40 Questions, 40 Answers About the Holocaust

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On Jews and Judaism

Who is Jewish?

     According to Jewish tradition, a child born of a Jewish mother is Jewish, as well as anyone who converts to Judaism following strict rules and rituals. A person can be Jewish, but at the same time not religious. Non-religious Jews are referred to as secular Jews. Jewish religious tradition includes different movements, from the strict Orthodox tradition to conservative and Liberal Judaism.

How many Jews are there in the world today?

     Approximately thirteen million Jews live throughout the world, a tiny fraction of the total world population of 6.6 billion. About half of them live in Israel, while the United States, Russia and France also have sizeable Jewish populations. In the past thirty years the Jewish population in the world has only grown by two percent, in contrast to a 60 percent increase in the total world population.

Are Jews a race?

     No. In terms of biology, there is only one race: the human race. But in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, some influential European scientists were interested in proving the superiority of their own race - the "white race". Their ideas were used by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s to distinguish the Aryans from other races. The Nazis devised a "race ladder" which put the Aryans at the top and the "Semitic race" at the bottom. Modern science and genetic studies have conclusively disproved the notion of race classifications.

What is anti-Semitism?

     Anti-Semitism is a synonym for the hatred of Jews and anti-Semitic means anti-Jewish. The word anti-Semitism became popular around 1880 because of articles and pamphlets written by Wilhelm Marr, a German journalist who came to be known as the "father of anti-Semitism". While political anti-Semitism arose in the nineteenth century, religious anti-Semitism (also known as anti-Judaism) began in ancient times and continued into the Middle Ages, particularly within the Christian Church. The legitimacy of religious anti-Judaism was based on the accusation that the Jews incited the Romans to murder Jesus Christ, a Jewish preacher who the Jews did not recognize as the Biblical Messiah.

 
Is there a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world?

     While hatred of Jews goes back a long time in history, the idea that Jews are out to dominate the world gained currency in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This myth, which played an important part in Nazi propaganda in Germany, was revitalized at the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia with the release of the book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This book was produced by the Tsarist regime in Russia to divert public opinion from the country's severe crises and blame the Jews for the plight of the Russian people. The Protocols provide an alleged account of twenty-four secret gatherings of the so-called Elders of Zion, a fictitious group of rich Jews. These men gather to discuss the question of how they can destroy the Christian community and establish a Jewish world order. The Protocols were first published in a newspaper in St. Petersburg in 1903 and other releases quickly followed - versions often differing extensively.
Sadly, the Arabic and Persian versions of the Protocols are widely distributed in the Muslim world, and Muslims are being misled by this forgery. In 2002, Egyptian television launched a major soap opera series based on the Protocols. The series, entitled Horseman Without a Horse, has been broadcast in a number of Arab countries, continuing to propagate this myth.

 

Is U.S. foreign policy dominated by the Jews?

     Political lobbying is institutionalized in the U.S. and organized groups who want to promote certain interests are officially registered and are required to work in a transparent manner. There are pro-Arab and pro-Iranian lobbying groups, as there are Jewish lobbyists. It is more accurate to speak of a pro-Israel lobby instead of a Jewish lobby. Interestingly, evangelical Christians play a very prominent role in the pro-Israel lobby in the States. There are about seven million Jews in America, making up 2.5% of the population. The Jews in America form a vastly diverse and often divided community.
The influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington on America's Middle East policies is often exaggerated. An extensive survey of hundreds of cases of policymaking related to the Middle East showed that in situations where the viewpoints of the American president and the main pro-Israel lobby in the United States, AIPAC, clashed, Congress sided with AIPAC in only 27 percent of all cases.

 

Basic Questions about the Holocaust

What does the term "Holocaust" mean?

The Holocaust was the systematic persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community. Gypsies, people with mental and physical disabilities, and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons.

 

What does "Final Solution" refer to?

The term "Final Solution" refers to Germany's plan to murder all the Jews of Europe. The term was used at the Wannsee Conference, which took place in Berlin on January 20, 1942, where German officials discussed its implementation. The Nazis used the term "Final Solution" to conceal the plan that, in its entirety, called for the murder of all European Jews by shooting, gassing and other means. Approximately six million Jewish men, women, and children (1.5 million children) were killed during the Holocaust -- two-thirds of the Jews living in Europe before World War II.

 

How many Jews were killed in the Holocaust?

Between five and six million Jews - out of a Jewish population of nine million living in Europe - were killed during the Holocaust. It is impossible to know exactly how many people died as the deaths were comprised of thousands of different events over a period of more than four years. About half of the Jewish victims died in concentration camps or death camps such as Auschwitz. The other half died when Nazi soldiers marched into many large and small towns in Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union and other areas and murdered people by the dozens or by the hundreds.

 

What is the evidence that so many Jews were killed by the Nazis?

The numerous pieces of evidence proving that between five and six million Jews were killed by the Nazis include:

  • Records on the number of people sent to the larger death camps, which were built and used primarily for Jews;
  • Demographic studies of the number of Jews in Europe before and after the war;
  • Progress reports from Nazi commanders of death camps and from organized killing squads in the conquered territories;
  • Post-war testimonies by Nazi leaders and commanders
  • More recent evidence that has come to light, for example, as a result of excavation of mass graves of Jewish victims in the Ukraine

Nazi leaders made numerous references to the extermination of Jews, including:

Diary of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief (Lochner, The Goebbels Diaries, 1948, pp. 86, 147-148):

        February 14, 1942: The Führer once again expressed his determination to clean up the Jews in Europe pitilessly. There must be no squeamish sentimentalism about it. The Jews have deserved the catastrophe that has now overtaken them. Their destruction will go hand in hand with the destruction of our enemies. We must hasten this process with cold ruthlessness.

        March 27, 1942: The procedure is a pretty barbaric one and not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said that about 60 per cent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only 40 per cent can be used for forced labor.

SS Chief Heinrich Himmler's speech at Posen on October 4, 1943, which was captured on audiotape (Trial of the Major War Criminals, 1948, Vol. XXIX, p. 145): 

        I refer now to the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. This is one of those things that is easily said: "the Jewish people are being exterminated," says every Party member, "quite true, it's part of our plans, the elimination of the Jews, extermination, we're doing it."

 

Why did the Nazis single out the Jews - among all their "enemies" - for extermination?

