Pogroms, the most violent expression of anti-Semitism, are often fueled by the political events of the day. Such was the case of the Farhud, a violent pogrom that took place on June 1-2, 1941, in Baghdad.
As World War II progressed, Germany sought to expand its sphere of influence. The Nazi propaganda, both anti-British and anti-Semitic, stirred up the nascent discontent in Iraq at colonial rule. In April 1941, a military coup was carried out by Rashid Ali al-Kailani (known as the Golden Square Coup). Britain backed the ousted regent, Abd al-Ilah. War broke out at the beginning of May, the usurpers were overcome and an armistice was signed on May 31, 1941.
The next day, on June 1 (6 Sivan, the first day of Shavuot that year), just before Regent Abd al-Ilah returned to Baghdad, violent riots broke out against the Jewish community.
While the Jewish community’s support of the pro-British government is often given as the cause of the riots, one must not overlook the Nazi influence on the region. The Nazis had long been broadcasting anti-Jewish propaganda in Arabic via Radio Berlin. Additionally, the populace was influenced by the presence of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, a notorious anti-Semite and friend of Hitler.
After two days of rioting, the British (who had only returned to Baghdad on May 31st) quelled the riots and imposed a curfew. There has been some speculation that the British administration deliberately delayed sending troops. When the riots finally ended, 180 Jews were dead and many more had been injured or left without homes or businesses.
After over 2,500 years in the region, the Jews of Iraq realized that they were no longer welcome. By 2003, there were less than 100 Jews remaining in Iraq (Babylon in ancient times).
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