Historians Debate Holocaust Research in Berlin

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Leading Holocaust historians gathered in Berlin to discuss the current state of Holocaust studies. The meeting has been widely seen as a reaction to a controversial Holocaust conference in Iran.

The conference -- organized by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (BPB) -- is seen by many as a response to a two-day conference on the Holocaust, which started in Teheran on Monday.

US historian Raul Hilberg, the author of "Destruction of the European Jews," which is widely considered one of the standard texts on the Holocaust, said he wanted to make "a statement" by attending the Berlin conference.

"I don't think a dialogue is possible with people who deny the Holocaust," Hilberg said.

BPB president Thomas Krüger said the Berlin conference was designed to respond to the "absurd arguments" of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who has questioned the existence of the Holocaust and said Israel should be wiped off the map.

"Doubting the Holocaust and questioning the existence of Israel are fundamental attacks on the democratic values of Western societies," Krüger said.

Peter Longerich from the Research Center for the Holocaust and 20th Century History at London University, however, said that seeing the Berlin as a reaction to the gathering in Iran was a connection being made largely by the media.

"As somebody who is actively doing research in this area, I would say that our debate and our discussion are not influenced by systematic approaches to deny the Holocaust," Longerich said. "I don't think that this conference is intellectually a reaction to what is going on somewhere else in the world."

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