Arts

Extraordinary Story Of Iraqi Jewish Life On View Now At Breman Museum

The United States National Archives has recovered and preserved thousands of books and tens of thousands of documents found in Saddam Hussein's palace basement, like this text printed in 1567.
The United States National Archives has recovered and preserved thousands of books and tens of thousands of documents found in Saddam Hussein's palace basement, like this text printed in 1567.
Credit Courtesy of the National Archives

Jews thrived in Iraq for some 2,500 years, but it only took 50 years for their community to all but disappear.

The preservation of Iraqi Jewish life is an extraordinary story, and it’s being told in Atlanta right now at the Breman Museum.

In May 2003, coalition troops charged with searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction, were instead tipped off about a curious discovery in the basement of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein’s palace. The basement, flooded with four feet of water, held thousands of books and tens of thousands of documents on Iraqi Jewish culture.

The materials, with cooperation from Iraqi representatives, were transported to the United States and preserved and digitized over a 10-year period. The texts date from the 15th century to about 1970. Ghila Sanders, the acting director of the Breman Museum, spoke with “City Lights” about the extraordinary archive and about the story of the Jews in what is now known as Iraq.

“Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage” is on view now through April 29 at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta.