The Farhud by Edwin Black Banner


This book is a nightmare. I regret anyone must read it. I regret it was necessary to write. I regret that I was the one who had to write it. I hope it never becomes necessary to write another like this one. Perhaps that is why I labored ten hours per day for more than a year to document the Farhud and the roots of the Arab-Nazi alliance in the Holocaust—that is, the truth about what happened and why.

Readers will see the word Farhud—the violent dispossession of the Jews of Baghdad—writ large upon the cover of this book. Yet, this work is about much more than one pogrom—a senseless orgy of violence on June 1–2, 1941, when Arab-Nazis murdered, raped, and pillaged the Jewish community who had dwelled there for 2,600 years. The Farhud is but a symbol of a vastly larger story that unfolds in this book. On the cover, readers will see the famous, iconic picture of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem talking to Hitler. But the Mufti is merely the glittering tip of the curved sword. The saga within these pages is not about a Mufti, nor any one man, as much as a repetitive mass movement for mass murder, erupting decade after decade, until it became volcanic during the Holocaust. As you will see, the principal figures explain why and how this was done—in their own words.

Excavating hidden Holocaust histories is in my DNA, being the son of Polish Holocaust survivors. My mother escaped from a train, my father from a shooting squad. Why became the imprinted fire of my existence. In my first book, The Transfer Agreement, I chronicled the dramatic and seemingly impossible Zionist entanglements with the Third Reich during the painful negotiations to achieve the release of Jews and their property from Germany into Palestine. Then, in IBM and the Holocaust, I exposed the sordid story of IBM’s conscious co-planning with the Hitler regime of all six phases of the Holocaust; that is, identification, exclusion, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and physical extermination—all because “business” was the company’s middle name. Then, in War Against the Weak, I uncovered the extraordinary history of the American eugenics movement, its early twentieth century quest for a master race—decades before the Hitler regime, and how the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation spent millions in philanthropic donations to transfer their racist platform into Nazi Germany— even to the point of funding the program that ultimately sent Mengele into Auschwitz.

It was in my third book, Banking on Baghdad, in 2005, futilely hoping to move into another realm of research, oil and the history of Iraq, that I first encountered the details of the Farhud riot and the impact of oil on the lives of the Jews and Arabs of the Middle East. My fourth book, Internal Combustion, on the history of fuel and energy, once again brought me to this same precipice as I discovered the odious intersection of General Motors and its mass production of trucks, tanks, bombers, and other weaponry for the Nazi military machine. Without that sudden motorization, the world might well have seen a profoundly less mobile Holocaust, and one that did not hinge on petroleum. Those issues were recurring themes in my fifth volume, The Plan, and my sixth book, Nazi Nexus—which tied it all together in a single, dark fabric. For me, the voyage of history has always been one of circumnavigation. No matter how far I travel, I end up where I started.

Hence, I was more than prepared to tie together the last great thread of my mission—the role of the Arabs and Islam in the extermination of more than six million Jews and other “ethnic enemies”—during the Holocaust. I first began researching and writing about the Mufti of Jerusalem in the late 1970s on The Transfer Agreement. To me, the Mufti was nothing more than a hatemonger, an inexplicably aberrant Arab leader aligned with the Third Reich. But how could this happen and why did it happen? Discovering the tragedy of the Farhud led me to also ask how it was possible that a large community of Jews, which had dwelled in Iraq for 2,600 years, a millennium before the advent of Islam, could become alien in their own land and the object of planned extermination in their cities.

That required a personal voyage, one the reader will share. It was not enough to document the blood and blades of the two-day Farhud pogrom. That would have been too easy.

