The most offensive Holocaust-denier

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, millions of people solemnly observed Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Day of the Inferno in Hebrew).  Yet many people still deny the existence of this most terrible of tragedies.

It is important to acknowledge that Holocaust denial is a cause embraced not just by fringe ideologues.  Holocaust-deniers exist in all shapes and sizes throughout the world.  Most egregiously, certain foreign governments affirmatively support this denial.

For me, international holocaust denial is personal, since one of the most widely reported deniers is my homeland: Iran.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran, has called the Holocaust a "lie and a mythical claim."  Ayatollah Khamenei has said, "No one in European countries dares to speak about the Holocaust[.] ... [It] is not clear whether the core of this matter is a reality or not.  Even if it is a reality, it is not clear how it happened."  An Iranian newspaper holds an annual Holocaust (Denial) Cartoon contest.  The cartoonist who best mocks the Nazi genocide is awarded $50,000.

Such rhetoric has presented a negative image of Iran and Iranians around the world.  But before the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, there was another Iran.  This Iran not only acknowledged the holocaust, but even assisted Jews during World War II.

To many Iranian Jews like my father, Abdolhossein Sardari was, and remains, a righteous hero from that era.  Sardari was the (Muslim) diplomat in charge of the Iranian consul in Paris in 1942, just as the Holocaust was coming to a climax in France.  Sardari, also known as "The Iranian Schindler," protected the sizable Iranian Jewish community of Paris by issuing its members new passports that did not state the passport-holder's religion, thus saving their lives.

Furthermore, Iran welcomed hundreds of Polish Jewish children during a time when Nazi Germany was carrying out its systematic murder of the Jewish people in Europe.  These children, who came to be known as the "Tehran Children," remained in Iran until they found safe passage to Mandatory Palestine.

Therefore, going forward, let us remind ourselves that the views of the government of Iran can be distinct from the views of the people of Iran.  Let us condemn the government of Iran for questioning the existence of an event so unthinkable that a new word, genocide, had to be created to describe it.  But let us also take time to remember the righteousness of the individual Iranians who did their part to mitigate this, and let us hope their example can be repeated by individuals in other nations facing genocidal killings throughout the world.

Jacqueline Saper is an author whose forthcoming book, From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Girl in Pre- and Post-revolutionary Iran, is scheduled to be published by the University of Nebraska Press – Potomac Books in spring 2019.

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, millions of people solemnly observed Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Day of the Inferno in Hebrew).  Yet many people still deny the existence of this most terrible of tragedies.

It is important to acknowledge that Holocaust denial is a cause embraced not just by fringe ideologues.  Holocaust-deniers exist in all shapes and sizes throughout the world.  Most egregiously, certain foreign governments affirmatively support this denial.

For me, international holocaust denial is personal, since one of the most widely reported deniers is my homeland: Iran.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran, has called the Holocaust a "lie and a mythical claim."  Ayatollah Khamenei has said, "No one in European countries dares to speak about the Holocaust[.] ... [It] is not clear whether the core of this matter is a reality or not.  Even if it is a reality, it is not clear how it happened."  An Iranian newspaper holds an annual Holocaust (Denial) Cartoon contest.  The cartoonist who best mocks the Nazi genocide is awarded $50,000.

Such rhetoric has presented a negative image of Iran and Iranians around the world.  But before the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, there was another Iran.  This Iran not only acknowledged the holocaust, but even assisted Jews during World War II.

To many Iranian Jews like my father, Abdolhossein Sardari was, and remains, a righteous hero from that era.  Sardari was the (Muslim) diplomat in charge of the Iranian consul in Paris in 1942, just as the Holocaust was coming to a climax in France.  Sardari, also known as "The Iranian Schindler," protected the sizable Iranian Jewish community of Paris by issuing its members new passports that did not state the passport-holder's religion, thus saving their lives.

Furthermore, Iran welcomed hundreds of Polish Jewish children during a time when Nazi Germany was carrying out its systematic murder of the Jewish people in Europe.  These children, who came to be known as the "Tehran Children," remained in Iran until they found safe passage to Mandatory Palestine.

Therefore, going forward, let us remind ourselves that the views of the government of Iran can be distinct from the views of the people of Iran.  Let us condemn the government of Iran for questioning the existence of an event so unthinkable that a new word, genocide, had to be created to describe it.  But let us also take time to remember the righteousness of the individual Iranians who did their part to mitigate this, and let us hope their example can be repeated by individuals in other nations facing genocidal killings throughout the world.

Jacqueline Saper is an author whose forthcoming book, From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Girl in Pre- and Post-revolutionary Iran, is scheduled to be published by the University of Nebraska Press – Potomac Books in spring 2019.