Israeli Holocaust Survivors Split Over Iran’s Acknowledgement of Nazi Crimes

Some Cheer Hassan Rowhani's Acceptance of History

Chava Hershkovitz, winner of last year’s Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant, sees reason for hope.
nathan jeffay
Chava Hershkovitz, winner of last year’s Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant, sees reason for hope.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published October 05, 2013, issue of October 11, 2013.
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Israel has brusquely dismissed Iran’s moves away from the Holocaust denial of its previous president. But actual Holocaust survivors in Israel are divided on how to react to the development.

“Personally, for me, it was important — it made me feel something,” said Chava Hershkovitz, 80, at the Yad Ezer L’Haver home for survivors in Haifa.

Hershkovitz, winner of last year’s Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant, was one of several survivors interviewed who saw some reason for hope in the recent statements of Iranian leaders. ““I think the population in Iran will understand Israelis and Jews better.” It could acquire a sense of “why we’re so scared,” she added, and soften towards Israel.

In contrast, Jerusalemite Chaim Maltz said that he doesn’t need anyone to validate his experiences. “As far as I’m concerned it’s irrelevant to me — I know what happened.”

Maltz, 77, thought that Iran was using Holocaust recognition to ingratiate itself with the West while continuing its anti-Western and anti-Israel agenda. “I think they want a caliphate, to knock out our state, and this may be a way towards this,” he said. “I don’t really care what they say because they are our enemies.”

The diverse reactions underlined the diverse nature of Israeli Holocaust survivors themselves. Often caricatured as a monolithic group, the survivors’ responses to the Iranian leaders’ recent remarks on the Holocaust is no less complex than those of Israelis in general, albeit with the extra twist of personal experience.

Though the issue of Iran’s nuclear program remains front and center as the core of Israel’s concerns about Iran, Israelis have been decrying the Islamic Republic’s position on the Shoah for many years. Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, frequently voiced his doubts in public about the historical reality of the Holocaust.

And for Israel, the issue acquired so much significance that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited it as part of the reason he ordered the country’s United Nations representatives to boycott the September 24 speech by Ahmadinejad’s recently elected successor, President Hassan Rouhani, to the world body’s General Assembly.


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