Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. More than 75 years after one of the darkest episodes in the history of humanity drew to a close, it has never been so important to ensure the lessons the world purported to have learned from this mass atrocity are inscribed and re-inscribed on our hearts and souls, and also on the statute books.
Within less than half a decade in the mid-20th Century – and in Western Europe, no less, which had long posited itself as the seat of civilization and modernity – the Nazis were able to murder six million Jews, two-thirds of the continent’s Jewish population, and around five million others including Roma gypsies, the disabled, gay men and political opponents. They were able to work whole families to death in forced labor camps, exterminate them in gas chambers and burn their corpses in purpose-built crematoria, all in the name of racial and societal “purity”.
Almost equally horrifying was the complicit environment in which it came to take place. Perhaps it is of note that all this had begun with the burning of book; and with stirring if ultimately dishonest public speeches and propaganda. In a matter of perhaps a decade, the Nazis had also managed to convince a sizeable proportion of the German population – and countless others in other countries around the world, too – that their approach was the right one.
Successive other genocides since the Holocaust have shown us that our collective memory is a delicate thing; turn away from the past for too long, and we can still be swayed by toxic and murderous ideologies in the present. No small wonder that states like the Islamic Republic of Iran, with its track record for murdering its own people, try to convince the public that the Holocaust did not happen.
For this reason we cannot afford to stop telling the story of the Holocaust no matter how many decades go by. But there are many different ways to do this. World War II was also a time of immense courage, ingenuity and resolve on the part of millions of individual people – values that some exemplary figures have carried well into the 21st Century and continued to champion. There are untold stories, hidden aspects. There is always more to learn.
The articles below are the product of a recent collaboration, The Sardari Project, between IranWire and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in New York. In this series of articles and videos we tried to shed light on some lesser-known stories from World War II and the Holocaust, explore the genealogies of antisemitism and propaganda, and highlight the work of heroes fighting against hatred and prejudice around the world – both then and now.
IranWire’s founder Maziar Bahari explains the rationale behind The Sardari Project.
The remarkable true story of how an Egyptian physician who protected a young Jewish girl from the Nazis in wartime Berlin.
The history of one of the world’s oldest and most pervasive conspiracy theories, and how this antisemitic myth came to be imported to Iran and given a local flavor.
Mikhal Dekel recounts the little-known journey made by thousands of Polish Jewish refugee children from Soviet-occupied Poland to Iran during World War II.
Some of the surviving “Tehran Children” recall their memories of the Iranian capital after their harrowing journey out of Europe during the war.
The story of young Swedish-Iranian’s efforts to teach schoolchildren in an antisemitism-afflicted community about the Holocaust through education programs and trips to Auschwitz.
The inspirational journey of a top human rights barrister, whose Baha’i childhood friend was murdered by the regime in Iran and who went on to become a war crimes prosecutor for the United Nations.
The Senior Vice President of International Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League reflects on a career spent combating antisemitism and racial hatred.
Propaganda expert Renee Hobbs and our correspondent Arash Azizi consider the many and dangerous forms propaganda has taken over the course of the last century.
The history of propaganda, from music to school textbooks to internet disinformation, being used to manufacture consent in Iran since the Islamic Revolution.
Renee Hobbs’ unflinching examination of how propaganda helped the Third Reich come to power and allowed the Nazis – and other genocidal regimes since – carry out their crimes with impunity.
The tale of a distinguished Islamic scholar and curator of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina who saved priceless Jewish manuscripts from destruction – as well as the life of a young Jewish girl – in Sarajevo during World War II.
An examination of systemic persecution of the Baha’i religious minority group in Iran and the early warning signs that without international intervention, a genocide could have occurred.
The fascinating history of Jewish presence in Morocco and the country’s efforts to preserve this part of its heritage and culture after the tumultuous events of the 20th Century.