Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discusses the Holocaust
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discusses the Holocaust, the future of the state of Israel, mistakes made by the United States in Iraq and Tehran's nuclear conflict with the West. [Excerpt]
SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?
Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn't surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.
SPIEGEL: Denying the Holocaust is punishable in Germany. Are you indifferent when confronted with so much outrage?
Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don't know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?
SPIEGEL: Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years' historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.
Ahmadinejad: Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe.
On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation ...
SPIEGEL: ... You mean the state of Israel...
Ahmadinejad: ... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.
SPIEGEL: That has long since happened in Germany.
Ahmadinejad: We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact - we greatly regret this - that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.
Ahmadinejad: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history. The Holocaust and Palestine are directly connected with one another. And if the Holocaust actually occurred, then you should permit impartial groups from the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the research to a certain group? Of course, I don't mean you, but rather the European governments.
SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"
Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.
SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?
Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.
SPIEGEL: Who is that supposed to be? Which researchers do you mean?
Ahmadinejad: You would know this better than I; you have the list. There are people from England, from Germany, France and from Australia.
SPIEGEL: You presumably mean, for example, the Englishman David Irving, the German-Canadian Ernst Zündel, who is on trial in Mannheim, and the Frenchman Georges Theil, all of whom deny the Holocaust.
Ahmadinejad: The mere fact that my comments have caused such strong protests, although I'm not a European, and also the fact that I have been compared with certain persons in German history indicates how charged with conflict the atmosphere for research is in your country. Here in Iran you needn't worry.
SPIEGEL: Well, we are conducting this historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are you questioning Israel's right to exist?
Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?
SPIEGEL: That's just not the case. All peoples mourn the victims claimed by the Second World War, Germans and Russians and Poles and others as well. Yet, we as Germans cannot absolve ourselves of a special guilt, namely for the systematic murder of the Jews. But perhaps we should now move on to the next subject.
Ahmadinejad: No, I have a question for you. What kind of a role did today's youth play in World War II?
Ahmadinejad: Why should they have feelings of guilt toward Zionists? Why should the costs of the Zionists be paid out of their pockets? If people committed crimes in the past, then they would have to have been tried 60 years ago. End of story! Why must the German people be humiliated today because a group of people committed crimes in the name of the Germans during the course of history?
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Eric Zuesse - 6/15/2006
Ahmadinejad's assertions that the Holocaust is questionable result from the failure of historians to explain the Holocaust in any way that makes sense. The prevailing historical view, represented by Ian Kershaw in his widely praised biography HITLER, and before him by David Irving in his widely condemned work HITLER'S WAR, that the Holocaust was not intended by Hitler before entering power (that Hitler was just a "weak dictator"), or that the Holocaust against the Jews was simply a degenerated form of anti-bolshevism driven by Goebbels and Himmler and Heydrich goading Hitler on in this supposed anti-bolshevist hysteria (and that Jews were exterminated because all Jews were considered to be bolshevists, and not because Jews were simply Jews), runs contrary to massive bodies of historical evidence. Obviously, if such views are respectable among historians and can thus be said to be "historical" and not outside the bounds of professional work in history, then the view that the Holocaust never happened at all should be, too. On this basis, Ahmadinejad's view is historically serious, when he tells SPIEGEL that there is doubt whether the Holocaust occurred: "There are two opinion on this. ... One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned [such as David Irving]." Counterfactual "history" should be demonstrated to be counterfactual and then condemned as such, regardless of whom it comes from--Kershaw, Irving, or anyone else. Only then can the Holocaust denial of Ahmadinejad and others be effectively defeated.