AFP: Iran is trying to replicate Nazi Germany's treatment of the Jewish people, Israeli deputy prime minister Silvan Shalom said Tuesday ahead of a Holocaust ceremony at a former death camp.
OSWIECIM, Poland (AFP) — Iran is trying to replicate Nazi Germany's treatment of the Jewish people, Israeli deputy prime minister Silvan Shalom said Tuesday ahead of a Holocaust ceremony at a former death camp.
"What Iran is trying to do right now is not far away at all from what Hitler did to the Jewish people just 65 years ago," Shalom told reporters before a ceremony at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in southern Poland.
Shalom was speaking a day after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and described the Holocaust as a "myth", verbally attacked Israel at a UN anti-racism conference in Geneva.
"Yesterday in Geneva and today here in Auschwitz are showing us unfortunately… the world still has to fight back against those enemies of peace, those enemies of living one with the other," said Shalom.
Ahmadinejad's speech, in which he called Israel "the most cruel and racist regime," sparked a walkout by European Union delegates at the anti-racism conference, which was already boycotted by the United States and Israel, and Poland.
Shalom also called for US President Barack Obama to impose a deadline on Iran over its nuclear programme, which Israel and Western powers fear is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Tehran insists its aims are peaceful.
"I think that if the American administration — and first and foremost President Obama — is willing to open dialogue with Iran, I think it should be with a deadline and not dialogue that can last for years that will only enable them to end the programme and to have a nuclear bomb," he said.
"Israel can never live with the idea that Iran will hold a nuclear bomb because we have heard what the president of Iran and other leaders there have said: that Israel has no right to exist and that Israel should be wiped off the map and that they will do everything to destroy Israel," he added.
Shalom was speaking ahead of the annual March of the Living, which commemorates those who perished at the camp in German-occupied Poland during World War II.
He made his remarks under the infamous gateway to the camp on the outskirts of the southern Polish city of Oswiecim, which was Germanised to Auschwitz during the war.
The March of the Living, launched in 1988, draws thousands of people from around the world, including Jewish youngsters and elderly Holocaust survivors, as well as non-Jews — organiser Oharon Tamir said half of the 8,000 people who had gathered this year were not Jewish.
The event remembers the six million Jewish victims of Nazis genocide and is also meant to still the voices of Holocaust deniers.
Marchers walk three kilometres (two miles) from Auschwitz — which was set up by the Germans in a former Polish army barracks after they invaded in 1939 — to the ruins of Birkenau, a vast site purpose-built from 1941-1943 at the village of Brzezinka.
More than one million Jews perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The site was one of six German death camps set up in Poland — home to pre-war Europe's largest Jewish community.
Many were sent to its notorious gas chambers immediately after being shipped in by train. Others were worked to death as slave labourers.
Among the camp's other victims were tens of thousands of non-Jewish Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, gypsies, and anti-Nazi resistance fighters from across Europe.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945, three months before Nazi Germany was finally defeated.