Religion & Jewish Life

Fifteen years of research leads to four-volume book on Holocaust — in Farsi

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Ari Babaknia doesn’t expect that Iran’s president will ever read his four-volume series of Holocaust books written in the Farsi language.

But the author says he is confident that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows the books exist.

“I’ve done 10, 11 television interviews,” Babaknia said — interviews that are transmitted via satellite to Iran.

He has sent the four volumes, released in April, to three people in Iran who requested it via the website

The volumes are titled “Man’s Inhumanity to Man,” “America’s Response to the Holocaust,” “The World’s Response to the Holocaust” and “End of the Holocaust and Liberation of Nazi Camps and the Genocides of the Last 100 Years.”

Once the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and Babaknia’s family Memorah Foundation, which published the volumes, recoup what the author estimates at $70,000 to $80,000 in publishing costs, he plans to make the works available online for free.

Babaknia, an Iranian-born Jew who sits on the Wyman board, says the costs do not account for his time or the money he paid for researchers or designers.

A physician who completed medical school in Tehran, Babaknia arrived in the United States in 1974 to continue his education in women’s medical health and then infertility.

In the 1990s, he began his Holocaust research.

“More than 120 million speak or write Farsi in the world, and there never has been a well-researched or -documented book about the Holocaust in Farsi,” said Babaknia, 65, of Newport Beach, Calif.

However, Project Aladdin, a UNESCO-sponsored project that works to foster positive relations between Muslims and Jews and to combat Holocaust denial, does offer several books on the Holocaust in Farsi translation.

Babaknia said he initially expected to complete his research during a one-year sabbatical.

“One year was two or three years, then it was 15 years later,” said Babaknia, who explained that he kept finding himself with more questions to research.

The author views the Holocaust as a “human catastrophe.” The Jews were the victims, he says, but “we don’t own” the Holocaust.

In looking at the world’s response to the Holocaust, Babaknia notes that Jews remained safe in Iran.

“The most important thing to understand about Iran is that Iran has a virtually flawless record during the Holocaust,” said Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum. “When Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, he also denies the humanity of his own people.”

Berenbaum commended Babaknia for translating original documents and materials in a serious “attempt to educate those in the Iranian population who are interested in studying history instead of the fantasy that the Holocaust never happened.”

Liebe Geft, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, which hosted a book launch party for Babaknia in April, praises the series as “a monumental work of enormous importance.”

“Put into the hands of young people today, academics,” Geft said, Babaknia’s books provide “an opportunity to learn, to understand, to encounter and perhaps even to transform.”