‘We don’t want to be antisemitic,’ says cleric, but maybe ’50 or 60 Jews’ were killed in Holocaust

The Friday sermon echoed the Iranian government’s own Holocaust denial.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

An Iranian mullah formally representing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently gave a sermon in which he said that almost no Jews were killed in the Holocaust, an Arab media monitoring organization reported Thursday.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translated a portion of a Friday address by Gholamali Dorri-Najafabadi in the city of Arak that was shown on Iranian television two weeks ago.

He first lamented that Holocaust denial was unacceptable, claiming, “If anyone talks about the Holocaust, [the West] imprisons them, flogs them, executes them, fines them.”

The white-bearded cleric then gave his own numbers, which sharply contrasted with the historically accepted figure of six million Jews having been systematically murdered and starved to death during World War II.

“[The number of] Jews killed in the Holocaust and during Hitler’s [rule] was not six million,” Khamenei’s delegate to the Markazi province told a packed audience of men. “There were not even six million Jews [in Europe] to be killed.  Maybe sixty, six, or fifty were killed.”

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“We don’t want to be antisemitic,” he continued, “but this has been used as a pretext. So for 70 years they have been fighting Islam, hijab, and Muslims.”

The audience is not seen reacting to his words, with most of them seeming stoic or bored as they listened.

Dorri-Najafabadi’ speech echoed his boss’s sentiments exactly. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2016, Khamenei famously referred to the Nazis’ attempted genocide in an official video by saying, “it is not clear whether the core of this matter is a reality or not. Even if it is a reality, it is not clear how it happened.”

He also mentioned how questioning the Holocaust was taboo in the West, saying, “Speaking about holocaust and expressing doubts about it is considered to be a great sin. If someone does this they stop, arrest, imprison and sue him. This is while they claim to be supporters of freedom. This is the ignorance that exists in the world today.”

That video was also translated by MEMRI, whose mission, it says, is to provide “research, analysis and translation of primary materials covering a wide range of issues, including on terrorism and ideological trends in the Middle East….to alert the public to threats.”

Current President Ebrahim Raisi has cast doubt about the truth of the Holocaust, while one of his predecessors, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who served as Iranian president from 2005 to 2013, proudly pointed to his role in promoting Holocaust denial “at the global level,” which he said “broke the spine of the Western capitalist regime.”

It was under his auspices that in 2006, Tehran ran an International Holocaust Cartoon Contest, which contained virulently antisemitic and anti-Israel pictures. The contest was held again in 2015. They took place both times in reaction to anti-Muslim cartoons published in Europe, the first time in a Danish newspaper and the second time in a French magazine.