TEHRAN, Iran – Germany condemned a planned Iranian conference on the Holocaust and summoned Iran's charge d'affaires to the Foreign Ministry, saying that attempts to question the Nazis' murder of Jews were "shocking and unacceptable."
The conference, scheduled for Sunday and Monday, was organized by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called the systematic killing of some 6 million Jews a "myth" and "exaggerated." Some 67 foreign researchers from 30 countries are scheduled to attend the two-day meeting.
"We condemn all past and future attempts of anyone who gives a platform to those who relativize or question the Holocaust," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner said.
The Iranian president has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," and the Tehran conference appeared to be part of Ahmadinejad's public campaign against the Jewish state.
"The president simply asked whether an event called the Holocaust has actually taken place," Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi as saying. "No rational response was ever given to Ahmadinejad's questions," he added, explaining the rationale for the conference.
Ahmadinejad told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine in an interview in May that "if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation (the state of Israel) come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime?"
Mohammadi rejected any suggestion the conference would encourage anti-Semitism, calling discrimination against Jews a "Western phenomenon." The proof of Iran's lack of animosity toward Jews, he said, was Iran's 25,000-strong Jewish community.
Mohammadi said the conference seeks to "provide an opportunity for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom."
Tehran has announced plans for the conference several times. One such announcement came during a visit to Iran by United Nations chief Kofi Annan in September.
During his visit, Annan said an Iranian exhibition of cartoons denying the Holocaust, on display at the time, promoted hatred.
The Iranians mounted the exhibit after a wave of anger and violence swept the Islamic world over the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed.
The two-day Holocaust conference, sponsored by the Iranian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies, is scheduled for Dec. 10-11.
Some 67 foreign researchers from 30 countries are scheduled to attend, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
An Israeli Arab who last year opened a Holocaust museum in his home, said in November he planned to attend the gathering in Iran so he could tell the Iranians that the genocide could not be denied. Khaled Kasab Mahameed, a Muslim lawyer from Nazareth said he had been invited to the conference.
It was not immediately clear whether Mahameed still plans to attend, or where the 67 participants will come from.