Thursday, May 04, 2006

Persians Gather To Commemorate Holocaust

Holocaust- a slide presentation for Ahmaghinejad to see:

By Karmel Melamed

Nearly 1,000 Persians Americans and local civic leaders of different religious backgrounds gathered at the Nessah Cultural Center in Beverly Hills last Sunday, April 23, to honor the memory of the nearly six million Jews who perished in the Nazi genocide during World War II.

The event this year was of particular importance for local Iranian Jews and Muslims as a show of unity against recent statements made by Iran?s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denying the existence of the Holocaust.Tonight is a historic event as Iranians of various faiths have gathered here to commemorate the Shoah and we pledge that this tragedy will never be repeated, said George Haroonian, an Iranian Jewish community activist and the day?s event coordinator.

Keynote speaker Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in West Los Angeles, said remembering the tragedy of the Holocaust is especially significant today as Iran?s government has been developing nuclear weapons and its President has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction.

"Many in the world don?t understand why Jews are so obsessed with commemorating the Shoah," Heir said. "We must remember because we paid a dear price for allowing the world to be silent when it was going on more than 60 years ago."

Another speaker, Stanford University professor and director of the Iranian Studies program, Dr. Abbas Milani, spoke of the long history of tolerance between Iranians and Jews despite the anti-Semitic rhetoric from Iran?s current regime.

"I'm here to tell you that the words of Ahmadinejad do not represent the views of the majority of Iranians in the world," Milani said. "I hope the world realizes that the captive people of Iran and those Iranians in exile do not make the same choices as Ahmadinejad and are not in the same camp as the Nazis."

Members of various southern California-based Persian language satellite radio and television outlets opposed to Iran?s current regime were also on hand to cover the event at Nessah, which will be broadcasted in Iran in the coming days.

Many of the thousands who turned out for the event waited on foot for several hours just to hear the speakers and catch a glimpse of a 20-minute video showing a collection of anti-Semitic speeches made by Ahmadinejad and Holocaust revisionist programs on Iran state-sponsored television stations.

Experts familiar with Iran?s fundamentalist Islamic regime said Ahmadinejad's comments about the Holocaust were not designed to divert the world's attention from Iran?s nuclear crisis, but were based on the Iranian government's deep-rooted anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi ideologies.

"This issue of Holocaust revisionism is not just a diversion or demagoguery," said Frank Nikbakht, founder and director of the Committee for Religious Minority Rights in Iran. "It is really what the Iranian government officials believe and not just what Ahmadinejad believes. It is part and parcel of their long-term program of global jihad as embodied in the current Iranian constitution."

About 10 Holocaust survivors were also in attendance, including 88-year-old Menashe Ezrapour, a Westwood resident and the only known Iranian Jewish Holocaust survivor to be interned in Nazi concentration and work camps during World War II.

At the start of the war, Ezrapour was an Iranian college student studying engineering in Southern France when he was sent to various camps, including the notorious Gurs Concentration camp. After more than 60 years of silence about his experiences, Ezrapour went public two years ago about his suffering at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust.

What I went through in the camps is too painful to recall, but I thought it was important to be here today to remember those who perished," Ezrapour said.

Many in the audience were in tears during the event as special Hebrew prayers were chanted for the victims of the Holocaust and six candles representing the millions who perished were lit by Ezrapour and the speakers.Haroonian and other organizers said Ezrapour?s story is important because it represents first-hand proof of the tragedies of the Holocaust from an Iranian who experienced the same events that Iran?s President denies ever occurred.

Other officials in attendance at the Nessah gathering were Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch, Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Jimmy Delshad, and Deputy Director of Community Affairs for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Michelle Kleinert


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