Hitler started a world war to achieve his dream of world domination. The war left behind an estimated 72 million dead, among them 47 million civilians, of whom some six million were Jewish. Jews were the targets of the Holocaust because Hitler hated Jews and blamed them for all of the problems in the world. He was brought up in Vienna, where Jews played a prominent role in the city's political and cultural life. He especially blamed them for Germany's loss of World War I. Hitler told the German people that they could have won the first war, if Germany had not been "stabbed in the back" by the Jews and their conspirators.

Hitler's hatred of Jews was so profound that several of his biographers have called it an obsession. Albert Speer, who was a close confidante to Hitler, wrote in 1977:

    The hatred of the Jews was Hitler's driving force and central point, perhaps even the only element that moved him. The German people, German greatness, the Reich, all that meant nothing to him in the final analysis. Thus, the closing sentence of his Testament sought to commit us Germans to a merciless hatred of the Jews after the apocalyptic downfall.

    I was present in the Reichstag session of January 30, 1939 when Hitler guaranteed that, in the event of another war, the Jews, not the Germans, would be exterminated. This sentence was said with such certainty that I would never have doubted his intent of carrying through with it.
 

Did ordinary Germans know about the persecution of Jews while it was happening?

In the 1930s, Nazi persecution of Jews and other opponents were common knowledge in Germany. News reels in cinemas around the world at the time showed footage of attacks on Jews, their properties and synagogues in Germany during Kristallnacht (The Night of the Broken Glass). But the Nazis tried to keep the extermination of Jews and their other genocidal acts a secret. While ordinary Germans knew that the Jews had been deported to the east, large segments of the German population were unaware that they were being murdered.

 

Did the people of occupied Europe know what the Germans were doing to Jews at the time?

The attitude of the local population vis-a-vis the persecution and destruction of the Jews ranged from zealous collaboration with the Nazis to indifference to active assistance to Jews. Thus, it is difficult to make generalizations. The situation also varied from country to country. In Eastern Europe and especially in Poland, Russia, Romania and the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), there was much more knowledge of the "Final Solution" because it was implemented in those areas with the participation of part of the local population.  In Western Europe, the local population had less information on the details of the "Final Solution." It must be mentioned that in every country in Europe, there were courageous individuals who risked their lives to save Jews. In several countries, there were groups which aided Jews, e.g. Joop Westerweel's group in the Netherlands, Zegota in Poland, and the Assisi underground in Italy and inhabitants of the French village Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
 

Who are the "Righteous Among the Nations"?

"Righteous Among the Nations" refers to those non-Jews who on their own initiative often put their lives at risk to aid Jews during the Holocaust. There were "Righteous Among the Nations" in every country overrun or allied with the Nazis, and their deeds often led to the rescue of Jewish lives. Yad Vashem, the Israeli national remembrance authority for the Holocaust, bestows special honors upon these individuals. To date, after carefully evaluating each case, Yad Vashem has recognized approximately 10,000 "Righteous Gentiles" in three different categories of recognition. Seventy Muslims have been recognized to-date as "Righteous Among the Nations".

 

Could anything have been done to stop the genocide of the Jews?

The response of the Allies to the persecution and destruction of European Jewry was inadequate and the strongest moral voice - that of the Pope - was silent. On December 17, 1942, the Allies issued a condemnation of Nazi atrocities against the Jews, but this was the only such declaration made prior to 1944. Moreover, no attempt was made to call upon the local population in Europe to refrain from assisting the Nazis in their systematic murder of the Jews. It has been suggested that the Allies could have bombed the death camp at Auschwitz to slow down the Nazi murder machine. But it is unlikely that any such measures could have stopped, or even significantly slowed down, the genocide of the Jews.

 

Why do the Jews regard the Holocaust as unique, while so many human beings have lost their lives in other catastrophes throughout history?

It is morally unjustifiable to rank human suffering in order to diminish the horror of "lesser" forms of human suffering. Every catastrophe or act of genocide has its similarities and differences with other catastrophes and genocides. But historians emphasize that the Holocaust was unique, because it was (and remains) the only time in history when one nation - ranking itself among the league of so-called civilized nations - tried to systematically murder every man, woman, and child of a certain ethnic or religious minority as a political goal, seeking to find and destroy them everywhere, from the bustling metropolitan centers of Europe to remote Greek islands. The Nazis created a complete bureaucratic apparatus to accomplish their goal.

 

On How the Holocaust Took Place

What was the difference between concentration camps and extermination camps under the Nazi regime?

The Nazis set up a camp system that included different types of camps serving different purposes. Concentration camp was the generic term for prison camps.  "Labor camps" were those that were maintained for the purpose of exploiting slave labor for Germany's war effort. "Extermination camps" were six camps located in Poland where the mass murder of Jews and others took place.

 

Why did the Nazis build the extermination camps outside Germany?

Being outside Germany made the camps easier to conceal from the German people. Also, the vast majority of murdered Jews came from conquered territory to the east and south of the pre-war German borders. The extermination camps were located closer to these areas to facilitate transport.

 

Did the Jews try to fight against the Nazis?

Despite the difficult conditions to which Jews were subjected in Nazi-occupied Europe, many engaged in armed resistance against the Nazis. This resistance can be divided into three basic types of armed activities: ghetto revolts, resistance in concentration and death camps, and partisan warfare.  The Warsaw Ghetto revolt, which lasted for about five weeks beginning on April 19, 1943, is probably the best-known example of armed Jewish resistance, but there were many ghetto revolts in which Jews fought against the Nazis.

Despite the terrible conditions in the death, concentration, and labor camps, Jewish inmates fought against the Nazis at the following sites: Treblinka (August 2, 1943); Babi Yar (September 29, 1943); Sobibor (October 14, 1943); Janowska (November 19, 1943); and Auschwitz (October 7, 1944).

Jews also actively took part in national resistance movements against the Nazi occupiers and in Jewish partisan units.

 

The Nazis, the Holocaust, and Muslims

What did the Nazis really think about Muslims?

According to the Nazis' racist ideology, Arabs are racial Semites and thus subhumans, similar to Jews.  In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler described the struggle for world domination as an ongoing racial, cultural and political battle between Aryans and non-Aryans. He envisaged a "ladder" of racial hierarchy, asserting that German "Aryans" were at the top of the ladder, while Jews and Gypsies were consigned to the bottom of the order. On Hitler's racial ladder, Arabs and Muslims occupied a servile place, held in much the same contempt as the Jews.

