Israel launches Persian-language site on Holocaust

Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:08pm EST
 
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By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Holocaust museum launched a YouTube channel in Farsi on Sunday with the aim of countering Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's public denials that acts of genocide ever happened in World War Two.

The site offers survivor testimonies, many videotaped specifically for an Iranian audience, with a set of images of Jewish victims at Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp where many of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust perished.

"I lost my entire family at Auschwitz," Greek-born Yaacov Handeli, 84, says in one segment, speaking in Hebrew on a video recording with Farsi subtitles.

Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Museum that Israel established in the 1950s, said he hoped that providing such "direct personal connection" for Iranian Internet users would "build trust and empathy" between them and Holocaust victims.

In answer to a question, Shalev said he "very much" hoped the videos could undermine Ahmadinejad's efforts to deny the Holocaust. The channel was launched ahead of the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

Shalev said he believed the debate generated by the Iranian leader's controversial comments had stirred enough interest among many Iranians to inspire significant viewership.

Ahmadinejad's questioning of the Nazi genocide and of Israel's right to exist, have coincided with a standoff with the West over a nuclear program Israel sees as a mortal threat. Iran denies intending to produce an atomic bomb.

Yad Vashem has already launched YouTube sites in other languages, including English, Arabic and most recently, Spanish.

In an introductory message on the Persian site, Israeli President Shimon Peres calls the Holocaust a "watershed" with a universal message and hopes viewers will learn "to beware not to let history fall against to such depths, to such shame."

(Editing by Matthew Jones)