The immorality of denying the Holocaust

By Bernardo Kliksberg (for Safe Democracy)

Bernardo Kliksberg explains that the recent international conference, held in Teheran, to ridicule the Holocaust should not be considered as merely one more anti-semitic and racist act, but as the murder, for the second time, of the six million Jewish children, women, men, elderly, artisans, tailors, farmers, and workers who died in Nazi extermination camps. In Kliksberg‘s opinion, by denying the existence of the Holocaust, Iran is paving the way for genocide and racism of all kinds to be carried out with impunity. If the Holocaust can be denied, why not also negate Rwanda, Darfur, and the countless other brutal massacres that have blemished human history? Now, more than ever, Kliksberg writes, the free men and women of the world must rescue memory, and stand up in defiance of hatred, racism, and genocide.

Bernardo Kliksberg is one of the foremost world experts on the fight against poverty. From Washington he directs the Inter-American Initiative on Social Capital, Ethics, and Development sponsored by the IADB. He is a special advisor to the UN, UNESCO, UNICEF and other international organizations, as well as being the author of hundreds of technical articles, and numerous books published worldwide, the most recent being an international best seller, “More Ethics, More Development”. He has advised the administrations of over 30 countries, including a number of presidents, and numerous public civil society and business organizations.

DAVID DUKE, THE MOST WELL KNOWN RACIST IN THE UNITED STATES, and ex-head of the Ku Klux Klan has returned. So has Roberto Faurisson, European racist leader who considers the Diary of Anne Frank to be a lie; Wolfgang Frohlich, Austrian neo-nazi who has declared the gas chambers to be a fraud; George Kadar, white supremacist opposed to immigration; and Georges Thiel, French apologist for Hitler.

And the man who rescued them from history’s annals of hatred is none other than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad took special care to invite these racists as honored guests to his country’s world conference on denying the Holocaust.

It’s too bad that the President of Iran didn’t invite some of the Nazi war criminals who are still alive to the conference. Franz Suchonel –Unterscharfuhrer of the SS in Treblinka– would have been happy to repeat his testimony from Claude Landzman’s famous documentary: At its peak, Treblinka processed between 12,000 to 15,000 Jews a day. We spent half the night working on them; one train loaded with victims could be processed in 2 to 3 hours. Yet, Suchonel did have some complaints about the way things were done at Treblinka: We used exhaust gas. Compared to us, Auschwitz was a factory.

It’s also too bad that Ahmadinejad did not show his visiting Fascists photos of the cemetery in Tarnov, Poland, where 800 Jewish children were brutally murdered on June 11th, 1942 by German executioners. Nor did he present to the congress photos of the Chelmno concentration camp, where of the 400,000 Jews processed, only two survived.

Only a short while ago, 190 member-countries of the UN approved the institution of the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance, to be celebrated on January 27th of every year. January 27th is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The resolution –presented by 104 countries, including nine Muslim countries– requires that the member states develop their own special programs to further education on the tragedy, and preserve the memory of the atrocity for future generations to prevent the recurrence of genocide.

The President of Iran is doing the exact opposite. In Teheran, on August 16th, he inaugurated the first exhibition in history of caricatures ridiculing the Holocaust. And on December 11th, he held an international conference bent on proving that the Holocaust never existed. This is much more than a simple anti-semitic or racist affront. The Nazis murdered six million Jewish children, mothers, elderly, artisans, tailors, farmers, and workers, and by denying that they ever existed, Ahmadinejad is murdering them all for a second time.

The conference also gives impunity to all future acts of genocide and hatred. If it is possible to delegitimize the Holocaust, will it not also be possible to deny the existence of Rwanda, Darfur, and countless other racist massacres? And yet, this kind of revisionism seems to fit right in with the Iranian President’s future plans. At the beginning of the conference he announced a new genocide: The State of Israel will one day be wiped off of the face of the earth.

In response to the conference, Noble Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel addressed Ahmadinejad directly saying: Shame on you, for being the greatest Holocaust denier in the world.

The leaders of the world were equally as defiant. Following the conference Kofi Annan declared: Any attempt to cast doubt upon the reality of this unique and undeniable horror should be firmly resisted by all good-willed people of all religions. The new Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, condemned the conference as well, saying: It is unacceptable to call for the elimination of States. And the Presidency of the European Union declared: We completely condemn any attempt, whether politically or racially motivated, to use pseudo-investigations to question the Holocaust. The continued efforts of the Iranian government to question and trivialize these undeniable historical facts are greatly disturbing. The Vatican also condemned the conference: The memory of these horrible deeds must remain as an eternal warning to the conscience of all people, everywhere.

Forty top world scientific institutions, from such varied places as Sweden, Poland, Bulgaria, Canada, France, and the US, severed their programs with the Iranian Institute of Political and International Studies, which organized the conference.

Their decision was not political: it was a moral one. Spokespeople from each institution expressed their belief that some lines cannot be crossed without having to pay the price. The boycott will not be reconsidered until the Iranian Institute explicitly rejects Holocaust denial. The Islamic Movement of Sheiks of Israel also condemned the conference.

According to the UN report on human development in 2006, Iran, despite being one of the main petroleum producing powers of the world, has an illiteracy rate of up to 23 percent, a life expectancy of only 70 years, a minimal expenditure on health (498 dollars per inhabitant per year), elevated rates of infant mortality (38 out of every 1,000 children die within their first 5 years), and a high rate of death in labor (76 women die for every 100,000 births). What sense does it have for the President to reawaken the hatred of his population against the Jewish people and Israel, with so many great challenges before his country?

It appears that Ahmadinejad is reverting to the use of a scapegoat, a common practice in the contemporary history of anti-semitism and racism in order to reduce tension surrounding internal problems, and consolidate power through xenophobia and hatred.

Considering the recent actions of their President, the claims of the Iranian government that it does not promote anti-Semitism seem almost absurd. These claims came in response to the ruling of an Argentinean court holding the Iranian government responsible for the terrorist bombing against the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires (AMIA). The fight to bring the perpetrators of the attacks to justice lasted 12 years in Argentinean courts and took the joint efforts of the Delegation of Israeli Associations in Argentina (DAIA), the Mutual Association of Israel and Argentina (AMIA), and familial organizations of the victims of the attacks. The final ruling held the attack to be a crime against humanity, and therefore unforgivable.

According to prominent historians, the Holocaust was only possible because the rest of the world remained silent. In those countries that rebelled against the genocide, like Denmark and Bulgaria, large parts of the Jewish community were saved. And so, this most recent call to erase the memory of the Holocaust and destroy Israel must not be accompanied, yet again, by silence. Now is the time to raise our voices loud, as free men and women of this world, to rescue memory, and make it clear that racism and genocide can no longer be carried forward with impunity.

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