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When Baghdad Burned: The Farhud Massacre of 1941

The Holocaust was the darkest moment in the history of the Jewish people, but the killing of Jews during World War II did not occur only in the ghettos and death camps of Europe. Writing at Arutz Sheva, Edwin Black tells of another horror experienced by the Jewish people – when Nazism and Arab nationalism resulted in the Farhud massacre of 1941:

“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 Palestine.

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 Nazis…

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…

Tags: History

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