The International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust
was a two-day conference that opened on December 11
, in Tehran
. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki
, said the conference sought "neither to deny nor prove the Holocaust
... [but] to provide an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom about a historical issue." The 67 attendees from 30 countries included the American Yisroel Dovid Weiss
of Neturei Karta
; the American David Duke
, former Republican
member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
and Imperial Wizard
of the Ku Klux Klan
, Austrian Jew Moshe Aryeh Friedman
, Holocaust deniers Robert Faurisson
and Fredrick Töben
, and Canadian political science
professor Shiraz Dossa.
The conference was widely described as a "Holocaust denial conference" or a "meeting of Holocaust deniers", and provoked worldwide criticism. The Vatican condemned it, the White House called it an "affront to the entire civilized world," and Tony Blair described it as "shocking beyond belief." Holocaust historians attending a separate conference in Berlin organized to protest the Iranian one called it "an attempt to cloak antisemitism in scholarly language."
According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the conference would not aim to deny or prove the Holocaust
, but to create opportunities "for suitable scientific research so that the hidden and unhidden angles of this most important political issue of the 20th century becomes more transparent." The event was organized by the ministry's Institute for Political & International Studies
The goal of the conference was to discuss the reality of the Nazis' extermination of Jews during World War II. The Foreign Minister of Iran and other officials stated that the conference was meant to allow the expression of various viewpoints which cannot be legally expressed in Europe.
According to the Iranian Foreign Minister: "If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt. And if, during this review, it is proved that the Holocaust was a historical reality, then what is the reason for the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis' crimes?"
American David Duke, a former Louisiana State Representative and one-time Ku Klux Klan leader, attended the conference. French writer Georges Thiel, who had been convicted under Holocaust denial laws in France, attended, as did Fredrick Töben of Australia who had been imprisoned in Germany for three months in 1999 for Holocaust denial. Robert Faurisson, a convicted Holocaust denier from France also attended, as well as Ahmed Rami, a Swedish-Moroccan Holocaust denier who was imprisoned in Sweden for inciting racial hatred.
Among the participants in the Tehran conference were six members of Neturei Karta, including Aharon Cohen who said he had come to the conference to put the Orthodox Jewish viewpoint across. Cohen also said that while the Holocaust indisputably happened, "in no way can it be used as a justification for perpetrating unjust acts against the Palestinians." Moshe Aryeh Friedman was quoted by the media as claiming that the Holocaust is "a successful fiction"..
Shiraz Dossa, a professor of Political Science at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada, presented a paper at the conference and was roundly lambasted for his participation by the Canadian media and his university.
An Israeli Arab
lawyer Khaled Kasab Mahameed
, was denied permission to attend the conference by Iran after it was discovered that he holds Israeli citizenship. He had been previously, repeatedly, invited to attend by the Iranian government; however Iran does not grant visas
to Israelis. According to Ha'aretz
, Mahameed intended to tell the conference that:
- "the Holocaust did happen and that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's position of Holocaust denial is wrong. "Everything that happened must be internalized and the facts must not be denied . . . It is the obligation of all Arabs and all Muslims to understand the significance of the Holocaust. If their goal is to understand their adversary, they must understand the Holocaust. ... The naqba [disaster] the Palestinians experienced in 1948 is small compared to the Holocaust, but the political implications of the Holocaust have made its terrors a burden on the Palestinian people alone...The Holocaust has all the reasons for the creation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also has potential to bring peace."
gave a speech in which he said: "In Europe you can freely question, ridicule and deny Jesus Christ
. The same is true for the prophet Muhammad
, and nothing will happen to you. But offer a single question of the smallest part of the Holocaust and you face prison."
Frederick Töben told the conference: "Minds are being switched off to the Holocaust dogma as it is being sold as a historical fact and yet we are not able to question it. This is mental rape."
Rabbi Aharon Cohen told the conference:
- There is no doubt whatsoever, that during World War II there developed a terrible and catastrophic policy and action of genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany against the Jewish People, confirmed by innumerable eyewitness survivors and fully documented again and again. I personally was spared the worst effects of the War because I was living in England which thankfully was not occupied by Nazi Germany. However, I and many many others lost countless friends and relatives who perished under the Nazi rule by intentional murder and genocide. Three million Jews in Poland, more than half a million in Hungary, many tens or hundreds of thousands in Russia, Slovakia, France, Belgium, Holland and more. The figure of six million is regularly quoted. One may wish to dispute this actual figure, but the crime was just as dreadful whether the millions (and there were millions) of victims numbered six million, five million or four million. The method of murder is also irrelevant, whether it was by gas chamber (and there were eyewitnesses to this), firing squads or whatever. The evil was the same. It would be a terrible affront to the memory of those who perished to belittle the guilt of the crime in any way."
Papers delivered by participants from countries ranging from Austria to Indonesia included "A Challenge to the Official Holocaust Story," and "Holocaust, the Achilles Heel of a Primordial Jewish Trojan."
