October 13, 2011





The Aladdin Project, a Paris-based organization working to promote intercultural relations between Jews and Muslims, launched today 18 books on the Holocaust translated for the first time into Arabic and Persian at Frankfurt International Book Fair.

On the occasion of the launch, a roundtable discussion took place in the presence of seven prominent French, German, Iranian, Moroccan and Turkish intellectuals. Sitting behind piles of classics such as Anne Franck’s Diary, If This Is a Man by Primo Levi or Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, all in Arabic and Persian, the panellists’ discussion centred on “Knowledge of Holocaust history as a means of promoting intercultural rapprochement?”

“What happened to Jews in Europe in the twentieth century is part of our common history, of the history of humankind. It is a universal tragedy with a moral significance and should not be reduced to an issue of political or religious contention. We all have to face this past in order to learn from it,” said distinguished Moroccan philosopher and author Professor Abdou Filali-Ansary.

French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, visibly moved to see his book Shoah in Arabic and Persian, remarked: “There is only one humanity. And if I can cry when I see a film by Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu or a masterpiece of Turkish director Yilmaz Guney, even though it is not at all from my culture, I see no reason why Arabs or Iranians could not cry when they see Shoah as if it was about their own history. Because this film touches what is human in all of us.”

Launched in 2009 under the patronage of UNESCO, the Aladdin Project’s Board of Directors brings together personalities from different countries and cultures. “By publishing these works, our goal is to pass on knowledge of History in the hope of promoting intercultural rapprochement, particularly between Jews and Muslims,” said Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, President of the Aladdin Project.

As part of a novel agreement with publishers, Aladdin Online Library offers free access to its books. To date, more than 25,000 books have already been downloaded worldwide.

Referring to the lectures on the Holocaust he gave in Cairo, Baghdad, Tunis and other Arab capitals last year, famous ‘Nazi hunter’ Serge Klarsfeld told the audience: “We cannot accuse Muslims of ignorance on this topic, given that they have no access to books or movies on the Holocaust in their countries. The translations published by the Aladdin Project are thus absolutely necessary.”

For Beate Klarsfeld, who heads with Serge the Association of Daughters and Sons of French Jewish Deportees, the German government, should follow the lead provided by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and support the initiatives of the Aladdin Project.

Tarik Gunersel, President of PEN in Turkey, said it was necessary to transmit knowledge, but also to incite civil society into action. The Turkish writer and translator has published a monodrama inspired by the Diary of Anne Frank, of which he said: “I concluded my work with these words: ‘Please keep this diary, protect it, so that people can find out and DO something about it”.

For Iranian Philosopher Hamid ONGHA the books translated by the Aladdin Project could contribute to the awakening of Iranian civil society by raising awareness of the risks of extremism. “The Holocaust, this descent into barbarism in the middle of the twentieth century, took place in Germany, a country famous for its culture, its music and its philosophy. Seven decades later, Iran, despite its great civilization and its long literary tradition, sinks into denial and propaganda,” he said.

The Aladdin Project plans to publish books in English and French that would give Western readers a better understanding of Muslim societies and cultures. Serge Klarsfeld spoke of his wish to see the Aladdin Project invite Arab and Muslim thinkers to speak about “the suffering of their people under colonialism in particular”.

Organizers said they were actively seeking partners to distribute the books in the Arab world. 7,500 exhibitors from 110 countries were present at the sixty-third edition of the Frankfurt International Book Fair. Anne-Marie Revcolevschi took advantage of this event to extend a hand of cooperation to Arab and Muslim publishers and distributors, many of whom were present at the conference.

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