Turkish State TV Airs French Holocaust Documentary

An epic French documentary about the mass
murder of Jews under the German Nazi regime has appeared on Turkish
television to mark international Holocaust Remembrance Day – the first
time the film has been aired on public television in a majority-Muslim
country.


State television TRT’s
documentary channel showed the first episode of filmmaker Claude
Lanzmann’s “Shoah” late Thursday – the eve of the day of remembrance of
the victims of the Holocaust.

The film has
been subtitled into Arabic, Farsi and Turkish by the Paris-based Aladdin
Project as part of its campaign to promote understanding between Jews
and Muslims and to fight Holocaust denial.

“Shoah,”
the Hebrew word for Holocaust, includes testimony from concentration
camp survivors and employees about the slaughter of millions of Jews in
Europe by the Nazis during World War II. Lanzmann worked for 11 years on
the film, which was released in 1985.

Last
year, a Los Angeles-based Farsi satellite channel broadcast the
9-plus-hour documentary in Iran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has
questioned historical accounts of the Holocaust and called for Israel’s
destruction.

The film is not the first
Holocaust film to be shown on television in Turkey, a secular country
that is seeking membership in the European Union. 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.

Nevertheless,
it was the first showing of “Shoah” on a public television channel in a
Muslim country. The director said he hoped more Muslim countries would
follow suit.

“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.

Extremists
in some Muslim countries deny that the Holocaust ever happened,
accusing Jews of inventing it in an attempt to gain sympathy and advance
interests. In Iran, Ahmadinejad has frequently questioned whether the
Holocaust was a true historical fact, arguing that it was used by Jews
to trick the West into backing the creation of Israel.

The
documentary’s airing comes at a time when some Jewish groups have
warned of growing anti-Semitism in Turkey, following the country’s
frayed relations with Israel.

Turkey was
outraged by the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians during
Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip three years ago aimed at stopping daily
rocket barrages from the coastal territory.

Ties
worsened in 2010 after Israeli naval commandos killed nine Turks in a
botched raid on a flotilla that was trying to breach Israel’s Gaza
blockade. Israel’s refusal to apologize for the flotilla killings sent
relations deteriorating even further. Both sides claimed they acted in
self-defense.

The documentary was also aired
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 1.5 million 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. It also says that death toll is
inflated.

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