01/27/2022, 17.08
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A graphic novel in Persian about Anne Frank published on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Iranian-Canadian journalist and activist Maziar Bahari authored the book. Jailed for reporting on the 2009 protests following the election of Ahmadinejad, Bahari undertook the Anne Frank project by teaming up with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Another major figure is Abdol-Hossein Sardari, the Iranian consul in Paris who helped Jews.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Iranian-Canadian journalist and activist Maziar Bahari published a Persian translation of the graphic novel dedicated to Anne Frank to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is celebrated today, 27 January, to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.

“I grew up in Iran in the 1960s, to a politically conscious family. I left and wasn’t indoctrinated,” he told Haaretz. At the same time, he is well aware of the challenges of trying to educate the citizens of the Islamic Republic about the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany in World War II.

Jailed in 2009 for reporting the protests that followed the election of ultra-right-wing President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, his experience became the basis for Jon Stewart's 2014 film Rosewater.

Having decided to undertake work on remembrance and raising awareness, he had the idea of ​​translating one of the foremost books about the Holocaust into his native language, a project made possible by teaming up with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The outcome was today’s release of the authorised graphic novel in Persian about Anne Frank, as part of the Sardari Project, which aims to make Holocaust education accessible to young Iranians in Iran and the diaspora.

For Bahari, part of the problem is that most Iranians in the diaspora, even if they know basic English, “have a hard time grasping complex issues like the Holocaust. So, they have to resort to their own language: Urdu, Bengali, Arabic Persian,” where the content “is rife with antisemitism”.

New York University historian Arash Azizi was a consultant on the project. He notes that whilst the school curriculum for 12th graders in Iran covers World War II, including the Nazi regime, Hitler and the allied victory, there is “not a single word about Jews or the Holocaust”.

“When we launched the project, we were surprised to learn that Iranians wanted to know more details, to learn about the different phases – from the rise of the Nazis to the concentration camps to postwar Europe. So, we created a series of articles, a Holocaust encyclopedia, webinars, and create videos for social media,” Bahari explained.

“Being exposed to this content strengthens a skill of critical thinking, which hopefully will help everyday Iranians come out of that shell of misinformation and suppression the Iranian government built for a very long time.”

An important figure for such remembrance is Abdol-Hossein Sardari. Known as the Schindler of Iran, he served as Iranian consul in Paris during the German occupation of France during which he saved about 2,000 Iranian Jews who were in the country at that time.

He wrote to the Germans that the Persian king, Cyrus the Great, freed the Jews of Babylon in 538 BCE, allowing them to return home. Later, fascinated by Moses as a prophet, some Iranians gave birth to the Djuguten, who had nothing to do with the Jewish race. That is why Iranian Jews were Aryan.

After getting a letter from Adolf Eichmann that dismissed his claim as one of the usual “Jewish deceptions”, Sardari managed to hand out a thousand passports and saved as many people from the Holocaust.

When Khomeini came to power in the 1979 revolution, he lost his pension and assets in Iran. He died impoverished in London in 1981 where he had moved after retirement.

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