invasion – the millennial community of Persia (Iran) were all in danger. On June 1, the United Nations will mark the 80th anniversary of the Farhud (violent dispossession in Arabic) in Iraq. The pogrom was orchestrated by Rashid Ali al Gaylani, a pro-Nazi antisemite, who fled to Germany after the return of British forces. Hitler dubbed him “head of the Iraqi government in exile.”

 The pogrom in Baghdad and Basra left 600 dead, hundreds raped and beaten – with the corpses dumped in a mass grave. Following the 1948 establishment of Israel, most of MENA Jews were expelled or fled – many to France, the United States and the United Kingdom, but most to Israel.

 In the case of the 2,600 year-old Iraqi Jewish community, most left for Israel as a realization of the Biblical prophecy, “By the waters of Babylon we laid down and wept as we remembered Zion.” Of the 120,000 Iraqi Jews, some 2,000 remained in Iraq, becoming a target of the Baathist coup d’etat in 1968. The Jewish community was accused of “treason and collaboration with the Zionist On January 27, 1969, nine Jews were charged with espionage for of Israel (together with three Muslims and two Christians) and were hung in a public execution in Baghdad. 500,000 Iraqis were, reportedly, bused in to dance around the corpses. Another three Jews were executed on August 26. Baghdad Radio broadcast, “We hang spies, but the Jews sacrificed Christ.”

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