Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
Volume 23, Number 2, Winter 2005
pp. 89-119 | 10.1353/sho.2005.0059
Many studies of the Holocaust focus exclusively on European Jewry. It is essential to mention what happened at the time of the Holocaust to Sephardim and Near Eastern Jews. The fate of Near Eastern Jews would have been similar to the fate of their brothers in Europe had the Germans been successful on the North African front. One of the means by which Sephardim and Near Eastern Jews reacted to the tragedy of their brothers in Europe was through folk poetry and poetry. Near Eastern Jews expressed deep feelings of brotherhood with the Jewish victims of the Holocaust both at the time and after. Poets from Tunisia, Iraq, Yemen, and other countries wrote poetic responses to it at the time. In Israel, Sephardim and Near Eastern Jews published poetry about the Holocaust. On June 1-2, 1941, there was a pogrom against the Jews in Iraq as a result of Nazi incitement and propaganda and nationalistic-religious instigation. Jews were injured and murdered, Jewish women were raped, Jewish property was looted, and Jewish houses were burnt down. Jewish poets of Iraqi origin wrote poetic responses to this pogrom in Hebrew in Iraq and in Israel. In the poems of Sephardim and Near Eastern Jews about the Holocaust, the poets identify completely with the victims ("Us"—not "them"); the "crime" of the Jews was that they existed. A religious crisis was inevitable for some people, who asked where God was. The yearning and fight for a Jewish state was inevitable.