To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Farhud, Dr. Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah of the Amsterdam Jewish Historical Museum and Doreen Dangoor, an Iraqi Jew who lived through the events of the Farhud (Arabic for ‘violent dispossession’), joined the World Jewish Congress for the latest installment of WebTalks.
On 1 June 1941, the Nazi-inspired pogrom erupted in Baghdad on 1 June 1941. When the violence ceased the next day, over 180 Jews were dead, thousands injured, and the community was forever changed. The Farhud was shocking for the Jews of Iraq, which included some of the country’s most successful businessmen, cultural figures, and intellectual leaders. Within a decade, the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Jews would emigrate to Israel.
Goldstein-Sabbah, a historian, provided crucial background on the history of Iraq’s Jews who she termed, “the historic Jewish diaspora community.”
Dangoor, who witnessed the events first-hand, explained that she was sheltered by a family during the Farhud, which kept her safe from the violence. Stories like these were common, Dangoor said, as many Muslim and Christian families protected their Jewish neighbors during the massacre – a point she made throughout the conversation. She has a close relationship with some of these people since.
Dr. Goldstein-Sabbah shared that immediately following the Farhud, there was no mass exile as some might expect. Instead, the Iraqi government recognized the acts of violence, and attempted to address the Jewish community’s concerns by offering reparations. As such, with limited immigration to British Mandate Palestine and few accessible safe havens for Jews, the Iraqi community chose to stay.
While Jewish communities worldwide suffered greatly during the 1940s was a prosperous time for Iraqi Jews, as seen through the schools and synagogues that were built. Dangoor, who experienced this short period of calm, noted that in the years after the Farhud, the Jewish community recovered so much so that, “we almost forgot about it until 1948.”
Most of Iraq’s Jewish population fled between 1948 and 1952, with a majority settling in Israel, the United Kingdom, United States, India, or Australia. Dangoor outlined the dilemma the Jewish community faced following the Farhud: remain in your home at risk despite rising tensions or flee illegally and forfeit citizenship. Her father, defiant, refused to leave and remained in Baghdad until 1973.
Dr. Goldstein-Sabbah commented that younger generations “don’t really have any memories of the vibrant Jewish community, but Jews were part of every aspect of Baghdadi society, in this period.”