The Farhud, the Mufti inspired Krystallnacht
The entire Jewish world has heard of Krystallnacht.
Yet very few have even heard of the Farhud, where Nazi sympathizers in
Baghdad, killed, maimed and committed numerous atrocities aginst the Jewish
population on the two days of Shabu'oth in 1941.
in Iraq, 1941
For the past few years, Midrash BEN ISH
HAI has provided lectures on the subject of the Farhud to increase awareness
of this tragic event and to help all our Jewish brothers and sisters remember
and, hopefully, avoid similar occurences in the future, G-d forbid.
A synopsis of one of these lectures,
with additional historical information is provided here.
By Mr. Hayim V. Habousha
The Farhud took place Sunday and Monday,
June 1st and 2nd 1941, the two days of Shabu'oth. The word Farhud denotes
the breakdown of law and order, where life and property are in peril.
Jews lived in Babylonia (modern Iraq)
for over 2,400 years, since the destruction of the first Beth Hamiqdash.
Jews were treated tolerantly by the Moslems and, while abuses (such as
hooliganism, snatching of men's fez caps and even murders) had been recorded
from time to time, the Farhud is the only sad event of sizable magnitude.
Jews lived mainly in Baghdad and, in 1870,
started moving to other towns such as Amarah, Ali Agharbi, Qalaat Salih
The development of Basrah which started
to flourish again after the opening of the Suez Canal, adversely affected
Aleppo in Syria and northern Iraq.
The fact that the majority of the Jewish
community was concentrated in Baghdad explains why the Baghdadi Jews bore
the brunt of the Farhud.
Some reasons for the farhud:
Political: under British occupation (1914/1918--1922)
Jews gained confidence, felt secure and did not tolerate any mockery or
physical abuse. Some went as far as to proclaim themselves British citizens
or proteges -- this was strongly resented by the Moslems.
Economic: Jews were very active in all trade
and finance fields -- at the same time they were a sizable percentage of
the civil service staff. On August 27, 1934 numerous Jews were dismissed
by Arshad Alumari, Minister of Economics and Communication, and an unofficial
quota was set up for Jews to be appointed in the civil service and for
Jews to be admitted into secondary schools and colleges.
Hatred of the Jews: stirred by several organizations
headed by such prominent officials as Dr. Fadil Al Jamali (Inspector General
of the Ministry of Education), Dr. Saib Showkat (Director of Baghdad Central
State Hospital), General Taha Al Hashimi (Chief of Staff ), General Salah
Aldin Al Sabbagh. The Palestinians Fawzi Al--Qauqji Darwish Al Miqdadi,
Mufti Haj Amin Al Husseini together with the Syrians Farid Zayn Ad--Din
and Dr. Amin Ruwayha were also very active in these organizations.
The driving force behind this anti
British, anti Jewish, anti Zionist movement was the German embassy in Baghdad
headed by Dr F. Grobba which generously supplied money, books and film.
Leading up to the Farhud.
April 1,1941: The Royal palace in Baghdad
was surrounded by the army. The regent and his entourage escaped to Habbaniyeh,
from there to Basrah and thence to Amman in Transjordan. April 3, 1941
Nazi sympathizer Rashid Ali Al Gaylani and four generals led a military
coup, deposed the absent regent and were the real rulers of Iraq with the
At once hoodlums and students demonstrated
in the streets against the British and the Jews. Looting of property and
beating up of Jews took place in Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, Irbil, Basrah,
Amara and Fallujah. The killing of Jews took place in Baghdad alone.
May 30, 1941: Yunis Al Sabawi, head of
Nazi groups, declared himself governor of central southern Iraq. He ordered
Jews through Hakham Sasson Khedouri, to remain in their homes Saturday,
May 31, and on June 1 and 2—Shabu'oth. He had the intention of slaughtering
the Jews that weekend using the Nazi youth organizations he was heading.
However, miraculously, Sabawi was deported to the Iranian border that same
May 31,1941: It was announced that the
Regent with his entourage would be returning to Baghdad next day.
June 1, '41, the first day of Shabu'oth:
A delegation of Jews went to the airport to welcome the Regent. On their
way back they were attacked on Al Khurr bridge by soldiers and civilians.
One Jew was killed, and many injured who were taken to the hospital. There
were attacks and killings in Al Rusafa and Abu Sifyan; terror continued
until 10 p.m. : Jews were killed randomly, hundreds were injured, women
and children were raped in front of their relatives, babies crushed, houses
set on fire, looting...and so on.
June 2,1941: Policemen, soldiers and slum
dwellers from Al Karkh entered the scene, and participated in the killing
and the looting everywhere. At 5 p.m., curfew was declared and anyone who
showed himself in the streets was shot on the spot. Reports vary—official
Iraqi reports mention 187 killed, others say as many as one thousand, but
it seems likely that about 400 innocents were killed with numerous wounded.
It would be inappropriate, however, not to mention some humanitarian acts
carried out by some Iraqis.
Many Moslems opened their homes and fed and
protected the Jews. It had been reported that some Moslems apologized for
not being able to provide Kasher meat and/or poultry to their guests.
On June 2nd, Jewish patients were transferred
to Mir Elias hospital where Jewish doctors acknowledged that the treatment
provided had been highly professional. But many questions will remain,
including why the British, who were on the outskirts of the city and were
in a position to stop the massacre, stood by and did nothing. Some papers
which might shed some light on the matter are to be kept closed by the
British till 2017.
Looters in Basrah on May 1941, were stopped
by a distinguished Moslem notable, Salih Bashayan, who appointed guards
from his own men to protect Jewish property
On June 1, 1941 pressed by the mob to oust
the injured Jews from the hospital where they were treated, Jamil Dallali,
the director, called the police who dispersed the hostile crowd.
On June 1, 1941 Dr. Saib Showkat, Dean of
the Baghdad Medical College, chief of surgery and administrator of Baghdad
Central Hospital entered the surgery ward and scrubbed his hands getting
ready to operate. Doctors and nurses standing idly by, had no option but
to follow his example. In a few hours, all patients (mostly Jews) were
attended to and moved into clean beds. When Jewish nurses reported threats
of rape by Iraqi wounded officers being treated at the hospital, Dr. Showkat
sent the officers to their beds and warned on the megaphone that anyone
disobeying his order would be shot by him with two guns in his belt. There
was no argument—everyone obeyed.
This page was produced by Joseph
Middle Eastern Political and Religious
Brooklyn, New York
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