Hitler made a personal remark in 1939 in which he referred to the populace of the Middle East as "painted half-apes that ought to feel the whip".
As in other instances, however, the Nazis never allowed their ideological views to get in the way of more urgent political considerations. The Nazis recognized the importance of wooing the Arab and Muslim world to their side and, in their public proclamations, downplayed their real views of Muslims and Arabs. When Mein Kampf was being translated into Arabic in 1938, Hitler himself tactfully proposed to omit from it his "racial ladder" theory.

 

What was the attitude of Muslims towards the Nazis?

Throughout the 1930s, the Nazis tried to exploit Arab and Persian resentment of Britain's colonial domination of the Middle East. The Nazis promised the Arabs "liberation" from the French and British, a promise which many in the Arab world, not grasping the racist character of a Nazi regime that would likely have reduced them to slaves in their own land, took at face value.

Although there was sympathy for Nazi Germany across much of the Muslim world, this was mostly on the grounds of strong anti-British hostility rather than support for Nazi racist doctrines, and it rarely includes an anti-Semitic element. While for the vast majority of Muslims the war in Europe remained a distant conflict, the Nazis managed to recruit some Muslims directly. Two SS divisions were raised from Albanian and Bosnian Muslims, but the Nazis soon discovered that these units were militarily ineffective and unmotivated to fight for the Third Reich.  The Nazis made much propaganda about the meeting between Hitler and Haj Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, which took place on November 21, 1941. Al-Husseini or the Muslims troops fighting on the side of the Wehrmacht were not representative of Muslim sentiments in the course of World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers from Africa, India, and the Soviet Union fought in the Allies' armies to help to defeat fascism at places like El-Alamein, Monte Cassino, the beaches of Provence, and Stalingrad.

 

Did any Muslims help save the lives of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution?

Yes. The case of Albania is interesting to note. Albania is the sole European country with a Muslim-majority population. Albania was the only country in Europe in which there were more Jews after the war than there had been before the war. Before World War II, there were only 200 Jews in Albania, which had a total population of 800,000. After the war, there were many more Jews after Jewish refugees from some half dozen European countries fled the Nazi persecution and sought shelter in Albania.

Among the 70 Muslims officially recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, there are many stories of great courage and sacrifice. These include the Bosnian Dervis Korkut, who harbored a young Jewish woman resistance fighter named Mira Papo and saved the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most valuable Hebrew manuscripts in the world; the Turk Selahattin Ulkumen, whose rescue of fifty Jews from the ovens of Auschwitz led to the death of his wife Mihrinissa soon after she gave birth to their son Mehmet when the Nazis retaliated for his heroism; and the Albanian Refik Vesili who - at the age of 16 - saved eight Jews by hiding them in his family's mountain home. 

 

About Jews, Muslims, and Christians

Have Jews and Muslims always been each other's enemies?

No. There are many similarities between Islam and Judaism as religious faiths. Both worship a strictly Unitarian God. Both have sacred laws with strict dietary codes and detailed rules governing gender relations. Both insist on their texts being learned and taught in their original languages. Muslims regard Jews and Christians as "People of the Book". In the Dar al-Islam - the territories ruled by Muslims - they always enjoyed more protection than heathens. For centuries across the Muslim world, Jews and Christians were subject to the rules of the dhimma statutes: in exchange for payment of extra taxes, they were granted the status of inferior citizens. For fourteen centuries, Jewish minorities lived in peace in many countries and under many regimes in the Muslim world. Yet, Muslim countries experienced peaceful periods and tolerant regimes as well as warlike regimes and intolerant periods. Under the rule of many Ottoman Sultans, for example, the religious climate was relatively tolerant. By contrast, the Safavid dynasty in Iran that ruled from 1501 to 1722 was extremely intolerant of religious minorities. Not only Persian Jews, but Zoroastrians and Armenians in Iran were regularly harassed, persecuted and forced to convert under the Safavid kings.

 

Did Jews live better in the past under Islam than under Christianity?

It is difficult to compare fourteen centuries of Islam to twenty centuries of Christianity, but it is generally true that while discrimination occurred against Jews in the Islamic world on a regular basis, they were rarely persecuted. In Christian Europe, much energy was devoted to coercing Jews to repudiate their religious beliefs. For centuries, Christians zealously tried to convert Jews; this occurred much less under Islam. During these times, numerous Christian theologians and Church officials were guilty of propagating anti-Semitic legends and stereotypes. In past centuries, Muslim scholars and Islamic thinkers have been far less guilty of this. Early Muslim literature contains no "Jewish monsters". Anti-Semitic stereotypes first appeared in the Muslim world in the nineteenth century when large parts of the Arab world were conquered by European colonial powers. It is striking that almost all the anti-Semitic myths that proliferate in the Arab and Muslim world today were fashioned in the Christian or Western world.

 

Are there examples of harmonious Jewish-Muslim coexistence in history?

For centuries, most of the world's Jewish population lived in Muslim-ruled territories. Although Jews were always treated as dhimmis, there were periods of tolerance and even prosperity. During the tenth and eleventh centuries in the Muslim-ruled part of the Iberian Peninsula called Andalusia (Al-Andalus), Jewish, Christian, and Islamic arts and sciences flourished in harmony. The most beautiful Moorish palaces were built, calligraphers and illustrators created beautiful Torah scrolls, Bibles, and Korans, and Jewish linguists translated Latin texts into Arabic and Arabic texts into Latin. Jews played an important role at the court of Abd al-Rahaman III (912-961), who ruled the Caliphate of Cordoba for fifty years. This period came to an end when the fanatical Berber Almohad rulers of North Africa invaded Andalusia. The Almohads treated the dhimmis harshly. Faced with the choice of either death or conversion, most Jews and Christians emigrated. Some, such as the family of the prominent Jewish philosopher Maimonides, fled east to more tolerant Muslim lands, while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms.

When the Catholic king of Spain ordered the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II issued a decree to the governors of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire "not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially". According to the American historian, Bernard Lewis, "the Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands, but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled". Jews prospered under the rule of several Ottoman sultans and made significant contributions to science and administration. The first printing house in a Muslim country was set up by a Jew in Istanbul in 1493.

 

What does Islam say about Jews?

Jews and Christians have a unique status in Islam. Muslims believe that God passed on his will to the prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears in the Koran more than in the New Testament. There are also many references to the Torah and the Jewish prophets in the Koran. Jews are the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, while Muslims see themselves as descendants of Abraham and Hagar, the maid of Abraham's wife, who gave him his first son, Ishmael.