Richard Krege maintains the allegation of diesel exhaust gas chambers to be an "outright lie," and showed a model of the Treblinka extermination camp to illustrate this. He claimed that up to 10,000 people died in the camp, and of disease, not extermination. Most historians believe that at least 800,000 prisoners were murdered in the camp.
"There is no scientific proof to show that this place was an extermination camp. All that exists are the words of some people," he said .
On the second day of the conference, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted the disintegration of the Israeli regime once again, saying that, "The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, and humanity will achieve freedom". He said elections should be held among "Jews, Christians and Muslims so the population of Palestine can select their government and destiny for themselves in a democratic manner."
According to IRNA
, the state news agency of Iran, the conference participants agreed to start a world foundation for Holocaust studies, with Mohammad-Ali Ramin
as its Secretary General. As yet, the stated purpose of this foundation will be to "find out the truth about holocaust". More immediate tasks include preparing for the next Holocaust conference and composing the foundation's letter of association.
The main office will initially be located in Tehran, though Ramin says it will eventually move to Berlin, "once proper grounds are prepared".
Public opinion in Iran
Iran's sole Jewish member of parliament, Maurice Motamed
, said that: "Holding this conference after having a competition of cartoons about the Holocaust
has put a lot of pressure on Jews all over the world and it can give nations and governments a very negative impression of Iran." Motamed also said "The conference has upset Iran's 25,000-strong Jewish community", and an unidentified former senior government official said "Such conferences should not be held."
Though reformist demonstrations have been rare since Ahmadinejad took office, a few dozen students burnt pictures of him and chanted "death to the dictator" as Ahmadinejad gave a speech at Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran on 12 December 2006. They shouted, "Fascist president, the Polytechnic is not a place for you. President Ahmadinejad responded by saying: "Everyone should know that Ahmadinejad is prepared to be burnt in the path of true freedom, independence and justice." One student activist said the protest was against the "shameful" Holocaust conference, and added that the President had "brought to our country Nazis and racists from around the world".
However, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, Secretary-General of the International Congress to Support the Palestinian Intifada, expressed support for the conference, saying that the "Western and Zionist media have always been aggrandizing the dimensions of the reality of Holocaust, mixing a bit of truth with a great deal of lies.
Various governments have criticized the conference:
- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "Denying historical facts, especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust, is just not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any State or people. I would like to see this fundamental principle respected both in rhetoric and in practice by all the members of the international community. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself visited Iran and had a series of dialogues with the Iranian leadership and other senior-level people. Wherever and when, and if the situation requires me to do, I am also prepared to engage in dialogue with the Iranian leadership".
- According to the New York Times, the "German government summoned the Iranian chargé d’affaires in Berlin to complain." Germany also organized a counter-conference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after a meeting with Ehud Olmert said "I would like to make clear that we reject with all our strength the conference taking place in Iran about the supposed nonexistence of the Holocaust."
- Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, "denounced the conference before embarking on a two-day trip to Germany" calling the gathering "a sick phenomenon that shows the depths of hatred of the fundamentalist Iranian regime." Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, "commented on the Holocaust conference at a Knesset meeting ... and said, 'I didn’t come to this meeting to argue with the evil one from Tehran and his allies. He can’t erase the pain of the survivors.' Israel's Chief Rabbi, Yonah Metzger, called upon Jews worldwide to refuse entrance to Temples to the members of Neturei Karta who attended.
- The United States condemned the conference; the U.S. State Department described the Iranian event as "yet another disgraceful act on this particular subject by the regime in Tehran". "It is just flabbergasting that they continue — that the leadership of that regime continues to deny that six million-plus people were killed in the Holocaust," spokesman Sean McCormack said. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles planned to hold a teleconference during the same period as the Iranian conference which would focus on individual stories from Holocaust survivors.
- French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said France would condemn the conference if participants used it for Holocaust denial.
- Tony Blair, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, denounced the conference as "shocking beyond belief". Blair also said that it was "a symbol of sectarianism and hatred toward people of another religion. I mean, to go and invite the former head of the Ku Klux Klan to a conference in Tehran which disputes the millions of people who died in the Holocaust … what further evidence do you need that this regime is extreme?"
- Karel De Gucht, the Belgian minister of Foreign affairs said he "condemned the revisionistic and negationistic expressions (of Iran) and the repeated questioning of the right to exist for the state of Israel".
- Canadian Minister of Foreign affairs Peter MacKay said that the conference was "an outrage. It was an insult to Holocaust victims. It was an insult to their descendants. Canada's new government and I am sure many others in this House (of Commons) and around the globe condemn this conference, just as we have previously condemned the Iranian president's comments about the Holocaust as hateful."
- Russia has "protested against the distortion of history and attempts to conceal the truth regarding Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust" a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
- Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Johann Aeschlimann said that the ministry condemned any querying of the right of Israel to exist, as had once again happened in Tehran, and of the Holocaust. "The Shoah is a historical fact. It is unacceptable to call this into question," he said.
