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The Hand of God: How My Father Survived the Nazi-Inspired Farhud, Part II

Posted By Tiffany Gabbay On August 19, 2013 @ 12:34 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 7 Comments

Tiffany Gabbay’s article below was originally published by TheBlaze in December, 2012. FrontPage is reprinting this piece as a two-part series to serve as a primer for a future series of articles that will highlight the plight of the “forgotten refugees” (Jewish refugees) who fled persecution, oppression, dhimmitude, pogroms, and eventually, exile, throughout the Middle East and Maghreb. [To read Part I, click here]

Reprinted from TheBlaze.com.

The Mufti and the Fuhrer 

Just as there is a Pope in the Vatican who represents the whole of Catholicism, Muslims, too, revere a singular spiritual leader, and that figure is called a “grand mufti.” In 1941, Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, took a shine to the teachings of the fuhrer and began conspiring with the Nazis to exterminate another contingent of the Jewish population — this one in Baghdad.

In 1941, al-Husseini traveled to Germany to meet with Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, JoachimVon Ribbentrop and other prominent Nazis to enlist their help in bringing the Final Solution to the Arab world. Through no less than 15 drafts, the Mufti told Hitler that the Jews were his arch enemies and urged Germany and Italy to declare Jewish homes illegal in the British mandate of Palestine. He also called on the two fascist nations to grant Arabs “the right to solve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries, in accordance with the interest of the Arabs and, by the same method, that the question is now being settled in the Axis countries.”

After all, reasoned the Mufti, “the Arabs were Germany’s natural friends because they had the same enemies.”

Nazi Muslim Brigades’ Anti-Semitic “Education”

Hitler replied that Germany would “furnish positive and practical aid to the Arabs involved in the same struggle” and that his country’s ”objective [is]… solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere.”

“In that hour the Mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world,” he concluded.

While Hitler refused al-Husseini’s plea for an official declaration, he agreed to furnish aid to the Arabs in their opposition of a Jewish State. In the end, despite their shared anti-Semitism, the fuhrer was too much a racist to fully engage the Muslim world, but nonetheless proved to be a powerful ally for the Arabs in some very measurable ways, namely by introducing them to the highly effective tool of propaganda.

Prior to the mufti and fuhrer’s meeting and until 1941, the German embassy in Iraq was  headed by famed Nazi diplomat (an oxymoron if ever there was one) Dr. Fritz Grobba, who markedly increased the dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda material throughout the Middle East by purchasing Arab newspapers. One such newspaper, Al-alam Al-arabi (“The Arab world”), published the first Arabic-language translation of Mein Kampf. The German embassy also supported the formation of “Al-Fatwa,” the Muslim counterpart of Hitlerjugend.

Of course this all rings eerily familiar.

How often have we seen children today in Gaza or West Bank, indeed across the Arab world, chant anti-Semitic slurs in much the same way Hitler Youth did decades earlier? It is a well-established fact that Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups have been deeply inspired by the Nazis, from whom they acquired their tactics of propaganda. Whether it be doctored photos of a wounded or “killed” Palestinian child, or modeling children’s school textbooks after Mein Kampf, the influence rings loud and clear.

Given the background, should it come as a surprise then that upon returning to the Middle East in 1941, the Grand Mufti helped to orchestrate the beginnings his own Final Solution?

The Farhud

On June 1, 1941, as Jews in Baghdad were preparing festive meals in anticipation for the

holiday of  Shavuot, a heavily armed mob of Iraqi Muslims took to the streets in a vicious rampage, targeting the city’s Jewish communities. Thousands of Islamic men equipped with guns, swords, knives, homemade grenades and other crude weapons searched out and slaughtered any Jewish man, woman or child they captured.

An image of a “hamsa,” or “Hand of God,” was painted on Jewish homes to single them out for attack. Ironically, this symbol is meant to be used as a talisman for protection. The families inside had no choice but to band together and steel themselves with whatever weapons they could muster.

My father was there. He recalled the savagery in complete and utter detail for the entire duration of his life. Although he was only a child at the time, the situation demanded he become a man, and he did.

Reliving the events for me on numerous occasions, Abba said that as the oldest son, he felt an onus to stand by his father and protect the family. Thankfully he was himself a hellion and shrewd as they come, devising a plan of ambush that, in the end, helped saved him and his family from extinction.

Somehow numb to the fear that should have, by right, overcome anyone such tender age, my father resolved to fulfill his duty and positioned himself on the roof of his house, poised with metal buckets brimming with scalding hot cooking grease, heavy stones and bricks, knives, metal pipes and any other makeshift weapons he could devise.

As several of the marauders rushed the grounds of my family’s home, my father launched his defensive, dumping the buckets of piping hot grease and hurling the projectiles he’d had on hand with all of the nerve and sinew in him. My grandfather (“Saba”), meanwhile, remained below, armed with a plan and weapons of his own.

How they managed to stave off that violent mob and certain death remains one of the great and many mysteries of my father’s life. To be sure, it would not be the last time the Hand of God would play a role in delivering him to safe harbor.

In the end, British forces came in to disperse the rampaging mob and restore some semblance of order, but it was too little too late. While estimates differ, those gleaned from the Babylonian Heritage Museum reveal that 800 innocent Iraqi Jews were killed — 180 identified and 600 unidentified that were later found buried in a mass grave. In addition, 1,000 Jews were injured, nearly 600 Jewish businesses were looted, and another 1,000 Jewish homes ransacked and destroyed.

The bloody, two-day massacre was called the “Farhud,” Arabic for “violent dispossession” and came to be known as the “forgotten pogrom of the Holocaust.”

It was also the beginning of the end of Iraq’s 2,700-year-old Jewish community.

“From that point on, I was a Zionist,” my father told me. “I saw evil. I saw how primitive and barbaric they were. All they wanted, all they wanted,” he repeated, “was to see us dead.”

“I couldn’t live like that. I just couldn’t.”

Obsessed with the thought of Israel, my father began courting his mother, my “Safta,” to send him to live with an uncle in Jerusalem. Despite the fact that he had already proven he could take care of himself, she refused. Still, Abba would not relent and being the ever-resourceful boy that he was, attempted all modes of appeal until he finally threatened to fling himself from the nearest cliff if she continued to rebuff his pleas.

Yes, my father had a flair for the dramatic, but it worked, and not before long he found himself on a train to the Holy Land.

Though he was just a young boy not much older than my youngest nephew is now, my father was indeed every bit the adult the times required him to be. Determined, he set out to build a new life for himself and his family in Eretz Israel, far from the murderous grip of Islamists bent on annihilating them.

Little did he know at the time, his battle had just begun.

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