A trove of Jewish books and other materials, rescued from a
sewage-filled Baghdad basement during the 2003 invasion, is now caught
up in a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Iraq.
Ranging from a medieval religious book to children’s Hebrew primers,
from photos to Torah cases, the collection is testimony to a once
vibrant Jewish community in Baghdad. Their present-day context is the
relationship, fraught with distrust, between postwar Iraq and its Jewish
Discovered in a basement used by Saddam Hussein’s secret police, the
collection was sent to the U.S. for safekeeping and restoration, and sat
at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Maryland
until last year, when Iraqi officials started a campaign to get it back.
Initially contacts went well, but now the deputy culture minister,
Taher Naser al-Hmood, says “The Americans are not serious” about setting
a deadline for getting back the archive.
U.S. officials deny that they are delaying its return. They say they
only recently got the roughly $3 million needed to clean up the
materials — the whole point of bringing them to the U.S. — and they
question the rush to return the collection now, when the goal is so
“It is not U.S. government material, and we have every intention of
returning it,” said Phil Frayne, a spokesman for the S… >>>