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UN Chief Denounces Denial of Holocaust

DW staff (dc)
January 27, 2006

UN chief Kofi Annan on Friday denounced those who deny the Holocaust, as the world body marked the 61st anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

Friday is the day of remembrance for the victims of the Nazi terror regimeImage: AP

"Remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated," Annan said in a statement.

"Holocaust denial is the work of bigots. We must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made."

Annan also urged the world to remain vigilant.

Kofi Annan verlangt UN-Reform
Kofi Annan urged the world to remain vigilant to Holocaust denialImage: AP

"Remembering is also a safeguard for the future. The abyss reached in the Nazi death camps started with hatred, prejudice and anti-Semitism. Recalling these origins can remind us to be ever on the lookout for warning signs."

"The United Nations was founded as a reaction to the horrors of the Second World War. Even so, the international community has too often failed to stand up to mass atrocities," Annan added. "Let us pledge ourselves to even greater efforts to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity."

Annan, who is visiting Switzerland, was set to meet with Holocaust survivors in Zurich later Friday.

Continued fight against anti-Semitism

In November, the UN General Assembly declared Jan. 27 its official memorial day for the Holocaust -- the systematic slaughter of an estimated six million Jews, as well as other groups, by the Nazis during World War II.

The first memorial day is being marked amid a storm provoked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has described the Holocaust as a "myth." Ahmadinejad, an ultra-conservative who came to power in a surprise victory last June, has provoked international condemnation with a number of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish remarks.

Germany grounds Holocast denier

Last week, the Iranian foreign ministry announced plans to hold a conference to question the Holocaust, though it has yet to fix a date.

German authorities have already acted to prevent prominent right-wing extremist and Holocaust denier Horst Mahler from attending the conference, stripping him of his passport for six months.

The interior ministry of the eastern state of Brandenburg said that Mahler could harm Germany's image if he denied the Nazi's genocide of European Jews while abroad.

Mahler, a founding member of the Red Army Faction leftist guerrilla group before veering to the far-right, was forced to hand in his passport once before in 2003 when he announced his intention to travel to the Auschwitz and question the scope of the Holocaust.

Ernst Zündel
Neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel awaits trial in MannheimImage: AP

Last year, he was sentenced to nine months in jail for inciting racial hatred, after being fined in May 2004 for calling the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States "justified."

Another notorious German Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel, is due to go before a court in Mannheim on Feb. 9 on charges of incitement, libel and disparaging the dead. Zundel was deported to Germany from Canada last year. A verdict in his trial is expected in March. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted.

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