The real questions were these. Who were the Jews? That took me all the way to that ancient Mesopotamian, Abraham, and then to the Romans in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Who were the Muslims? That took me back to Muhammad in seventh century Arabia. Who indeed were the people of Iraq or Mesopotamia? That took me back to the beginning of recorded time, some 5,000 years ago, when the so-called “cradle of civilization” first began to tremble. How did the West, from Great Britain to Germany, come to be so involved in Iraq? That last question took me into the hidden annals of the 160- year history of commercial oil, its discovery, the lust for its black magic, and the fact that Iraq had it—and the West wanted it. What orogenous factors of history brought these tectonic forces together? Only by illuminating the dark and often inaccessible crevices of all these stories can we understand the vast, international Arab-Nazi alliance during the Holocaust, the many tens of thousands of ordinary Arabs and Muslims, prompted by audacious leaders, who crusaded against their Jewish cousins.

When we speak of German Jew-hatred resulting in the Holocaust, we can never mean all Germans, a corrupt idea. Today, Mercedes-Benz is among the vehicles of choice in Israel; Germany sells the Jewish State her submarines. German volunteers have always been the mainstay of my projects. When we speak of the Turks mass-murdering the Armenians, it would be corrupt to generalize to include all Turks, as many refused to participate and have their own noble culture of peace with their neighbors. When we speak of the extermination of the Native Americans by the white man in America, or the slavery inflicted against Africans, those despicable stories are defined as much for their racist transgression as by the many European Americans who fought against those horrors, often giving their lives to undo these crimes.

While this volume chronicles in great detail the horrible acts of Muslims against Jews, going back centuries, that bear a direct impact on the Holocaust, using the precise Holocaust-era and post-World War I words of the original actors, no monolithic generalization against Muslims or Arabs can be made. That, too, would be a corruption of my work. In this volume, you will learn that when Catholic Spain expelled the Jews during the Inquisition, it was the Muslim world that took them in for the sole purpose of sponsoring their thriving existence. Readers will learn sadly that going back more than a century, there never was a day of peace between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine. Make no mistake—Palestine functioned as the inextricable fulcrum between Iraq and Nazi Germany. Yet, history records that at all times, many Arabs in Palestine tried to stand tall for peace with their Jewish neighbors, risking extreme political and communal consequences. You will learn the names of those Arabs in Palestine who tried and lost the quest for peace. You will discover that in the darkest hour for Jews in the Muslim world suffering in the Holocaust, many Jews are alive today in many countries for only one reason: their Muslim neighbors refused to allow them to perish and gave them a hand to safety when Jewish victims barely had the strength to take it.

In all of my books, I have established an explicit contract with my readers based on the complete storyline that unfolds. That contract holds as follows: if you cannot read the entire book without skipping around, do not buy it. Close the cover, and walk away. That injunction holds supremely true for this volume. I do not seek partial readers. Partial understanding is why this book, The Farhud, was necessary. That said, when one tackles a topic of such enormity, going back to the beginning of recorded time, sweeping across millennia, continents, a world raging in war, and corporations contending to prosper in the process, the writer must omit 99.9 percent of everything. Indeed, every chapter is a mere invitation to read a bookshelf of other excellent works about the subject of that chapter.

Another caution is required. The Farhud: Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust is a story of the twentieth century—decades ago. It is being published in the twenty-first century in an era of polemics, politicization, and polarization on the core issues of the history. This book and this author will not participate. Do not use this book to contrive a feeling against any of our neighbors, as the pendulum of bigotry is a perpetual motion machine that finds all who approach it. Do not fear history, as facing it is the only means by which we can emerge from the dark past, switch on the lights of our future path, and achieve equality and peace between peoples. Only by facing the stark realities of yesterday can we hope to create an honest tomorrow of harmony. This has been the experience worldwide where peoples have emerged from conflict.

I want this Holocaust history to prove any point other than the one I made the week before this book was published, when I lectured on the topic to an auditorium of high school students in North Carolina. After the presentation, I went to each table and reminded them: use a legacy of hate to create a future of peace. Can it be done? Yes, it has been done and can yet be done again in the Middle East. I keep hearing the song Holocaust survivors sang as they sailed from the charnel house of Europe to Israel. The song is named “Hatikva.” It became the national anthem of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. In Hebrew, hatikva means “hope.”

Edwin Black
October 23, 2010
Washington, D.C.