Dear Mr. Dangoor,
I am writing from Rabat, Morocco, my temporary home, to
ask your assistance on a query regarding the topic of my
current research, relations between Jews and Arabs during
World War II. Specifically, I am trying to determine whether
any Iraqi diplomats in Europe in the pre-war or early war
years assisted Jews to leave Nazi or Fascist controlled
countries. This is part of a larger project looking at what
I call ''Arab heroes'' and ''Arab villains''. Individual
Arabs who assisted Jews facing Nazi/Fascist persecution
during the war and individual Arabs who themselves participated
in that persecution.
I am an Oxford-trained historian-who served for the past
decade as director of The Washington Institute for Near
East Policy. Feel free to check my bona fides with Sylvia
Kedourie, Abbas Keliver, or the editors of the Jerusalem
Report, who wrote such a favorable article on you some months
My question to you was prompted by the following: In the
course of my research, I came across the story of an Egyptian
Muslim man and an Austrian Jewish woman who married in Berlin
in May 1938. With their Egyptian marriage certificate, issued
by the Egyptian embassy in Berlin, they were able to go
to Cairo and then on to London, from where they secured
exit visas for the woman's entire family, thereby saving
them from the death camps.
This prompted a thought: Could there have been Arab diplomats
in pre-war Europe who provided birth and marriage certificates
for Jews: either for humanitarian or more mercenary reasons,
thereby enabling them to escape the coming horror? (I don't
devalue the action if mercenary instincts were involved;
after all, it is the outcome that matters. Oskar Schindler,
for example, was a businessman first and foremost.)
In those years, there were only two Arab countries with
European embassies- Iraq and Egypt. Given the large Jewish
populations in both Iraq and Egypt, it is not difficult
to imagine various consular officers having special concern
for Jews who appealed to them for help. I have been working
on gaining access to Egyptian consular records of the period.
So far, the Egyptians have not been forthcoming, but I remain
hopeful. I have even less hope that Iraqi documents from
the period still exist. Therefore, I am trying to trace
Jewish families who may have fled Europe by coming to Iraq,
either to stay in Iraq or moving from there to other places.
Have you ever heard stories of Jews approaching Iraqi missions
for help or of Iraqi diplomats providing documents for European
Jews in the pre-war years? Do you think it is possible?
If yes, do you have advice for how to find proof? I apologize
for this lengthy letter. I do hope you are able to respond.
Please accept my best wishes.
Naim Dangoor :
In 1941 the then Prime Minister of Iraq, Rashid Ali Gailani,
Staged a pro-Nazi revolt which was defeated by the British
Army and Rashid Ali and his government fled to Berlin where
they remained throughout the war years, and were recognised
by Germany as the legitimate government of Iraq.
Iraqi Jews in Europe, holding an Iraqi passport, were therefore
automatically spared the German anti-Jewish decrees. Whether
there were cases requiring the intervention of the Iraqi
government in exile I cannot Say, However I can say that
neither Rashid Ali nor his ministers were anti-Jewish.
Sephardi Jews were themselves Spared through the intervention
of General Franco and were not treated as Ashkenazi Jews.
In fact General Franco offered Spanish citizenship to all
Sephardi Jews who asked for it, and many did.
i am not aware of any Jews approaching Iraqi consular missions
for help, but as I lived for three of the war years in Istanbul
I became aware of a continuing flow of European Jews to
Turkey, and from there to Other parts of the Middle East,
including Iraq, as well as, of course, to Palestine.
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