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We thought the end was near, says Farhud survivor

    Daniel Khazoom recalls the mob rising during the Farhud (Photo: Jimena)
    Daniel Khazoom recalls the mob rising during the Farhud (Photo: Jimena)

    A British Jewish group has called on David Cameron’s Holocaust Commission to include the Farhud in its memorial project.

    On 1-2 June 1941 – 74 years ago today - a Nazi-inspired mob rose up and attacked Iraq's Jewish community, which numbered 140,000 at the time.

    The attack, known as the Farhud, devastated the community. According to historian Elie Kedourie, up to 600 Jews were killed. Around 180 Iraqi Jews were buried in a mass grave, 2,000 were injured, women were raped and kidnapped, the Baghdad’s Jewish quarter was left in ruins and the main synagogue looted. At least 1,500 shops and homes belonging to Jews were ransacked.

    Lyn Julius, the founder of Harif, a UK association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, said: “More Jews died than during Kristallnacht, yet people are woefully ignorant of the Farhud.

    “The Farhud needs to be taught in schools and mentioned in textbooks and history books. I call on the Holocaust Commission announced by David Cameron earlier this year to incorporate the Farhud in its Holocaust memorial.

    “The event shook the ancient Jewish community of Iraq to its foundations. Within ten years, it was gone.”

    Daniel Khazoom remembers it well.

    “They actually started planning for the final solution of the Jewish problem in Iraq,” said Professor Khazoom, who was eight years old when the Farhud hit.

    Rioters attacked Iraq's Jewish community in June 1941 (Photo: Jimena)
    Rioters attacked Iraq's Jewish community in June 1941 (Photo: Jimena)

    Speaking to Jimena, a group that records testimony of Jews from Arab countries, he recalled walking by the Tigris river with his father and brother.

    “I heard a shot. I did not know what it was. We desperately wanted to believe that it was nothing. I held my father’s hand, tightly. And I looked at my brother and he looked very worried. But he continued walking, and then there were the shots of a machine gun. We knew something was wrong. We hurried back to our home. And that night, it was a big night for us.

    “We heard the shots. We heard the voice of the mob getting close. I never felt this helpless. Then the noise of the crowd grew closer. By the afternoon, they were one block away from us…

    “It looked like the end was near.”

    Then, a battalion loyal to king stopped the siege.

    He continued: “It took days for us to come out of our homes. No one dared to get out. It took a while to learn about the devastation they inflicted on the Jewish community.”

    Richard Verber, Board of Deputies senior vice-president, said: “Today is the anniversary of a pogrom in Baghdad that brought to an end more than two thousand years of peaceful co-existence.

    "This painful episode in the history of Jews from Arab lands must not be forgotten. The Board will continue to work to increase awareness of the history of Mizrahi Jews and last December held an event at the Jewish Museum in association with Harif on this very issue.”

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