The German government called in an Iranian diplomat to protest against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's verbal attacks on Israel, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Wednesday.
Iran's president says the Holocaust is a myth
He described the hardline president's remarks denying the Holocaust and suggesting Israel should be relocated to Europe as "shocking and totally unacceptable." Steinmeier told journalists that, in the absence of the Iranian ambassador, the government on Monday called in Iran's charge d'affaires in Germany to signal its disapproval of the president's latest outburst.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday described the Iranian president's comments as "inconceivable." A government spokesman said she would bring up the issue at the impending EU summit in Brussels and push for a joint statement rejecting the remarks.
In a live broadcast on state Iranian television, Ahmadinejad accused the people of Israel of having "invented a myth that Jews were massacred." He said that "myth" is given higher priority than God, religions and the prophets.
"If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything, but if somebody denies the myth of the massacre of Jews, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream," he added.
Ahmadinejad openly proposed giving a piece of land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska "so they (the Jews) can create their own state," he said. "Be certain that if you do that, the Iranian people will no longer protest against you and will support your decision."
Iranians filled the streets of Tehran in an anti-Israeli rally in October
The Iranian president has already sparked international outrage over a string of anti-Israeli outbursts. In October, he said Israel should be "wiped off the map," and last week he drew censure from the United Nations and international condemnation when he described Israel as a "tumor" that should be moved to Germany or Austria. He said he did not accept the claim that Adolf Hitler murdered millions of Jews.
But his latest comments are the clearest yet that he is a denier of the Holocaust -- Nazi Germany's systematic slaughter of an estimated six million Jews between 1933 and 1945.
"If you say it is true that you massacred and burned six million Jews during the Second World War, if you committed this massacre, why should the Palestinians pay the price," Ahmadinejad asked.
"Why, under the pretext of this massacre, have you come to the heart of Palestine and the Islamic world," he asked. "Why have you created an artificial Zionist regime?"
No illusions about regime
Prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp in 1945
The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, on Wednesday called Ahmadinejad's latest remarks "repulsive." "I lost my sister and several other relatives in the Holocaust. Words fail one when one hears such unbearable utterances," he told the Tageszeitung according to an advance extract of its Thursday edition.
Ahmadinejad's statements have been condemned by individual EU states and Britain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, on Wednesday renewed its condemnation.
"The comments are wholly unacceptable and we condemn them unreservedly. They have no place in civilised political debate," Britain's Minister for Europe, Douglas Alexander, said in Strasbourg to the applause of European parliamentarians.
Earlier in the day, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said "we hope these extremist comments by the Iranian president will make the international community open its eyes and abandon any illusions about this regime." In a move which echoes the Iranian president's comments, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament, Gholamali Haddad Adel, has called for a probe into the Holocaust. On Tuesday, he accused Europe of preventing any such investigation which he said would "clear up any open questions."