Turkey marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today’s Zaman  January 27, 2012

Turkey marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, saying in an official statement that it is an occasion to remember the significance of combating racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and airing a French epic documentary about the Holocaust.

Turkey's Chief Rabbi Izak Haleva (R) and İstanbul's Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu light candles in memory of Holocaust victims during a commemoration to mark international Holocaust Remembrance Day at Neve Shalom synagogue in İstanbul on Jan. 26, 2012. (Photo: AA)

“Today, on the occasion of the United Nations international day of commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, we remember and honor the memory of more than 6 million Jews and members of other minorities, who lost their lives during this human tragedy,” a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

“This day of remembrance also guides us towards a future which includes a culture of mutual understanding, tolerance and co-existence and in line with this reminds us of the significance of drawing the right lessons on combating racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism,” it said, also remembering Turkish diplomats who saved many lives from the Nazi regime during World War II and “who thereby make us proud of our history.”

On the eve of the international remembrance day, Turkish officials attended a ceremony at İstanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue and state broadcaster the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation’s (TRT) documentary channel also showed filmmaker Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah” as part of a campaign to promote understanding between Jews and Muslims and to fight Holocaust denial. The filmmaker said this is the first time the film has been broadcast on state television in a Muslim country, The Associated Press reported.

“It is a historical event,” Lanzmann, 87, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Paris. “It is extremely important that it is being shown in a Muslim country.”

“The Turks are engaged in a pioneering work and I am sure it (the showing) will be followed by other Muslim countries,” he said.

The film is not the first Holocaust film to be shown on television in Turkey. Turkey also has its own Holocaust film: “The Turkish Passport,” which was released last year and tells the true story of Turkish diplomats who saved thousands of Jews by issuing them Turkish passports.

“Shoah” has also been shown to a limited audience at a Turkish film festival.

Ceremony at Neve Shalom Synagogue

Turkish officials attending the commemoration ceremony at Neve Shalom Synagogue remembered victims of the Holocaust.

“Six million innocent people were killed systematically as part of a plan drafted and implemented with cold blood. Unfortunately, this unprecedented tragedy has been met with silence by governments and people in many places across Europe and some even cooperated in sending Jews to the concentration camps,” Ambassador Ertan Tezgör, who attended the ceremony on behalf of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said in a speech to the guests at Neve Shalom Synagogue.

Tezgör also called for closer scrutiny of Islamophobia and xenophobia, a rising threat in Europe.

“I deeply share the pain of these people who were targeted for nothing but their identity,” İstanbul Governor Avni Mutlu said.

The Turkish commemoration of Holocaust comes amid tensions between Turkey and Israel over Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Ties worsened in 2010 after Israeli commandos killed eight Turkish national and one Turkish American in a raid on a flotilla that was trying to breach Israel’s Gaza blockade. Relations remain in a state of deep crisis as Israel refuses to apologize for the flotilla killings.

It also comes amid an escalating dispute between Turkey and France over French legislation that would make it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks amounted to genocide.

Most historians contend that the 1915 killings of Armenians as the Ottoman Empire broke up was the 20th century’s first genocide, and several European countries recognize the massacres as such. But Turkey rejects the term genocide, saying there was no systematic campaign to kill Armenians and that many Turks also died during the chaotic disintegration of the empire.

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