Iran Planning Destruction Worse Than Nazi Gas Chambers, Survivor Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is planning to destroy the Jewish people in a way that would eclipse the gas chambers of the Nazi Holocaust, a Holocaust survivor said.

At a ceremony marking Holocaust remembrance day at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, on Sunday evening, Tommy Lapid -- who chairs the Yad Vashem council -- spoke on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

Six million Jews were not enough for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Lapid.

"Even today there is an existential threat to the Jewish people on the part of the Iranian president," Lapid said. "Ahmadinejad is planning to have means of destruction compared to which the gas chambers at Auschwitz were just the beginning."

Israel paused Monday morning as air raid sirens sounded for two minutes, calling the country to remember the six million Jews who were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust.

Iran is currently under international sanctions for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment - a process linked to the development of its nuclear program. The West believes that Iran is using its civilian program to covertly develop atomic weapons, and Israel fears it is the prime target.

Ahmadinejad previously has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and he has questioned the existence of the Holocaust.

"The world advises us to be compromising, to take risks for peace," said Lapid. "What will they do if the other side doesn't behave as they desire? Will they say, 'Sorry, we were wrong?'" he asked. "Our message to the world is: think about the Holocaust, because we think of it every day."

Diplomatic row

A diplomatic row between Israel and the Vatican was narrowly averted when the Vatican's ambassador to Israel, Monsignor Antonio Franco, decided to attend the opening ceremony. (All ambassadors are invited.)

Franco said earlier that he would not attend because of a photo caption at the Yad Vashem museum indicating that wartime Pope Pius XII maintained his silence against the Nazi regime

Pius XII's wartime actions are a point of contention between Israel and the Vatican. The Vatican is going through the process of making Pius XII a saint, but many Jewish people feel the Vatican didn't do enough to try to save the Jewish people.

Franco was quoted as saying that he changed his mind after receiving letter from Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. In it, Shalev said that he regretted that Franco had chosen to "link the commemoration of the Holocaust and its victims with this historical debate."

Anti-Semitism up

On Sunday, a research institute at Tel Aviv University released a report showing that
anti-Semitic violence and vandalism increased dramatically worldwide in 2006.

Some 590 cases of violence and vandalism aimed at Jewish people, property or institutions were registered in 2006, including a doubling of physical attacks against Jewish people.

According to the report, "Evidence on the scene indicated that many of the perpetrators were Muslim immigrants, as well as right-wing extremists and sympathizers."

The highest rise in anti-Semitic violence was found in the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Canada. There was a 12 percent drop in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. last year, although there were some serious assaults, including murder.

Two factors may have influenced the rise in anti-Semitism, the report said, including the summer war between Israel and the Hizballah as well as efforts by Iran's Ahmadinejad to deny the Holocaust.

Iran sponsored a conference in Tehran in December that drew dozens of Holocaust deniers and revisionists examining the claims of the Holocaust. It was widely condemned in the West.

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