According to Islamic tradition, Abraham built the Ka'aba - the sanctuary of Mecca - together with his son Ishmael. Muslims believe that God's original revelations to Moses and Jesus were passed down inaccurately; the revelations to the prophet Mohammed, as recorded in the Koran, are the unique, eternal, true Word of God. Besides allusions to the Torah, the prophets, and the New Testament, the Koran also describes the clashes of Prophet Mohammed with the Jewish tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. Three Jewish tribes who did not want to convert to Islam lived there at the time of Mohammed. The Army of the Prophet expelled two of these tribes from Medina in 624 and 625. A few years later, the men of the third Jewish tribe were killed and their wives and children sold to slavery. Mohammed's conflict with the Jewish tribes of Medina is not one of the Koran's central themes; it is of minor importance. Yet, the Koran's verses about the struggle of Prophet Mohammed against the Jews have been repeatedly used in recent years by extremists who intend to whip up anti-Jewish sentiments among Muslims. These extremists completely ignore the positive treatment of Jews in both the Koran and Prophet Mohammed's oral tradition as exemplified, for example in Surah 2:47 of the Koran: "O Children of Israel! Call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nations."

 

Is Islam against the Jews?

No, because the Koran recognizes Jews as "people of the Book". That's why many Muslims are saddened to see so much anti-Semitic myths and legends being propagated in the Muslim world. It must be remembered that there are many diverse movements within the Islamic world. One must not forget that down through fourteen centuries of history, the Islamic world was relatively tolerant of the Jewish minority in its midst, especially compared to the Christian world. Because of the climate of religious tolerance in the Ottoman Empire, the persecution of Jews was uncommon, just as it had been in Andalusia - Medieval Spain - during the time of Muslim rulers.

The anti-Semitism appearing in the Muslim world today was invented in Europe, although one must not underestimate the severity and maliciousness of the anti-Semitic ideas and stereotypes now rampant in many Muslim countries. Many of these stereotypes are easily traced back to anti-Semitic images that began ages ago in Christian Europe, among them myths that depict the Jew as traitor or conspirator, the blood libel myths, etc. But it is meaningless to speak of Christian or Islamic anti-Semitism. It is not the religions that are anti-Semitic, but extremists who manipulate religious sentiments for their political gains.

 

The Holocaust is part of European history, so why should it be relevant to Muslims?

The Holocaust - the murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis - is not part of European history, but human history. What happened to millions of human beings in that genocide is relevant to every one of us, regardless of our religion or creed. One of the most tragic mysteries of the Holocaust is how the premeditated, systematic murder of millions of people could occur at the hands of a seemingly advanced society. But if we are to learn from the Holocaust, we must understand that the dark forces that undermined democracy in Germany, betrayed a generation of young people, plunged the world into a global conflict and led to the Holocaust continue to pose a threat to our societies.

 

On Holocaust Denial

What is Holocaust denial?

Holocaust denial refers to claims that the mass extermination of the Jews by the Nazis never happened; that the number of Jewish losses has been greatly exaggerated; or that the Holocaust was not systematic nor a result of an official policy; or simply that the Holocaust never took place. The Nazis were the first to try to conceal or destroy evidence of the Holocaust. A Frenchman named Paul Rassinier later stated that only 500,000 to one million Jews died during World War II, mostly due to bad physical conditions and gradually-not systematically at the hands of the Nazis. Other pseudo-scholars and "revisionist historians" have followed suit. With the advent of the Internet, Holocaust deniers have used this medium to spread their messages of hate, Many websites, established by them or by related groups such as white supremacists, offer their skewed version of events.

 

What evidence is there that the Nazis gassed their victims?

Death camp gas chambers were the primary means of execution used against the Jews during the Holocaust. The Nazis issued a directive implementing large-scale gas chambers in the fall of 1941 but, by then, procedures facilitating mass murder, including the utilization of smaller gas chambers, were already in practice. Before their use in death camps, gas chambers were central to Hitler's "eugenics" program. Between January 1940 and August 1941, 70,273 Germans - most of them physically handicapped or mentally ill - were gassed, 20-30 at a time, in hermetically shut chambers disguised as shower rooms.

Meanwhile, mass shooting of Jews had been extensively practiced on the heels of Germany's Eastern campaign. But these actions by murder squads had become an increasingly unwieldy process by October 1941. Mobile gassing vans, using the exhaust fumes of diesel engines to kill passengers, were used to kill Jews at Chelmno and Treblinka starting in November 1941. At least 320,000 Chelmno prisoners, most of them Jews, were killed by this method; a total of 870,000 Jews were murdered at Treblinka using gas vans and diesel-powered gas chambers.

Gas chambers were installed and operated at Belzec, Lublin, Sobibor, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau from September 3, 1941, when the first experimental gassing took place at Auschwitz, until November 1944. Authorities have estimated that these gas chambers accounted for the deaths of approximately 2 to 3 million Jews.

 

Why are people who question the "Holocaust" accused of being anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi?

The murder of six million Jews in World War II is the best-documented crime against humanity in history. There is an abundance of documentation - most of it courtesy of the Nazi state - concerning the planning and execution of this atrocity. There is also a large amount of film and photo material of the liberation of the concentration camps, mass graves being uncovered, and there are countless eyewitness accounts, including many from Holocaust survivors. In the face of all this, Holocaust-denial always has political motives. It is frequently used to attract new followers to neo-Nazis.

Researchers and academics have amassed hundreds of examples that show a direct correlation often exists between Holocaust-denial and anti-Semitism or Nazism. For example, the main Holocaust-denial outfit in the United States, the Institute for Historical Review, is headed by Greg Raven, who in 1992 stated publicly that Hitler was "a great man...certainly greater than Churchill and FDR put together...about the best thing that could have happened to Germany."

It is interesting to note that while hundreds of world-renowned historians have researched the Holocaust over the past few decades, none has subscribed to Holocaust-denial theories.

 

Why is it a crime in most European countries to deny the Holocaust?

Holocaust denial is a crime in European countries, because it is considered an incitmenet to discrimination, violence, racism and xenophobia. A person who says that the Holocaust did not exist, given all the court cases, all the monuments and museums, all the memoirs and films, is alleging a fraud on a massive scale. Holocaust denial, by its very nature, is an allegation of massive fraud.  The United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1996 in the case of Robert Faurisson wrote about Holocaust denial that: "It is implied, under the guise of impartial academic research, that the victims of Nazism were guilty of dishonest fabrication." Since Holocaust denial is nothing more than a form of incitement to hatred against Jews, making it a criminal offence makes sense.

