(Iraq) Iraqi Jewish Archive Artifacts To Stay in US For Undetermined Time

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

An agreement has been reached between the US and Iraqi governments under which the Iraqi Jewish Archive will remain in the United States for an unspecified period. The exhibit was due to be returned after the exhibit closed in New York City this week.

Lukman Faily, the Iraq Ambassador to the United States stated, according to the State Department: “…This exhibit has led to an increase of understanding between Iraq and United States and a greater recognition of the diverse heritage of Iraq. I am therefore pleased to announce that, in order to continue this important work and to allow the exhibit to be displayed in other cities in the United States, the Government of Iraq has authorized me to extend the period which the exhibit may remain in the United States."


Late last year and earlier this year I posted on the Jewish Gen Discussion Group about the Iraqi Jewish Archives— archives taken and brought to the United States after the US entered Iraq in 2003. The exhibit, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage” detailed the dramatic recovery of historic materials relating to the Jewish community in Iraq from a flooded basement in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, and the (US) National Archives’ ongoing work in support of U.S. Government efforts to preserve these materials. The artifacts were found ten years ago by US forces in the basement of Saddam Hussein’s headquarters and were taken to the US for  conservation which took years.   The collection includes more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1540 to the 1970s. The US spent more than US$ 3 million to restore the texts.  The controversy surrounded the agreement between the United States government and the Iraqi government to return the artifacts to Iraq—as today there are virtually no Jews in Iraq . By 1910, Jews comprised roughly a quarter of Baghdad's population; But Nazi-inspired riots in 1941, known as the Farhud, helped drive out the population. In the early 1950s, forced to relinquish citizenship and stripped of their assets, some 120,000 Jews had fled. After Israel became a state in 1948, martial law was declared in Iraq and many Jews left in the mass exodus in 1950-51. Almost all of those who remained behind left by the 1970s. When fleeing, their artifacts and those of historical significance were left behind .

A resolution calling for the original agreement to return the archive to be re-negotiated was approved by the US Senate and a second resolution is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.

Thank you to Merle Kastner, vp JGS Montreal for alerting us to this new development with the Iraqi Archives.

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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