Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greets the crowd as he begins his speech in the city of Qazvin, about 150 m (93 miles) west of Tehran on June 8. Ahmadinejad has incurred the wrath of Jews for discrediting the Holocaust as a myth. - REUTERS
NUREMBERG, Germany (AP):
GERMAN JEWS and politicians protested Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Nazi Holocaust yesterday while his country kicked off its World Cup campaign, declaring that he would be unwelcome at the tournament.
Ahmadinejad has caused international outrage by dismissing the Holocaust as a myth and questioning Israel's right to exist.
About 1,200 people gathered in a downtown Nuremberg square, many waving blue-and-white Israeli flags, police said. Also protesting were Iranian dissidents with their country's pre-revolution flag.
"We have to make it very clear to Ahmadinejad, who is the Hitler of the 21st century, that he has crossed the red line," Michel Friedman, a former deputy leader of Germany's Central Council of Jews, told the crowd. "It is our job, not just that of us Jews but of all Germans, to tell Ahmadinejad he is an unwelcome person in Germany."
VISIT NATIONAL TEAM
Ahmadinejad has suggested that he might visit the national team during the World Cup, but no specific plans have been announced.
The German Government, which is involved in delicate diplomatic efforts to defuse concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, has resisted calls to bar Ahmadinejad from the tournament.
"I will not say a word against the Iranian team or the Iranian people," Bavaria's state Interior Minister, Guenther Beckstein, told yesterday's demonstration.
However, "a criminal like Ahmadinejad is not welcome," he added. "Someone who denies the Holocaust, who says Israel has no right to exist ... is positioning himself outside any kind of civilization or culture."
Among the crowd was Alex Delomann, a German Jew from Cologne who said his great-grandparents were shot by the Nazis in Ukraine.
"I'm protesting against the Iranian government because I do not think it's OK if somebody claims that my great-grandparents disappeared just like that," he said.
In a guest column for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, the head of Germany's Central Council of Jews expressed concern at the possibility of marches by the German far right in support of Ahmadinejad.
"We have to prevent the enemies of the constitution and the Iranian dictator merging into an explosive anti-Semitic alliance," Charlotte Knobloch wrote.