By Simon Pelsmakher
B’nai Brith Canada
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Farhud, which was a series of riots that occurred on June 1-2, 1941 in Baghdad. It is often referred to as the Iraqi Pogrom.
Iraq’s Arab community had been growing suspicious of the 2,500 year old Jewish Community, and the Jews were accused of supporting the British Government in opposition of the Iraqi Nazi-Government. In the midst of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Iraq’s pro-Nazi Government collapsed. On June 1, a delegation Iraqi Jews arrived in Baghdad to meet with the Regent Abdullah, and they were attacked by mob of Iraqi Arabs.
The riots spread to neighboring sectors where homes and businesses were destroyed, property was looted, civilians were attacked, raped, and tortured. Reports indicate that members of the police also joined in the fray. As a result of these riots, many civilians were killed. The exact number of Jewish victims is unclear. Some estimate that 180 Jews were killed, whereas the Babylonian Heritage Museum in Israel puts the number closer to 600. The events of the next decade were more troubling for the Jews, due to growing tensions in Palestine, and for the tendency of Iraqi governments to use the Jewish population as a scapegoat for domestic political frustrations. These events led to the mass exodus of Iraq’s ancient Jewish community in the 1950s. Whereas at mid century, Iraq’s Jewish population stood at approximately 120,000, today, it has been all but virtually extinguished.
(Thanks to Dr. Sam Azoory and the Iraqi Jewish Association Of Ontario for providing us with a historical overview of the events.)