Tevet 28, 5766
official response to a global commemoration of the Holocaust, the Iranian
mission to the United Nations dispatched a letter to the General Assembly
president last week which called for "scientific scrutiny and rigor" to
determine the veracity of the Nazi genocide against European
The Iranian document, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, accuses Israel of "routinely attempt[ing] to exploit the suffering of the Jewish people in the past as a cover for its crimes being perpetrated against Palestinians in the occupied territories, including massacres, demolition of houses, properties and farmland as well as acts of state terrorism."
In the letter, the Iranians urge the international community "not [to] allow the Zionist regime to manipulate humanitarian sentiments to pursue its illegitimate goals."
"Addressing an historical event of horrifying enormity, with the view towards avoiding its reoccurrence, requires a commensurate degree of scientific scrutiny and rigor," the letter, which was unsigned and dated January 23, states.
"Rendering political judgement of such an event and closing the door to any scientific inquiry on their characteristics, scope, and extent would seriously undermine the sincerity of the endeavor, particularly in its preventive aspect," it said.
"The basic principle of democracy, including the right of freedom of expression and belief, should pave the way for exploring different aspects of historical events without any arbitrary restriction," the letter reads. "Moreover, genocide and immense suffering should not be manipulated for political purposes."
Gillerman: Iran preparing another Holocaust
In a speech before the UN General Assembly, Israel's Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman warned the world body that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's increasingly hostile rhetoric against Israel and his statements in favor of Holocaust denial carry with them a real threat of a future genocide.
"We sound an alarm, a call to arms and a wake-up call to the world," said Gillerman, who cautioned of the gravity of "a world in which a member state of this organization calls for wiping Israel off the map, a world in which an extreme and evil regime denies the Holocaust while preparing the next one."
"On this day I want to express to you in this hall and around the world my deep regret," Gillerman said. "I regret terribly that the State of Israel did not exist in 1938 or 1943, because if it did, this horrible event would never have happened."
"And today, from this podium, in this hall, on this solemn day, I warn to you that as long as there is an Israel no Jew will again be made to wear a yellow star or will be tatooed with a number," Gillerman said.
"And I warn to you there will forever be an Israel so this horror will never be witnessed again," Gillerman said before ending his remarks with a Hebrew proverb.
"We remember the sacrifice of the victims, we salute the courage of the survivors, many of whom are in this hall, as their numbers dwindle while the Holocaust turns from a memory to becoming history," Gillerman said.
"May God give his people strength, may God bless his people with peace. Shabbat shalom."
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday the fate of the victims of the Holocaust should remind the world to be vigilant against racism and keep in check the "bigots" denying the extermination of the Jews during World War II.
"The fate of the victims of the Holocaust should be a warning for all of us that we live in a world where ... you have modernism mixed with barbarism and we should be vigilant in trying to ensure in that what happened is never repeated," Annan told reporters after meeting with Holocaust survivors in Zurich.
The meeting was held to commemorate the liberation of Nazi death camps on Jan. 27, 1945 and to mark the first "International Holocaust Remembrance Day."
Annan called on individuals and governments to counter the "bigots" denying the Holocaust. "There are bigots today that deny ... that the unique experience of the Holocaust occurred and that should be countered. You start with humiliations, you start with racism, you demean the other and before you know it has moved on to incredible levels," he said.
Kurt Julius Goldstein, a 91-year old German who spent 30 months in the Auschwitz concentration camp, said he survived thanks to Polish miners who smuggled a sandwich for him every night. "It is due to their solidarity that I am still alive." Goldstein said he enjoyed exchanging some of his feelings with Annan.
Marian Turski, an 83-year old Polish survivor, said the friendship and tight discipline between 10 camp members helped him survive. After losing his glasses - usually a death sentence in the camps - each of his friends gave up a third of his meager daily bread ration to bribe camp guards for a pair of replacement glasses.
The commemoration comes just four days after Iran said it would follow through with plans to organize a conference on what it terms the "scientific evidence" for the Holocaust.
The planned conference, which has drawn condemnation from Western leaders, is yet another step in hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's public campaign against Israel.
Ahmadinejad has called the Nazis' World War II slaughter of 6 million European Jews a "myth," and said the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."
Without mentioning Iran by name, Annan said in a statement, "we must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made."
Last year, the UN General Assembly commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps with a special session, a stark change for a body that was often reluctant to address the extermination of the Jews during World War II.
Soviet troops liberated the largest death camp, Auschwitz, on Jan. 27, 1945. Between 1 million and 1.5 million prisoners - most of them Jews - perished in gas chambers or died of starvation and disease there. Overall, 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
European leaders remembered the Holocaust on Friday with commemorations shadowed by concern over anti-Israeli remarks by Iran's president.
Several leaders used the occasion to reject Ahmadinejad's statement that Israel should be wiped off the map and his description of the Holocaust - the murder of 6 million Jews by the forces of German dictator Adolf Hitler - as a "myth."
On a clear, cold day at Auschwitz, Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz placed a wreath and bowed his head at the foot of the main memorial in honor of the some 1.5 million people who died at the Nazi-run camp.
The Holocaust "is a crime that tarnishes human history," Marcinkiewicz said. "Let it be a warning today and for the future. One cannot submit to ideologies that justify the possibility of trampling on human dignity."
Marcinkiewicz was joined by the Israeli ambassador to Poland, camp survivors and representatives of the Jewish community.
Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz and the neighboring Birkenau camp on Jan. 27, 1945, as World War II neared its end. Some 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, died there from gassing, starvation, exhaustion, beatings and disease. Other victims included Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazis.
In Prague, Auschwitz survivor Felix Kolmor urged people to look ahead as well as back.
"Let's not forget that memories of our suffering have to also be a point of departure for creating a better future," said Kolmer, 83.
Meanwhile, in Budapest, Hungary, some 3,000 people gathered outside parliament to release 600 white balloons symbolizing the 600,000 Hungarian victims of the Holocaust.
Tamas Bandi, 66, attended the memorial with his 13-year-old granddaughter, Agnes. "My mother and father were deported in front of my eyes when I was 4 years old," Bandi said, tears running down his face.
"These are my parents," Bandi said, pointing to the names he had written on a balloon.
"When I let go of the balloon, I will think of them looking down on me and wish that this never happens again."
Germany's parliamentary president Norbert Lammert urged that the lessons of the Holocaust continue to influence national policy, referring to recent remarks by Ahmadinejad in warning of the danger of anti-Semitism.
Lammert stressed that the need to commemorate the millions of Jews and other victims murdered by the Nazis will not diminish with time.
"We want to - and we must - continue to be prepared to learn from our history," Lammert said at a special session of parliament.
"The past weeks have shown us how much not only we Germans need this remembrance day," he said. "With dismay we have had to note that today, even presidents insist on describing the Holocaust as a fairy tale and go so far as to make anti-Semitic remarks.
Germany has joined other nations in expressing concern about Ahmadinejad's calling the Holocaust a "myth" and saying the Jewish state should be wiped off the map or moved to Germany or the United States.