Most of the Advocates and Allies we tell you about were Gentiles active during the Holocaust, risking their lives in order to fight anti-Semitism and save Jews. But this week's Advocate and Ally of the Jewish people is active today. The Times of Israel's Cathryn J. Prince introduces us to Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist and filmmaker who was imprisoned and tortured in his homeland, and who preaches against genocide and makes documentaries to teach Muslims about the Holocaust:
As a young boy growing up in Tehran in the 1970s and ’80s, Maziar Bahari remembers asking his mother “What’s a Jew?” and “What’s Jewish?” So she explained that Judaism is a different religion and told him about many famous Jewish people such as Albert Einstein.
It wasn’t a question plucked from the sky. There was a kosher butcher down the street from his childhood home, and a few blocks away stood the country’s largest synagogue.
So maybe it was bashert (preordained) that in 1994 Bahari made a film “The Voyage of the St. Louis” about the famous ship and the fate of its 937 passengers, nearly all Jewish refugees trying to escape the Holocaust.
By that time he was living in Canada, having fled alone from Iran in 1986 at age 19. It wasn’t a short journey — first he crossed into Pakistan and spent 18 months there, before immigrating to Canada.
As an immigrant he was drawn to the stories of the Jews aboard the St. Louis, but his quest to understand the Holocaust didn’t end there. He also made a film about the Iranian diplomat Abdol Hossein Sardari — known as the Schindler of Iran — who saved thousands of Jewish lives in occupied France.
As far as Bahari knows he is the only Iranian to sympathize with and make films about the Holocaust. But while teaching about it on a grand scale is important, Bahari said it is through individual stories that the lessons of the Holocaust can be learned...