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When Iraq Kicked Out Its Jews

Iraqi Jews wait at an Afula bus station in 1954 (Photo: GPO/COHEN FRITZ)

Since Israel's independence in 1948, its neighbors throughout the Middle East have been working towards its destruction. One failed attempt at this, writes Edwin Black, was Iraq's expulsion of its Jews - as a plot to overwhelm the Jewish state with olim (immigrants):

From the moment Hitler took power in 1933, Iraq had distinguished itself throughout the Arab world as a top Nazi ally. The nexus was continually stoked by resident gestapo agents such as Fritz Grobba. Grobba employed such tactics as dispensing lots of cash among politicians and deploying seductive German women among ranking members of the army. From 1933, Radio Berlin began broadcasting hate messages in Arabic including fallacious reports about non-existent Jewish outrages in Palestine. Grobba, cultivated many Iraqis as surrogate Nazis. Iraqi Arab Hitler-style youth marched in Nuremburg torch light parades hosted by their Berlin counterparts. German was taught in Iraqi schools. When World War II broke out in 1939, Nazism became a fervent cause among many Iraqis.

In May 1941, Iraqi fascists backed by popular support tried to overthrow the pro-Western monarchy and seize British oil fields in Iraq to facilitate the oil-dependent German advance east to Russia. That failed. The Iraqi coup plotters in Baghdad decided to do the next best thing, exterminate its Jews in a single blow. Jews were ordered to stay in their homes, and their doors were marked with a red hamsa. At the last minute, the extermination plot fell apart. But as the coup leaders fled, in that momentarily power vacuum on June 1-2, 1941, dejected swarms of soldiers, in concert with police, common criminals and nondescript mobs rampaged through Baghdad hunting for Jews. They were easily found. Hundreds of Jews were cut down by sword and rifle, some decapitated. Babies were sliced in half and thrown into the Tigris river. Girls were raped in front of their parents. Parents were mercilessly killed in front of their children. Hundreds of Jewish homes and businesses were looted, then burned.

The carnage continued unabated for almost two days until finally the British-backed monarchy was induced to restore order.

This Holocaust-era pogrom became known as the Farhud. In Arabic, it means “violent dispossession..."

Tags: Middle East Unrest

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