Jewish group accuses State Department of minimizing Germany's role in Holocaust; State representative says language will be changed to 'more accurately reflect historical facts'
Published: 08.06.07, 23:43 / Israel News
The US State Department said Monday it would revise a portion of its website after a prominent Jewish group accused it of minimizing the Holocaust and Germany's role in the Nazi slaughter of European Jews.
The department's special envoy for Holocaust issues said a section of the site devoted to "background notes" on Germany would be altered following a protest from the Simon Wiesenthal Center that urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to change the entry that it charged omitted key information about the mass killings.
"We intend to change the language in order to more accurately reflect historical facts," said the envoy, J. Christian Kennedy.
The department's Bureau of European Affairs, which compiled the section on Germany that was last updated in July, said there had been no intent to play down the Holocaust but could not say exactly how the section would be changed.
The decision was made shortly after the department learned of a letter to Rice from Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, that said the entry was "offensive" because it explained neither the magnitude of nor the motives for the mass killings of six million Jews.
"While the section entitled 'Background Note Germany' does contain a general reference to the crime of genocide and the establishment of concentration camps, there is no mention who the principal victims were or that the real purpose of the camps was to eliminate Europe's Jews as part of Hitler's 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question'," he wrote.
"I urge you to correct this distortion and order a redraft of this section on Germany," Hier said.
In a passage on Adolf Hitler coming to power in Germany, the entry says: "The Nazi leadership immediately jailed Jewish opposition and other figures and withdrew their political rights. The Nazis implemented a program of genocide, at first through incarceration and forced labor and then by establishing death camps."
There is no direct reference to the Nazis targetting Jews for death or the numbers killed. Hier noted that similar sections on the website devoted to genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan's western Darfur region and Stalinist Russia all discussed specific numbers and types of victims.
In addition, the entry on Poland, where many Nazi concentration camps were located, also mentions the enormity of the killings, he said.
"It seems like they're treading very lightly and don't want to offend Germany," Hier said in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles office, adding that he had learned of the website entry during a recent visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.