December 11, 2006
Manouchehr Mohammadi: Historical events warrant research.
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran on Monday opened a two-day conference exploring the validity of the Nazi Holocaust, a move that has sparked outrage among Jewish groups.
One such group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, planned to counter the event with a teleconference showcasing stories from Holocaust survivors.
Manouchehr Mohammadi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for research, told Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA, that Tehran's leaders would accept that the Holocaust occurred if scholars attending the conference could prove that the Nazi regime exterminated 6 million Jews during World War II.
But Mohammadi said Iran does not deny the murders and damages caused by Hitler's genocide, nor that 50 million people were the victims of his racism, according to IRNA.
He said the conference is to be held in response to international outrage at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated assertion that the Holocaust is a myth. (Full story (http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/12/14/iran.israel/))
"If the Holocaust is a historical event, then is it not warranted to be looked into and researched?" Mohammadi asked rhetorically.
Because of the negative reactions to the nature of the conference, Iran has not announced the names of the participants, but said it would include Jewish scholars and rabbis, IRNA reported.
No one from Israel will attend the conference, which began at 9:30 a.m. (1 a.m. ET), Mohammadi said.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center announced on its Web site that it would convene a videoconference of 70 Holocaust survivors whose personal accounts are intended to counter the Tehran conference.
The center said the conference will be attended by "close to 70 Holocaust revisionists and deniers."
The videoconference will be held at the center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles beginning at 9 a.m. (noon ET), and will be linked to the center's New York and Toronto offices.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center, rejected the Tehran conference as one of several attempts by Iran to deny the validity of the Holocaust.
"This is an outrage, an insult to humanity, that a country could stoop so low as to deny the greatest crime in the history of civilization," Hier said.
"That is why we gathered together Holocaust survivors who will counter these bigots and revisionist claims by giving first-hand accounts of what they actually experienced and witnessed and how their lives were shattered."
Mohammadi said if Iran accepts the validity of the Holocaust, the next question examined will be, "Why should the Palestinians pay for the Holocaust?"
Mohammadi said Tehran also plans to host conferences to look into what he described as genocide by Europeans against Native Americans, Africans and the Palestinians.