Initially under the first Iraqi king’s rule conditions were favorable for the Jews, but in the mid-1930s they worsened with the rise of Nazism and Arab nationalism, including the conflict in Palestine; Arab nationalism and Germany’s interest in Arab oil led to a natural alliance.
The pro-Nazi cleric Haj Muhammed Amin Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and leader of the Arabs in Palestine, met with Hitler and other Nazi officers to plan the extermination of the Jews of Palestine and other parts of the Middle East. The Mufti recalls in his memoirs that Hitler gave him a free hand to solve the Jewish problem in Palestine and in other Arab lands. Al-Husseini, in a speech on Radio Berlin, openly voiced support for the “final solution” and became the first Arab leader to call openly for the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands, some eight years before there was a single Palestinian refugee.
The situation of the Jewish community in Iraq deteriorated markedly during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Anti-Semitism became rampant and persecutions and frequent arrests of Jews became common. On a few occasions there were public hangings of Jews accused of being spies for Zionist causes or sometimes as Communist sympathizers. These hangings were watched by thousands of cheering spectators in public squares.In early April 1941, a coup led by a pro-Nazi junta came to power. And they immediately began inciting the masses against the Jews. On June 1st and 2nd 1941 during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot mobs of thousands of agitated Muslims began a two-day pogrom, led among others by “Al-Futua”, a youth organization based upon the Hitler youth model. The pogrom which became known as the “Farhud” (loosely translated as “pogrom” or, “Violent dispossession”, in Arabic) resulted in about 180 Jews massacred and hundreds injured, many women were raped, people were mutilated and countless Jewish homes, shops, and synagogues were looted and destroyed. Not even infants were spared, and in the most ghoulish act of all, some pregnant women were slit open and left to die in agony.
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