Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter to President Bush (shamelessly reprinted in The Guardian today) is shocking enough, but according to Banking on Baghdad author Edwin Black, his holocaust denial is more like self-denial. In a widely-syndicated article written in January this year Black argued that the president of Iran need only look to his country's Hitler-era past to discover that Iran and Iranians were strongly connected to the Holocaust and the Hitler regime, as was the entire Islamic world under the leadership of the mufti of Jerusalem. (With thanks: Albert)
Iran's axis with the Third Reich began during the prewar years, when it welcomed Nazi Gestapo agents and other operatives to Tehran, allowing them to use the city as a base for Middle East agitation against the British and the region's Jews.
Key among these German agents was Fritz Grobba, Berlin's envoy to the Middle East, who was often called "the German Lawrence," because he promised a Pan-Islamic state stretching from Casablanca to Tehran.
Relations between Berlin and Tehran were strong from the moment Hitler came to power in 1933. At that time, Reza Shah Pahlavi's nation was known as Persia. The shah became a stalwart admirer of Hitler, Nazism and the concept of the Aryan master race. He also sought the Reich's help in reducing British petro-political domination.
So intense was the shah's identification with the Third Reich that in 1935 he renamed his ancient country "Iran," which in Farsi means Aryan and refers to the Proto-Indo-European lineage that Nazi racial theorists and Persian ethnologists cherished.
The idea for the name change was suggested by the Iranian ambassador to Germany, who came under the influence of Hitler's trusted banker, Hjalmar Schacht. From that point, all Iranians were constantly reminded that their country shared a common bond with the Nazi regime.
Shortly after World War II broke out in 1939, the Mufti of Jerusalem crafted a strategic alliance with Hitler to exchange Iraqi oil for active Arab and Islamic participation in the murder of Jews in the Mideast and Eastern Europe. This was predicated on support for a pan-Arab state and Arab control over Palestine.
During the war years, Iran became a haven for Gestapo agents. It was from Iran that the seeds of the abortive 1941 pro-Nazi coup in Baghdad were planted. After Churchill's forces booted the Nazis out of Iraq in June 1941, German aircrews supporting Nazi bombers escaped across Iraq's northern border back into Iran.
Likewise, the mufti of Jerusalem was spirited across the border to Tehran, where he continued to call for the destruction of the Jews and the defeat of the British.
His venomous rhetoric filled the newspapers and radio broadcasts in Tehran. The mufti was a vocal opponent of allowing Jewish refugees to be transported or ransomed into Jewish Palestine. Instead, he wanted them shipped to the gas chambers of Poland.
In the summer of 1941, the mufti, with the support of key Iranian military and government leaders, advocated implementing in Iran what had failed months earlier in Iraq. The plan once again was for a total diversion of oil from the Allies to the Nazis, in exchange for the accelerated destruction of the Jews in Eastern Europe and the Nazis' support for an Arab state. Through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., Iran had already been supplying Hitler's forces in occupied Czechoslovakia and Austria.
Now, the mufti agitated to cut off the British and the Allies completely and supply Germany in its push against Russia.
In October 1941, British, USSR other allied forces invaded Iran to break up the Iran-Nazi alliance. Pro-Nazi generals and ministers were arrested, and the shah's son was installed in power. The mufti scampered into the Italian embassy, where he shaved his beard and dyed his hair. In this disguise, he was allowed to leave the country along with the rest of the Italian delegation. (...)
Iran and its leaders were not only aware of the Holocaust, they played both sides. The country offered overland escape routes for refugee Jews fleeing Nazi persecution to Israel -- and later fleeing postwar Iraqi fascist persecution -- but only in exchange for extortionate passage fees.
Thousands of Jews journeyed to Israel via Iran both during the Holocaust and during the years after the fall of Hitler, when Arab leaders, especially in Iraq, tried to continue Germany's anti-Jewish program. Iran profited handsomely.
Since the shah's downfall, Iran has become a center for organized international Holocaust denial and has helped elevate the endeavor from fringe hate speech to a state-approved pseudo-intellectual debate.
In international forums and on state-controlled radio, Iranian university experts and journalists help validate the revisionist views that Jews were never gassed or murdered in great numbers during the Holocaust.
Indeed, Iran has become a refuge for the biggest names in European Holocaust denial. When in 2000, revisionist author Jürgen Graf was sentenced in Switzerland to 15 months in prison for Holocaust falsification, Graf fled to Tehran "at the invitation of a group of Iranian scholars and university professors who are sympathetic to Holocaust revisionism," according to the Institute for Historical Review, a denial clearinghouse.
What's more, in May 2000, Iran's embassy in Vienna granted asylum to Austrian Holocaust denier Wolfgang Fröhlich, who testified as a so-called expert witness during Graf's 1998 trial. This saved Fröhlich from Austria's severe anti-Holocaust denial statutes. Fröhlich argued that evidence proved no Jews were killed by Zyklon B gassing.
Earlier, about 600 journalists and 160 members of the Iranian parliament signed petitions supporting French revisionist Roger Garaudy, who was fined $40,000 by French authorities for his book claiming the Holocaust was a myth. When Garaudy landed in Iran, the country's supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Sayyad Khamenei, granted him an audience and lauded his work.
Iran has played a leading role in the Holocaust drama and now tries to deny it. That should be very hard in a nation that was named for Hitler's master race.