Iran: Visit to Nazi concentration camp never planned

Iran on Friday denied German media reports that a delegation visiting Germany from the Iranian city of Shiraz cancelled a visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp, upsetting its hosts.

'Such a visit was right from the beginning never planned, and, therefore, there was no cancellation whatsoever, either,' the mayor of Shiraz, Mehran Etemadi, who headed the delegation, told the official news agency IRNA.

The death camp - where Nazis killed tens of thousands of political prisoners and people from minorities through disease, overwork and executions - is located near the city of Weimar.

Visitors usually pay their respects to the dead at the memorial and visit the museum, but the group from Shiraz, whose sister city is Weimar, refused to make the trip scheduled Wednesday, German civic officials said.

According to media reports, the government in Tehran and the Iranian embassy in Germany put pressure on the delegation to cancel the visit.

Etemadi dismissed those reports, saying the delegation's itinerary was carefully planned in advance and such a visit had never been on the agenda.

'Perhaps the other party might have had some expectations [outside of the agenda], but the protocol was discussed in advance with the Iranian embassy in Berlin,' he said.

Iran has in the past 30 years avoided any contact with Israel, even at international sporting events. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad strongly denied the Holocaust occurred and has termed the World War II mass murder of Jews a 'fairy tale.'

Etemadi said the visit of the Iranian delegation to Weimar was successful and did not believe that the issue of the concentration camp visit would reduce cooperation between the two cities.

Germany established the Shiraz-Weimar connection to keep people- to-people links alive while their national governments were at odds.

Weimar Mayor Stefan Wolf deplored the Shiraz delegation's decision, saying it was inconceivable that a friend would try to ignore the pain caused by the Nazi camp. Local newspapers said the city council refused to meet the delegation because of the cancelled visit.

Berlin has regularly protested Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and his calls to wipe the state of Israel off the map. Denying that the Nazis committed genocide against the Jews is a criminal offence in Germany. 



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