Why is Holocaust denial so widespread in Arab and Muslim countries?

The recent rise of Holocaust-denial in the Muslim world could be attributed to increasing state sponsorship, the spread of radical Islam, and the aggravation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Holocaust denial regularly occurs throughout the Middle East-in speeches and pronouncements by public figures, in TV programs on state-run television stations, in articles and columns by journalists, and in the resolutions of professional organizations. The main tenet of Holocaust denial-that Jews invented the Holocaust story in an attempt to advance their own interests-appears to be an increasingly accepted belief for many people in Arab and Muslim states.

The Arab and Muslim perception of the Holocaust has never been monolithic, and has often been influenced by the turn of events in the Arab-Israeli conflict.  In some cases, Holocaust denial is actively sponsored by national governments, such as Iran and Syria. In other Middle Eastern countries, however, denying or minimizing the extent of the killing of Jews during World War II has been adopted by opposition parties and dissident factions that oppose attempts at normalizing relations with Israel or the United States.

 

How was Holocaust denial "imported" to the Muslim world?

Although Holocaust denial first surfaced in the Arab world in the 1970s, it was not until the 1990s that Holocaust denial became prevalent in popular media throughout the Middle East. Among Holocaust deniers in the West, Roger Garaudy, a former French communist intellectual who converted to Islam, has been influential in spreading Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic literature in the Muslim world. Garaudy was hailed as a hero throughout the Middle East when he faced prosecution by the French government for inciting racial hatred. 

One of the most important signs of the growing ties between Western Holocaust deniers and the Arab world came to light in December 2000, when the U.S.-based Institute for Historical Review announced that its fourteenth revisionist conference would take place in Beirut, Lebanon, in early April 2001. Many Arab intellectuals were outraged and openly protested. The conference was eventually banned by the Lebanese government. In the 2006 conference on Holocaust in Tehran, organized by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, key speakers included European and American deniers such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, discredited academics, and several white supremacists.

 

What do Muslims gain in denying the Holocaust?

Nothing, but by denying a human catastrophe Muslims undermine their own self-esteem and moral values. No legitimate cause or agenda can ever be advanced by denying or belittling the immense human suffering caused by the murder of millions of Jews and other minority groups by the Nazi regime and its allies during World War II. Cynical attempts to use Holocaust denial as a political tool in the Middle East conflict will only serve to deepen the level of mistrust and hostility already present in that troubled region.

 

The Holocaust and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Did Jews use the Holocaust to bring about the creation of Israel?

It would be a mistake to believe that the Jewish state owes its existence to Hitler. Jewish nationalism, Zionism, was more than half a century old when the Jews of Europe were exterminated. All the institutions of a Jewish state were already in place in Palestine when Hitler rose to power in 1933, and when the partition of Palestine was proposed in 1936. Israel, therefore, was not a direct outcome of the Holocaust.

Reading the deliberations of the United Nations and its bodies in 1947-1948, it is difficult to find evidence that the Holocaust played a decisive or even significant role.  It is certainly the case that the Holocaust hastened the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland in the eyes of the world. But there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the Holocaust and Israel.

 

Doesn't talking about the Holocaust benefit Israel?

No. The Holocaust is not an Israeli issue, and furthermore, Holocaust denial by Muslims has not proven to be very helpful to the Palestinian cause. No matter what political position we adopt regarding the state of Israel and the policies of the Israeli government, the historical evidence for the Holocaust remains intact. Nothing can provide moral grounds for the denial or undermining of the genocide of the Jewish people. Acknowledging the Holocaust does not lead to disavowal of the rights of Palestinians, nor does its denial or undermining strengthen their case.

 

Why can't the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be compared to the Holocaust?

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not racial, but national; it is political and territorial. It is a struggle between two peoples for a small land. Throughout the decades this struggle has oscillated between violence and attempts to negotiate a settlement. In the absence of a peace settlement, violence continues to torment Arabs and Jews and the plight of the Palestinians goes on.

More than anything else, the murder of the Jews stemmed from Nazi racial ideology. According to that ideology, the Jews were an evil race, whose very existence endangered Germany and all of human civilization. The Nazi campaign against the Jews was not focused on winning tangible gains, such as land and other wealth from the Jews. Its goal was to rid the world of the supposed pernicious influence of the Jews.

The Holocaust stemmed the Nazis' racial ideology and they tried to kill all the Jews. In the Holocaust a sovereign nation harnessed all the apparatus of their state to the goal of the mass systematic murder of a specific people. The Nazis systematically murdered Jews in shooting actions and by gas in specially designed gas chambers in extermination camps.  In the ghettos, camps and slave-labor installations under the Nazis, hundreds of thousands of Jews were also brutally worked to death.  The end result was the murder of close to 6 million Jews. As tragic as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be, it cannot be compared to the Holocaust. Using terms taken from the history of the Holocaust to describe the situation in the Middle East does more to obscure than to clarify the events and their consequences.

 

Why should the Palestinians, who had nothing to do with the Holocaust, pay the price for it?

The question of the Holocaust, as a human catastrophe, must be separated from the creation of the state of Israel and, more particularly, Israeli policies. The hearts and minds of Palestinians and Israelis are burdened by sacred histories, by traditions of pain, by superstitions about the other, so much so that it is difficult for one to see the suffering of the other, now and in history.

The common Palestinian (and Arab) understanding of Jewish history, like the common Jewish understanding of Palestinian (and Arab) history, is riddled with malice and myth. It is the responsibility of intellectuals on both sides of the divide to try to correct the malice and the myth in the two communities. Muslim intellectuals must be courageous enough to declare that equating the Jews with the Nazis and drawing the Star of David (as a Jewish symbol) as the Nazi Swastika is not only absurd, but also the ultimate affront to victims of the Holocaust and their families - likening the victims to their executioners.

Jewish intellectuals, too, have a duty to erase the myth and malice that clutter their fellow Jews' view of the Palestinians and their legitimate aspirations. Most importantly, the question of the Holocaust must remain separate from political disputes. Even if the Holocaust had played a decisive role in the creation of Israel, and even though Arabs did not have any part in the tragedy that visited the Jewish people, it would be morally unconscionable for Muslims to deny the Holocaust, or to consider acknowledgement of its having taken place to be a show of support for Israel or a betrayal of the Palestinians' rights.

 

Why is there so much talk about the Holocaust?

