Two narratives have been generated about the life of Jews in Arab lands. One claims that life was wonderful, the other claims that life was terrible. Saul Silas Fathi's account of his early life in Baghdad, related in his book, Full Circle, seems to bear out both versions. In fact the same could be said of the life of Jews in many places in the Diaspora. It was very good until it was very bad. Saul's father was director of the Iraqi railway system. His family lived well, but by the 1930s, the storm was gathering. Below is Fathi's account of the prelude to the Farhud (Farhoud or Farhood), the 1941 Iraqi pogrom of of the Jews.
Farhood: Krystallnacht in
, June 1, 1941 Baghdad
Part I: Prelude
The treatment of Jews in
By the mid 1930s, Nazi-inspired policies became more widespread. Arab boys in
It was in 1938 that
With growing pro-Nazism in
In early April of 1941, Arab nationalism, anti-British revolt was brewing within
Gaylani opened diplomatic relations with
When forces from the coup attacked these bases on May 1, British planes bombed rebel positions the next day, crippling them and bringing a rapid defeat. Rebel forces attacked
By May 29, 1941, Al-Gaylani, Husseini, Fawakchi, and other rebel forces realized that their coup had failed. They fled to
The next day, May 30, the Mayor of Baghdad Amin Al-Asima, Arshad Al- Umari, Husam Al-Din Jum’a, and other government officials signed an armistice with the British, declaring an end to the revolt. Though it looked as if all hostilities were ending, another, much darker horror was about to be unleashed on the Jews of Baghdad.
The same day that the armistice was signed, Al-Sab’awi called the President of the Jewish community and told him that all Jews were being restricted to their homes May 31 to June 2. Then, Al-Sab’awi instructed the Katayib Al-Shabab, a paramilitary youth group, to mark all of the Jewish houses and stores in red paint. Then, Al-Sab’awi sent a message to the radio station, urging the Arab public to massacre the Jews. Fortunately, the broadcast was prevented, and Al-Sab’awi was sent to the border.
Nevertheless, the Katayib Al-Shabab and others who had been incited by anti-Jewish propaganda carried out Al-Sab’awi’s plan.
Hussayni fled to
This marked the genesis of the Palestinian refugee saga.
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