- The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its website that Poland "expresses its strong disapproval of the conference, which contradicts the idea of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust established by the UN General Assembly, and celebrated on 27 January...Any attempt at contesting this truth arouses serious concern in Poland, where 6 million people were victims of the Nazi genocide". The Ministry also consigned informational material from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to Iranian scholars, seeking to "deepen their knowledge" of the Holocaust.
- The Mexican government issued a rejection letter disapproving of the Conference and its results. In a statement on its website, the Foreign Secretary wrote, "The Government of Mexico, through the office of the Foreign Secretary, agrees with the international disapproval of the Iranian Conference on the Holocaust... and rejects all negation, either partial or total, of the Holocaust as historical fact". (translation)
- The Vatican condemned the conference.
- The Archbishop of Canterbury declared the conference a "disgrace", and called for the Holocaust to be memorialized in order to prevent its denial by future generations.
Thirty four of the world’s leading policy institutes released a statement on 15 December
that they would break off all relations with Iran's Institute for Political and International Studies
. Signatories included the directors of the International Institute for Strategic Studies
; the Aspen Institute
; the German Marshall Fund
; the Geneva Centre for Security Policy; the Center for International Studies and Research in Paris
; the United States Studies Centre in Sydney
; and the Center for International Relations in Warsaw
Ayaan Hirsi Ali called on Western leaders to wake up to the reality of the situation. She stated "For the majority of Muslims in the world the Holocaust is not a major historical event they deny; they simply do not know because they were never informed. Worse, most of us are groomed to wish for a Holocaust of Jews." She describes how she never learned anything about the Holocaust while she was studying in Saudi Arabia and Kenya. She called for action from charities: "Western and Christian charities in the third world should take it upon themselves to inform Muslims and non- Muslims alike, in the areas where they are active, about the Holocaust."
Defense of Conference by Canadian Professor Shiraz Dossa
Shiraz Dossa, a professor of Political Science
at St. Francis University
in Nova Scotia
, the only Canadian to attend the conference, defended the paper he read at the conference as an essay "about the war on terrorism, and how the Holocaust plays into it." He said the Jewish loss at the hands of the Nazis was used as "a political construct" to "justify certain policies by people, some of whom are Zionists. And now that whole issue plays into the war on terrorism, which is essentially a war on Islam."
Dossa further defended the conference in an article written for the Literary Review of Canada in June of 2007. Dossa wrote that it was a fallacy "that the event was a Holocaust-denial conference because of the presence of a few notorious western Christian deniers/skeptics, a couple of a neo-Nazi stripe. It was nothing of the sort. It was a Global South conference convened to devise an intellectual/political response to western-Israeli intervention in Muslim affairs. Holocaust deniers/skeptics were a fringe, a marginal few at the conference. The majority of the papers focused on the use and abuse of the Holocaust in Arab, Muslim, Israeli and western politics, a serious and worthy subject for international academic discussion... It was not a Holocaust-denial conference by any stretch. That’s all false."
Dossa also wrote that the idea that the it was a holocaust-denial conference was a "fallacy that had been concocted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Jewish Defense League and peddled by media outlets such as The Globe and Mail" and that "It was the Zionists and the neo-Nazis who, for very different, self-serving reasons, depicted it as a Holocaust-denial conference and sold it to willing, anti-Iranian Islamophobes."
- In reaction to this conference, a counter conference on anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial was organized in Berlin, “The Holocaust in Transnational Memory”. The Keynote speaker was American Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, author of "The Destruction of the European Jews." Topics discussed included the mechanisms and intentions at the root of the various forms of Holocaust denial and the polarization of the Muslim and Western worlds. Speakers emphasized the view that Holocaust denial is a form of anti-Semitism and that Ahmadinejad is using the theme, together with his threats against Israel, to gain international standing among Arabs. It was further emphasised that "most Iranians would reject Ahmadinejad's views, but they're a silent majority".
- A symposium was also held in Jerusalem, entitled, "Holocaust Denial: Paving the Way to Genocide", for members of the diplomatic corps. Its scientific adviser, Yehuda Bauer, said Iran's Holocaust denial was raising objections among Arab intellectuals. Speakers included American Ambassador to the U.N.John Bolton, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Dore Gold, Israel's Ambassador to the United States Meir Roseanne; Canadian Parliament member Irwin Cotler, and Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz. One proposal was entitled, "Bring Ahmadinejad to Justice For Incitement to Genocide. Speaking at the symposium, Yigal Carmon, of the Middle East Media Research Institute, said "the Iranian regime's Holocaust denial is not a manifestation of irrational hatred, but a premeditated and cold-blooded instrument to achieve its goals [of the] denial of Israel's legitimacy [and the] elimination of the Zionist Entity, i.e. Israel".
- Another conference was held in Bali, Indonesia, organized by former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid. This is notable because Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, although Bali is also known as predominantly Hindu.
On 26 January 2007
, the United Nations General Assembly
overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning Holocaust denial, with only Iran
voting against. Three days earlier, the United States
proposed the resolution and representatives of the European Union
mustered the majority support for it. Turkey
, who held the EU's presidency at the time, acted to obtain a majority support for the proposal. By the 26th, the resolution had 104 sponsors.