The Magazine

Iran's Obsession with the Jews

Denying the Holocaust, desiring another one.

Feb 19, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 22 • By MATTHIAS KüNTZEL
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Anyone inclined to dismiss the significance of such statements might want to consider the proclamation made by Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who stands even higher in the Iranian hierarchy than Ahmadinejad. A few months ago, on November 16, 2006, Rahimian explained: "The Jew"--not the Zionist, note, but the Jew--"is the most obstinate enemy of the devout. And the main war will determine the destiny of mankind. . . . The reappearance of the Twelfth Imam will lead to a war between Israel and the Shia." The country that has been the first to make Holocaust denial a principle of its foreign policy is likewise the first openly to threaten another U.N. member state with, not invasion or annexation, but annihilation.

Yet it's all confusing. Why, if Iran wishes Israel ill, does it deny the Holocaust rather than applaud it? Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial has been especially well received in the Arab world, where it has won praise from Hezbollah, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. Yet in the Arab world, Hitler is admired not for building highways or conquering Paris, but for murdering Jews. How can Holocaust denial be most prevalent in a region where admiration for Hitler remains widespread? To unlock this paradox it is necessary to examine the anti-Semitic mind.


Brother Hitler and Eichmann the Martyr

Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism at its most extreme. Whoever declares Auschwitz a myth implicitly portrays the Jews as the enemy of humanity: The assumption is that the all-powerful Jews, for filthy lucre, have been duping the rest of humanity for the past 60 years. Whoever talks of the "so-called Holocaust" implies that over 90 percent of the world's media and university professorships are controlled by Jews and are thereby cut off from the "real" truth. No one who accuses Jews of such perfidy can sincerely regret Hitler's Final Solution. For this reason alone, every denial of the Holocaust contains an appeal to repeat it.

Consider this passage written by an Egyptian columnist for the state-controlled newspaper Al-Akhbar, Egypt's second-largest daily, and published in April 2002:

The entire matter [of the Holocaust], as many French and British scientists and researchers have proven, is nothing more than a huge Israeli plot aimed at extorting the German government in particular and the European countries in general. But I, personally and in light of this imaginary tale, complain to Hitler, even saying to him from the bottom of my heart, "If only you had done it, brother, if only it had really happened, so that the world could sigh in relief [without] their evil and sin."

Often, however, enthusiasm for the Holocaust is expressed unvarnished. In 1961, when the trial of Adolf Eichmann dominated the headlines, such enthusiasm became evident for the first time. The Jordanian Jerusalem Times published an "Open Letter to Eichmann," which stated: "By liquidating six million you have . . . conferred a real blessing on humanity. . . .

But the brave Eichmann can find solace in the fact that this trial will one day culminate in the liquidation of the remaining six million to avenge your blood." Arab writers such as Abdullah al-Tall eulogized "the martyr Eichmann," "who fell in the Holy War." In her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt summarized the mood in the Arab world:

The newspapers in Damascus and Beirut, in Cairo and Jordan did not conceal either their sympathy for Eichmann or their regret that he "did not finish the job"; a radio broadcast from Cairo on the opening day of the trial even included a little sideswipe at the Germans, reproaching them for the fact that "in the last war, no German plane had ever flown over and bombed a Jewish settlement."

This heartfelt desire to see all Jews exterminated was reiterated in the Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar in April 2001 by the columnist Ahmad Ragab: "[Give] thanks to Hitler. He took revenge on the Israelis in advance, on behalf of the Palestinians. Our one complaint against him was that his revenge was not complete enough."