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From Wannsee To Tehran


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This week marks the seventieth anniversary of one of the most chilling events of the modern era.

On January 20, 1942, as related by Dr. Erwin Birnbaum in an in-depth front-page essay on page 1 of this week’s Jewish Press, senior Nazi officials headed by SS General Reinhard Heydrich convened at a villa outside of Berlin in the suburb of Wannsee to discuss the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.”

Though the Germans had already been busy murdering Jews en masse for some time, the Wannsee Conference, as it came to be known, sought to coordinate efforts across the various arms of the Nazi regime with the aim of fully implementing Hitler’s plan to eradicate the Jewish people.

It set in motion a full-fledged and synchronized bureaucratic endeavor unprecedented in the history of mankind, one that resulted in the systematic murder of six million Jews.

As we look back at that frightening event, and consider just how close its participants came to achieving their monstrous goals, there are two words which inevitably ring loudly in our minds: Never Again.

After the Holocaust, with all the defiance and determination we could muster, the Jewish people made a vow that we would not allow another genocidal fiend to threaten our existence.

But the question we need to ask ourselves with utmost sincerity is: do we really mean it?

After all, there is a gathering storm over the horizon, as the Iranian regime drives relentlessly toward its goal of developing a nuclear arsenal.

Are we really prepared to take the steps necessary to stop them?

Make no mistake. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the would-be Hitler of Persia, has spoken openly of his ambition to wipe Israel off the map, in effect promising to complete what the plotters of Wannsee began.

On January 3, the tyrant of Tehran was quoted by Iranian television as saying once again that Israel will be destroyed. “Zionists, who have no faith in religion or even God, now claim piety and intend to take away the Islamic identity of Jerusalem,” he declared.

“This ridiculous move is in fact the continuation of the colonialist policies of oppressors, which will not save the Zionist regime, but also take the regime closer to the endpoint of its existence,” he vowed.

Indeed, Ahmadinejad’s rants about exterminating the Jewish people have become so routine that they no longer receive much attention in the Western press.

But just because his threats have lost their news value does not mean they pose any less of a danger. We would be making a fateful and perhaps existential error to think otherwise.

Consider how belligerent Iran has been in just the past few weeks. Earlier this month, Iran’s Revolutionary Court had the audacity to sentence an Iranian-American to death on trumped up charges, accusing him of being a CIA spy.

The ayatollahs have also repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a critical transit route for international oil shipments, in retaliation for Western sanctions.

And the Iranians even went so far as to confirm reports that they have begun to enrich uranium at a second facility in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

They are openly thumbing their noses at the international community, obviously calculating that they can get away with doing so.

If this is how Iran conducts itself before acquiring a nuclear capacity, you imagine what they would do if they were actually to obtain a nuclear arsenal. The threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel and the entire Western world cannot and must not be underestimated.

On a visit to Venezuela on January 10, Ahmadinejad and his host Hugo Chavez joked before the television cameras about having a “big atomic bomb” at their disposal. An atomic Iran would threaten its neighbors, undermine the stability of the region, and endanger the future of Western civilization.

Like it or not, 2012 is a year of decision. In the coming months there will be no shying away from a momentous choice. Iran will either be stopped, or the ayatollahs will be able to construct their own weapons of mass destruction.

No one is itching to pull the trigger and to start bombing Iran. Such a course of action would have plenty of unintended consequences and would throw the Middle East into turmoil.

But several rounds of sanctions and attempts at diplomatic pressure have all failed to dissuade the Iranian regime.

At this point, there is no choice left but for Israel or the United States to resort to military force. Iran simply cannot be allowed to go nuclear.

Sure, the thought of attacking Iran is terrifying. But as alarming as the idea might seem, it pales in comparison with the ayatollahs being able to threaten the world. As the events of seven decades ago at Wannsee demonstrated, when people say they plan to annihilate you, you had best believe them.

About the Author: Michael Freund is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s leading English-language daily, and he previously served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.


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