Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Scrolling through the State Department's Web site on German history on Monday, Rabbi Marvin Hier thought the description of the Holocaust was too understated.

"Once in power, Hitler and his party first undermined and then abolished democratic institutions and opposition parties. The Nazi leadership immediately jailed Jewish opposition and other figures and withdrew their political rights. The Nazis implemented a program of genocide, at first through incarceration and forced labor and then by establishing death camps," read the background note from the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

Surprised by the lack of specificity in this account, Hier checked the State Department histories of Rwanda, Sudan and Cambodia -- among other examples of high death tolls -- and noted they were all more meticulously detailed than the recounting of the Holocaust.

"It didn't make any sense," he said in an interview yesterday. "You could attribute it to somebody writing very fast, but why write about Stalin and skip by Germany?"

So Monday afternoon, Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the center "is greatly disturbed" by the official description of German history, which "ignores and downplays the Nazi role in the 'Final Solution' and the murder of six million Jews."

Hier also made his plea relevant to current events, noting: "When antisemitism and Holocaust revisionism are rampant throughout the world and when haters like Ahmadinijad and Khaled Mashaal either deny the veracity of the Holocaust or claim its numbers are exaggerated, the official website of the United States State Department should emphasize and not minimize the centrality of the Holocaust."

By late Monday afternoon, officials told Hier that they would change the background note. A State Department spokesman said yesterday that revisions were promised "very soon."

-- Rachel Dry

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