The Holocaust is not just about remembering and honoring the victims of Nazism. It stands as a warning of what can happen when leaders of a country are motivated by hate, and use that hate to supply simplistic answers to the problems of their country and blame a specific group of people, based on religious or ethnic divide, for all these problems. Although those willing to use their hatred to achieve their goals are few, if no one stands against them, they appear the majority. If there is one thing we must learn from the Holocaust, it is that silence is the worst enemy of justice. If we are to learn from the mistakes of the past, we cannot dismiss the Holocaust as history; we must take its lessons to heart.

Muslims - and indeed peoples of all faiths and no faith in particular - should study the causes and consequences of the Holocaust, especially the rhetorical devices used by political leaders, columnists and commentators in the decades leading up to it. And we must always remember that the Holocaust did not begin at Auschwitz or in the ghettos. It began long before, in the hearts of those who sat in silence and allowed hatred that was bred in ignorance to grow.

Did You Know?

In an attempt to forcibly transform the Soviet Union into a socialist paradise, the Communist Party declared the elimination of religion to be an ideological imperative. Even though the Orthodox Church was deeply interwoven in pre-revolutionary Russian society, the state forbade public expressions of faith, demolished hundreds of places of worship, and executed hundreds of priests. However, the Orthodox faith remained rooted in Russia - as communism collapsed in the late 1980s and early 90s, millions rushed to be baptized and thousands were ordained as priests. Despite attempts to eliminate religion, today the majority of Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christian.
With more than 200 different ethnic groups, the landlocked East African nation of Chad is one of the world's most diverse. Although Arabic and French – legacies of Islamic conquest and European colonialism – are the two official languages, over a hundred languages are spoken within the country's borders. Islam, Christianity and various forms of animism and tribal ritual are widely practiced, and Christian holidays like Christmas, All Saints Day and Easter are public holidays alongside Islamic ones such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
The magnificent Hagia Sophia was constructed by the Byzantine Empire as a Christian basilica in the 6th century CE, and has stood the test of time for almost 1500 years. When Sultan Mehmed II’s armies conquered Constantinople in 1453, he could not bring himself to destroy the beautiful building and instead added minarets, converting it into a mosque. Since its repurposing as a museum in 1935 the Hagia Sophia has served a physical reminder of the intertwined relationship between Islam and Christianity, with Islamic calligraphy and Christian mosaics adorning the same structure.
In 2012, online hate speech from Burma’s Facebook users exploded as some from the country's majority Buddhist population accused minority Muslims of a plot to dominate the country. With online vitriol stoking real-world conflicts, the Panzagar movement arose to combat the trend. Panzagar translates to "flower speech" in English, and the movement intervened through designing a series of “flower speech” Facebook stickers to post under offensive material. The stickers are cheerful and cartoonish, and seek to defuse heated arguments through lighthearted reminders to practice respect and tolerance.
In the late 19th century, thousands of South Asian migrants flocked to East Africa to construct a railway network throughout the British Protectorate of Uganda. Over the following century, many of these laborers and their descendants secured lucrative positions in the growing domestic economy. However, the rise to power of President Idi Amin in 1971 brought trouble. Playing on the nationalistic feelings of native Ugandans, he denounced the entire South Asian community as “bloodsuckers” and decreed their immediate expulsion under threat of imprisonment. The United Kingdom attempted to intercede with Amin, but eventually accepted almost 27,000 refugees, decimating the Indian and Pakistani community in Uganda.
Even as Hitler rose to power in Germany, Baghdad was a haven of religious and ethnic tolerance with Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and Sabeans living in a land where “the mosque stands beside the church and the synagogue.” Hebrew was one of Iraq’s six languages and about 120,000 Jews lived in the country. Today, after decades of intermittent war and repression, it is estimated that fewer than ten Jews remain, while more Yazidis and Christians flee every day.
On July 8, 1985, school children in a small Indian town rose to sing the national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana," but one 15-year old boy and his sisters did not join their classmates. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, they believed singing the anthem constituted idolatry, and could not bring themselves to violate their beliefs. This behavior was condemned as unpatriotic by school employees and became a local scandal, eventually resulting in the expulsion of the children. Their family sued, and the case eventually rose to the Supreme Court where the children were exonerated, with Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy reiterating “Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our constitution practices tolerance; let us not dilute it.”
Although branded as the transcript of a Jewish plot masterminding world domination, a large portion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is copied directly from a political satire by French writer Maurice Joly. Joly’s protagonist warns, “Like the God Vishnu, my press will have a hundred arms and these arms will give their hands to all the different shades of opinion throughout the country," and the Protocols attribute an almost identical statement to a “sinister” Jew. This plagiarism is just one of the many holes in the Protocols' so-called indictment of world Jewry.
The shooting down of Rwandan President Habyarimana’s plane over Kigali in April 1994 provided a spark that set already high ethnic tensions alight. Across the country, Hutu extremists murdered their Tutsi neighbors in the hundreds of thousands – often with machetes – in what is known as the Rwandan genocide. There were, however, small acts of humanity in the midst of mass killings. Hutu hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina took in everyone he could, turning his hotel into a refuge from the violence. He ultimately managed to save the lives of over 1,200 people, including his Tutsi wife and children, through the ingenious bartering of luxury items in the hotel and the influence of his international contacts - a story later captured in the movie “Hotel Rwanda.”
In 1920, the anti-Semitic business magnate Henry Ford published excerpts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as part of a disparaging series of leading articles in his private newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. The public was unimpressed, with the New York Times condemning the Protocols as the “strangest jumble of crazy ideas that ever found its way in print.” However, his dissemination of the Protocols did contribute to the spread of anti-Semitic thought in modern America, and Ford’s propaganda was later applauded by Goebbels and Hitler.
The heady days of the Arab Spring brought glimpses of what a more tolerant Middle East could look like. As pro-government soldiers threatened to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square in early 2011, Christians formed a ring around worshipping Muslim activists. Those Muslims later returned the favor by gathering protectively around praying Christians. Although religious tensions in Egypt have consistently run high in its modern history and Coptic Christians face persecution, those civic gestures in Tahrir Square showed that another Egypt is possible.
Before the first British colonists arrived in Botany Bay in 1788, there were well over 350 different Australian Aboriginal groups, speaking a myriad of indigenous languages and with a wide range of cultural traditions. Diseases imported from Europe decimated native populations. Those that survived were legally marginalized throughout much of Australian history, with the 1901 Australian Constitution denying them Commonwealth citizenship rights. It was not until 1962 that legal reform granted the dwindling number of Aboriginal Australians voting rights.
