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June 1, 2022 5:20 pm

Massacre of Iraqi Jews Remembered on 81st Anniversary

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Young Iraqi Jews who fled to pre-state Israel following the 1941 Farhud pogrom in Baghdad. Photo: Moshe Baruch

Jewish groups on Wednesday marked the 81st anniversary of the Farhud, a Nazi-inspired pogrom of Iraqi Jews that marked the beginning of the end for a centuries-old, once-flourishing community.

The massacre took place over the Jewish holiday of Shavuot in Baghdad on June 1, 1941, following the downfall of the regime of Rashid Ali al-Kailani, an Arab nationalist who staged a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq weeks earlier. As British troops surrounded Baghdad, widespread riots targeting the Jewish community broke out, incited and led by Iraqi soldiers and officers who backed the coup, as well as fascist youth.

By the time the violence ended midday on June 2, some 180 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured, and an estimated 1,500 stores and homes looted.

The Farhud was a watershed moment for Iraqi Jews. Within 10 years, amid mounting antisemitic persecution, more than 90 percent of the community immigrated to Israel, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Last month, the Iraqi parliament passed legislation making contact between Iraqis and citizens of Israel — where most Iraqi Jews and their descendants live — a crime punishable with a lifetime prison sentence or even the death penalty.

While relatively little-known outside of the Iraqi Jewish community, there has been increasing effort in recent years by Jewish organizations, as well as the Israeli government, to raise awareness of the Farhud. In a social media post commemorating the massacre, the Board of Deputies of British Jews — a group representing Jews in the United Kingdom, where a number of Iraqi Jews resettled — shared testimonies of survivors, which can be viewed below:

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