Germany on Wednesday condemned a contest in Iran for cartoons depicting the Holocaust, saying it sows hatred and deepens divisions in the Middle East.
The event was organized by non-governmental bodies with support from Iran’s hard-liners. A previous contest in 2006 got a boost from then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who referred to the Holocaust as a “myth.”
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Wednesday that “the murder of 6 million men, women and children during the Holocaust, for which we Germans bear guilt and responsibility, must not be abandoned to ridicule.”
Schaefer said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made clear during a February visit to Tehran that no further such competition should take place.
The Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest opened Saturday and was set to run through the end of May in Tehran. The top prize is $12,000.
Some 150 works from 50 countries are on display in the contest, which is organized by nongovernmental bodies in Iran with support from the government. Most of the works criticize Israel for using the Holocaust to distract the international community from its treatment of the Palestinians.
Germany’s condemnation of the contest was the latest from the international community.
“It is not just its policy of subversion and aggression in the region; it is the values on which it is based,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Iran. “It denies and belittles the Holocaust and it is also preparing another Holocaust. I think that every country in the world must stand up and fully condemn this.”
The Israeli leader added that he conveyed this message to US Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation on Saturday night.
The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, also condemned the contest, “which aims at a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people, a tragic page of humanity’s history.”
Irina Bokova, the body’s director general, said over the weekend that it “goes against the universal values of tolerance and respect, and runs counter to the action led by UNESCO to promote Holocaust education, to fight anti-Semitism and denial.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a briefing to reporters that the United States was concerned the contest could “be used as a platform for Holocaust denial and revisionism and egregiously anti-Semitic speech, as it has in the past,” The Associated Press reported.
“Such offensive speech should be condemned by the authorities and civil society leaders rather than encouraged. We denounce any Holocaust denial and trivialization as inflammatory and abhorrent. It is insulting to the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust.”