Iran's Leader Renews Doubt Of Holocaust

Monday, May 29, 2006

BERLIN, May 28 -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said that Germans should no longer allow themselves to be held prisoner by a sense of guilt over the Holocaust and reiterated doubts that the Holocaust ever happened.

In an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, Ahmadinejad said he doubted that Germans were allowed to write "the truth" about the Holocaust and that he was still considering traveling to Germany for the World Cup soccer tournament.

"I believe the German people are prisoners of the Holocaust. More than 60 million were killed in World War II. . . . The question is: Why is it that only Jews are at the center of attention?" he said in the interview published Sunday.

In the rare interview with a Western news organization, Ahmadinejad said that if the Holocaust really happened then Jews should be moved from Israel back to Europe.

"We say if the Holocaust happened, then the Europeans must accept the consequences and the price should not be paid by Palestine. If it did not happen, then the Jews must return to where they came from."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other politicians have said his previous remarks questioning the Holocaust were "unacceptable." Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany punishable with a prison term of up to five years.

Ahmadinejad said he was still considering going to Germanyto support Iran in the World Cup despite protests stirred by what he called a "worldwide network of Zionists."

Iran's first World Cup match is against Mexico in Nuremberg on June 11, and German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said Iran's president would be welcome to come because Germany wants to be a good host. The invitation sparked protests from other political leaders and groups who said Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli comments were unacceptable.

Ahmadinejad's latest comments were condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Rabbi Marvin Hier, a founder and dean, called on Merkel to keep him out of Germany.

"On a day when the pope is in Auschwitz to remind the world of the horrors of the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad questions it again," Hier said. "For him to be at the World Cup and sit in a VIP seat would be a desecration of the memory of the Holocaust."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company