- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2006

12:38 p.m.

TEHRAN — Iran today opened a conference that it said would examine whether the Holocaust took place, claiming the meeting was an opportunity to discuss the World War II genocide in an atmosphere free of what it termed Western taboos.

The conference was initiated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has described the Holocaust as a “myth” and called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Even before it opened, the gathering was condemned by Germany, the United States and Israel.

The meeting coincided with an independently convened conference on the Holocaust in Berlin, where historians affirmed the accuracy of the Nazi genocide data and questioned the motives of those behind the Tehran forum.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies said its two-day conference has drawn 67 foreign researchers from 30 countries.

Among the participants were the prominent French Holocaust denier, Robert Faurisson, and six members of the group Jews United Against Zionism, who were dressed in the traditional long black coats and black hats of Orthodox Jews.

The Jews, two of whom said they were rabbis, came from the United States, Britain and Austria.

In his opening speech, the institute’s chief, Rasoul Mousavi, said the conference provided an opportunity to discuss “questions” about the Holocaust away from Western taboos and the restrictions imposed on scholars in Europe.

In Germany, Austria and France, it is illegal to deny the Holocaust.

“This conference seeks neither to deny nor prove the Holocaust,” Mr. Mousavi said. “It is just to provide an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom about a historical issue.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki dismissed the foreign criticism as “predictable,” telling conference delegates there was “no logical reason for opposing this conference.”

“The objective for organizing this conference is to create an atmosphere to raise various opinions about a historical issue. We are not seeking to deny or prove the Holocaust,” Mr. Mottaki said.

“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 Muslim people of the region and the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis’ crimes?” Mr. Mottaki asked.

In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the conference “a sick phenomenon.”

Israel’s Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, condemned the conference as an attempt to “paint [an] extremist agenda with a scholarly brush.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly questioned why the Holocaust has been used to justify the creation of Israel at the cost of Palestinian lands — a view popular among Iranian hard-liners.

At the Berlin conference, the historian Raul Hilberg, author of landmark three-volume “The Destruction of the European Jews,” said that figures for the Holocaust are largely based on records kept by the perpetrators, such as the SS division of the Nazi German army.

“This is not a figment of the imagination. This comes from the Germans themselves, and therefore any denial of these figures is absolutely senseless,” Mr. Hilberg told the conference.

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