The relationship between the Jewish and Arab community that existed after the Babylonian exile, led to what was known as a serene millennium. These peaceful relations however, were tested in 1941, when Anti-Jewish pogroms were enacted, bringing an end to the Jews nonviolent existence in the Middle East during that trying time.
Pogroms were organized massacres that were targeted to a specific ethnic or religious group and included the damaging, as well as the destruction of large masses of people. This form of mass murdering, (which also occurred in Russia nearly 60 years before) occurred again, in Baghdad, during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. According to Jimena.org, the bloodshed was Nazi inspired, after the meeting that transpired between then Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and Adolf Hitler.
In Baghdad, this pogrom was commonly referred to as farhud. The term farhud literally means “violent dispossession” in Arabic and accurately described the two-day massacre that resulted in the mass exodus of Jews from the Arab world. During the 1940’s, there were a number of Jewish communities that existed in the Middle East, with as many as 135,000 Jews living in Iraq, 90,000 in Baghdad, and 10,000 in Basra, with the rest of the Jewish population being scattered across various villages in the Middle Eastern area. (Glitzenstein, 2016). With the amicable status between Jews and Muslims, both communities were able to coexist without conflict. On June 1, 1941, this all changed however, after the rise of the pro-German government that was growing and in turn, threatening the Jews in Iraq. During this time, many Jews believe that the pro-Nazi regime passed, which lead them to carry on the holiday’s events. This however, proved to be untrue, as riots broke out, targeting many of the Jewish people in Baghdad. The violence that ensued resulted in the deaths of 300-600 Jews, the injuring of an additional 600 people, and the rapes of countless numbers of women. (Glitzenstein, 2016)
The farhud, sometimes referred to as the “forgotten pogrom” further destroyed the Jewish community, with the looting of over 1,500 stores and homes, causing a number of Jewish families to suffer under the hands of the Arab people. The violence and rioting stopped after two days, when Iraqi troops and British forces occupying Iraq stepped in and “restored order in Baghdad. The lasting consequences of this massacre led to many Jews leaving Iraq, as well as a feeling of helplessness, and vulnerability amongst the Jewish people. In fact, many Sephardic Jews considered the events of June 1st, 1941, as their Kristallnacht, where tens and thousands of Jews were removed to concentration camps in Germany and Austria. (Black, 2015). The horrific occurrence, marked the end of what was then, a time of Iraqi Jew peace for Jewish individuals in the Middle East.
Black, Edwin. “Remembering Farhud Day and the Arab Pogroms.” Algemeinercom RSS. The Algemeiner, 23 June 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.
Meir-Glitzenstein, Esther. “The Farhud.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.
“What Was the Farhud? – JIMENA.” JIMENA. JIMENA, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.