In Canada, freedom of religion is strongly protected at the national, provincial, and local levels. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of the country's constitution, forbids discrimination by the state on religious grounds and guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of conscience and religion. The various provincial human rights codes go further and require employers, service providers and other private individuals to provide reasonable accommodation to all, regardless of religious belief.
Although branded as the transcript of a Jewish plot masterminding world domination, a large portion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is copied directly from a political satire by French writer Maurice Joly. Joly’s protagonist warns, “Like the God Vishnu, my press will have a hundred arms and these arms will give their hands to all the different shades of opinion throughout the country." The Protocols attribute an almost identical statement to a “sinister” Jew. This plagiarism is just one of the many holes in the Protocols' so-called indictment of world Jewry.
Afghanistan was once rich with pre-Islamic artifacts, but the Taliban and other marauding groups have destroyed many of these beautiful relics in the brutal struggles that have gripped the country. However, some concerned Afghans have acted to preserve the country's heritage. As the Soviet Army withdrew in 1988-89 and the country collapsed into bitter civil war, National Museum of Afghanistan curator Omara Khan Massoudi worked to save some artifacts from pillagers. Burying ancient Bactrian gold and ivory sculptures under the Presidential Palace and the streets of Kabul in 1989, he finally retrieved many the priceless artifacts unscathed 14 years later and presented them to then Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Appalled by the scourge of slavery across the United States, Harriet Beecher Stowe called attention to its horrors and impact on American society by publishing Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Selling 10,000 copies in its first week and becoming the second best-selling book of the century after the Bible, the graphic horrors of slavery portrayed in the book ignited social consciousness and fierce public debate. This debate carried through into the U.S. Civil War, which in turn led to Congress passing the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting slavery throughout the country. Uncle Tom's Cabin prepared the way for one of the biggest social shifts in American history.
Across the United States there are over five hundred distinct tribes of Native Americans speaking more than two hundred indigenous languages, and very few of them have a word for "religion." Despite having a myriad of spiritual beliefs and rituals, Native American tribes view the issue to be intermingled with every aspect of community and family life. “We don't have a religion”, some Native Americans insist, “we have a way of life.”
Sierra Leone is a beacon of religious tolerance in West Africa. With a Christian president elected by a roughly 70% Muslim nation, both groups pray alongside each other with conversions and intermarriage commonplace. Some Sierra Leonian citizens even practice both religions; known as ChrisMus, they attend regular prayers at the mosque while faithfully attending church on Sundays.
In 1935, the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were branded a forgery by a Swiss court. “I hope that one day there will come a time,” the judge concluded, “when no one will any longer comprehend how in the year 1935 almost a dozen fully sensible and reasonable men could for fourteen days torment their brains before a court of Berne over the authenticity or lack of authenticity of these so-called Protocols…that for all the harm they have already caused and may yet cause, are nothing but ridiculous nonsense.” Sadly, the Protocols are still in circulation today, and are held up as "proof" for anti-Semitic theories.
In January 1959, Mildred and Richard Loving were sentenced to a one year suspended jail for the crime of interracial marriage under the Virginia State Racial Integrity Act (1924). The judge for the case, Leon M. Bazile, wrote in his opinion that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents... The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Although it seemed that bigotry had won, the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled the Act unconstitutional in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia. The decision also struck down similar legislation in 15 other states.
In March 2012, Tel-Aviv based graphic designer Ronny Edry uploaded an unconventional Facebook photo. The picture showed a smiling Edry holding his young daughter, with the caption “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We love you.” The photo struck a chord on Israeli and Iranian social media, and thousands of citizens in both countries quickly followed Edry's example. One Iranian Facebook user posted a picture in response that proclaimed: “Dear Israeli Friends and World! Iranians love peace and we hate hate! And we don't need any Nuclear Power to show it!”
Despite his sharp criticism of organized religion, Voltaire, one of the Enlightenment's greatest thinkers, resolutely defended religious tolerance. The most famous example of this defense was sparked by a tragedy. In October 1761, Marc-Antoine Calas, a young man from a Protestant family living in Catholic France, was found dead in his father’s shop in Toulouse, most likely by suicide. Public opinion quickly settled on his father, Jean, as the prime suspect – it was supposed that he had killed Marc-Antoine to prevent him from converting to Catholicism. Jean was repeatedly and inhumanely tortured and eventually executed. Outraged by the blatant injustice of the case, Voltaire succeeded in securing Jean a posthumous pardon, and went on to write his famous treatise on religious tolerance.
In the spring of 1994, Hutu militants murdered up to one million Rwandans, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group. However, the sharp ethnic distinction drawn between Tutsis and the majority Hutus is a recent phenomenon; originally, the term “Tutsi” denoted a person rich in cattle, while a "Hutu" was a grower of crops. It wasn’t until the advent of Belgian colonial rule that Rwandans were forced to carry identity cards denoting their ethnicity. That measure, along with the ban on Hutus seeking higher education and other discrimination sowed the seeds of genocide.
In the early 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for the deaths of thousands of African-Americans, and symbols of the Klan – like the burning cross – inspired terror nationwide. But in 1946, the Klan was dealt a significant blow by a single concerned citizen. Activist and author Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan over a period of months, gathering key information on the group's secret rituals and code words. Kennedy then shared his knowledge with the writers of a Superman radio serial, leading to the broadcast of The Adventures of Superman: "Clan of the Fiery Cross,” which over a two-week period exposed the Klan’s best-kept secrets. By trivializing the Klan, the broadcast helped strip the Klan of its mystique. Over time, the group declined rapidly and only a few thousand members are active today.
The United States of America has a formal policy commitment to protect religious freedom globally. In 1998, Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act, establishing the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The Commission monitors the status of religious freedoms throughout the world and makes policy recommendations to the US government, including on the designation of serious repeat violators as "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPCs).
Although Hindi is India’s most widely spoken language, over 780 languages exist throughout the subcontinent. However, 220 have disappeared over the last 50 years, as their last speakers pass away and young children do not learn them. With English and Hindi often associated with education and development, incentives to preserve less-common languages are low, and their worlds and cultures are vanishing. In reaction to this trend, a movement to preserve the country's linguistic heritage has emerged throughout India, with activists using online talking dictionaries, YouTube videos and social media to save these languages from extinction.
Members of the Iranian Baha'i faith have been persecuted since the founding of the religion in the mid-1800s. This persecution severely intensified after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and continues to this day. At roughly 300,000 adherents, they are the largest non-Muslim religious group in Iran, but are not among the recognized religious minorities in the country's constitution, and cannot count on its protections. Today Baha’is are regularly subjected to intimidation, arbitrary arrest, destruction of property, denial of employment and access to higher education. The leadership of the Baha’i faith in Iran continues to be imprisoned.

