The Farhud

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.

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 lecture was attended by Jews of all backgrounds,  Ashkenazi and Sephardi, as well as those of Babylonian Jewish descent who were directly affected by the Farhud.


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 and Basrah. 

Mr. Naim Dallal spoke in depth about his experiences in Baghdad and Iran and thanked Dr. Khabbaza for information he provided for his speech
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: 
 A) 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.

Mrs. Rachel Manasseh spoke eloquently about the Farhud and the events that led up to the Farhud.
 B) 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.
 C) Hatred of the Jews: stirred by several organizations headed by such prominent officials as Dr. Fadil Al Jamali (Inspector General of the

The event was MC'd by Mr. Robert Aizer.


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.

Mr. Joe Eden was Director of Social Services in Israel, when in two months, he witnessed the arrival of 200,000 Jews from Iraq. 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 pro--Nazi junta. 

 At once hoodlums and students demonstrated in the streets against the British and the Jews.

People of all ages came to hear and learn.
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 day.
May 31,1941: It was announced that the Regent with his entourage would be returning to Baghdad next day.

Mrs. Bianca Aizer read a fascinating  personal account written for the Midrash by Dr. Simha Nathaniel who was a nurse in the hospital in Baghdad.
The Farhud. 

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.

Life must go on. In the aftermath of the
 Farhud, 3 boys of Iraqi origin,  swing on a
 gate in Poona, near Bombay  in India.
 L-R, Edmond Khedhouri, Zaki Ades (son
 of Shafiq Ades who was hanged in Basra
 on a trumped up charge), and Edward
 Ani (son of Reubein and Georgette Ani).
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.
1) 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.
2) 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
3) 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. 

4) 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.

Answering a question posed concerning the Farhud. Mr. Eliyahou Shamash and Mr. Sami Qattan 
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. 

On June 2nd, Jewish patients were transferred to Mir Elias hospital where Jewish doctors acknowledged that the treatment provided had been highly professional.

Mr. Hayim Samra spoke of personal experiences in Basra during the Farhud.
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.
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