 I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July 15, 1944

 To build a future you have to know the past.

- Otto Frank (1889-1980), Holocaust survivor who was a German-born businessman and father of Anne and Margot Frank, 1967

 A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1950

 I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, I am Prepared to Die, Statement in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964

 I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, Anna Karenina, 1877

 The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1885

 I was heartened that people everywhere want certain basic freedoms, even if they live in a totally different cultural environment.

- Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-present), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, 2012

 Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live in somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me unless there is peace and joy finally for you too.

- Frederick Buechner (1926-present), American writer and theologian

 WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.

- Voltaire (1694-1778), French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, 1764

 It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar... It is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one's] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

 It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.

- Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), French philosopher, 1686

 We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, "I Have a Dream", August 28, 1963

 Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920

 All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness … the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1886

 It is the enemy who can truly teach us to practice the virtues of compassion and tolerance.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), Ocean of Wisdom: Guidelines for Living, 1989

 Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.

- John Cogley (1916-1976), author of Religion in a Secular Age, 1968

 We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups.

- Deborah Tannen (1945-present), linguist and author, You Just Don't Understand, 1990

 I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion.... My belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.

- Stephen Fry (1957-present), English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist, 1993

 My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, The Rights of Man, 1791

 The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

- Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish cellist, 1974

 Many of our problems are created by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, resources, economic status or other factors. The time has come to think on a deeper, more human level and appreciate and respect our sameness as human beings.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 [Most] can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty — conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher

 I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.

- Eduardo Galeano (1940-present), Uruguyan journalist, writer, and novelist, 2004

 Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 I have no animosity towards anyone. Whoever displays human dignity, regardless of their religion or faith, I bow my head before them and hold them dear.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.

- Desmond Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, April 26, 2005

 We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July, 6, 1944

 While differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963

 The golden rule of conduct... is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilised society is, therefore, mutual toleration.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa

 I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, September 3, 2013

 I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Age of Reason, 1794

 Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not a luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - present), spiritual leader of Tibet

 Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

- William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

 How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, March 26, 1944

 It is my inmost conviction, Badshah Khan said, that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat – selfless service, faith, and love.

- Badshah Khan (1890-1988), Pashtun independence activist

 The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, John Brown, 1909

 Where in this wide world can a person find nobility without pride, friendship without envy or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined. He serves without servility, he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent; there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

- Ronald Duncan (1914-1982)

 I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States,Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia, December 23, 1791

 We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, February 25, 1999

 A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

- Desmund Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, September 7, 1986

 I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.

- T. H. White (1906-1964), English author

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, January 6, 1946

 Freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), spiritual leader of Tibet, September 21, 2012

 And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 Each person must live their life as a model for others.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, October 10, 2013

 To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, June 27, 1990

 If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1961), 35th President of the United States, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963

 Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Loving Your Enemies, 1957

 If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 Human nature is not simple and any classification that roughly divides men into good and bad, superior and inferior, slave and free, is and must be ludicrously untrue and universally dangerous as a permanent exhaustive classification.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Evolution of the Race Problem, 1909

 The time must come when, great and pressing as change and betterment may be, they do not involve killing and hurting people.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Dark Princess, 1928

 Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1940

 Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

- Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic, Almansor, 1821

 Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.

- Maya Angelou (1928-2014), American poet and author

 Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.

- Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948), American rabbi and best-selling author, Peace of Mind: Insights on Human Nature That Can Change Your Life, 1946

 The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.

- Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), economist and philosopher, 1944

 Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, October 10, 1960

 There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa,Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 Even God doesn't propose to judge a man till his last days, why should you and I?

- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), American self-help author and lecturer

 I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Strength to Love, 1963

 The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.

- Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), American theoretical physicist

 Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, July 1795

 Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance — these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.

- Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century, Foreign Affairs, 1950

 At every level of society, familial, tribal, national and international, the key to a happier and more peaceful and successful world is the growth of compassion.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, On Liberty, 1859

 You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.

- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), English abolitionist, 1791

 Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, 1995

 Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews."

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated as May 22, 1944

 Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

- John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher, Second Treatise of Government, 1689

 I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist, June 17, 1898

 No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), American lawyer, May 8, 1888

 How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 I respect Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, etc., even non-believers who believe in the principles of humanity. I love them dearly and kiss the hands of each and every one of them.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 I knew that to really minister to Rwanda's needs meant working toward reconciliation in the prisons, in the churches, and in the cities and villages throughout the country. It meant feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the young, but it also meant healing the wounded and forgiving the unforgivable.

- John Rucyahana (1945-present), former Rwandan Anglican bishop, The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones, 2007

 The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.

- Jonathan Sacks (1948 - present), rabbi, philosopher and scholar of Judaism, The Dignity of Difference, 2002

 We need a little more compassion, and if we cannot have it then no politician or even a magician can save the planet.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind.

- Ludwig Van Mises (1881-1973), leader of the Austrian School of economic thought, Liberalism, 1927

 All of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.... this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God.... And that, simply, is blasphemy.

- Pope Francis (1936-present), May 22, 2013

 Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944

 There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, 1900

 No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1786

 There's in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated May 3, 1944

 I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated.

- Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, April 2, 2013

 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 16, 1966

 [W]e are all guilty in some Measure of the same narrow way of Thinking... when we fancy the Customs, Dresses, and Manners of other Countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician, 1711

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About Tavaana

Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society is Iran’s pioneer e-learning institute. Tavaana – meaning ‘empowered’ and ‘capable’ in Persian – was launched on May 17, 2010 with a mission to support active citizenship and civic leadership in Iran through a multi-platform civic education and civil society capacity building program. Tavaana holds a vision for a free and open Iranian society, one in which each and every Iranian enjoys equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.

About The Tolerance Project

The Tolerance Project aims to inspire conscience, pluralism, religious freedom, and celebration of difference. Using an array of educational materials in Arabic, Persian, and English, The Tolerance Project emphasizes the capacity of each and every individual to counter hate, and imparts the benefits of living in tolerant, open societies. The Tolerance Project educates to prevent persecution and genocide, cultivating the basis for vibrant and stable societies in the broader Middle East.

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