The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
God Himself has indeed been dethroned from the hearts of men, and an idolatrous world passionately and clamorously hails and worships the false gods which its own idle fancies have fatuously created, and its misguided hands so impiously exalted…. Their high priests are the politicians and the worldly-wise, the so-called sages of the age; their sacrifice, the flesh and blood of the slaughtered multitudes; their incantations, outworn shibboleths and insidious and irreverent formulas; their incense, the smoke of anguish that ascends from the lacerated hearts of the bereaved, the maimed, and the homeless. – Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 113.
Everyone knows about the Holocaust, that unspeakably horrible genocidal atrocity Jewish people call the Shoah, when the Nazis forcibly exterminated six million Jews during World War II.
But only a few survivors and historians realize what led up to the mass killings. The Nazi party didn’t just begin exterminating its Jewish victims immediately—instead, when they first took power they passed a series of laws, issued secret internal memos and initiated a general campaign to gradually deprive Germany’s Jewish population of its rights.
It all started on the 27th of February in 1933, when secret agents of the Nazi party conspired to burn down the Reichstag building, the seat of the German government, and then succeeded in blaming it on “the communists.” The panicked German public, outraged at this violation of their traditions and their democracy, insisted that the Nazis respond to the manufactured “crisis.”
So on April Fool’s Day in 1933, just a week after the German Parliament passed Adolf Hitler’s “Enabling Act,” and permanently appointed him as their Chancellor and dictator in response to the faked crisis, Hitler ordered Germans to boycott Jewish-owned banks, offices, shops and stores. Initially, the boycott didn’t work, because most Germans generally ignored it—which forced Hitler to call it off after just three days. But once the initial boycott failed, the ruling Nazi party followed up with the rapid-fire implementation of a succession of eight harsh laws which gradually gutted the rights, the educations and the livelihoods of all German Jews.
Those government actions resulted in the “othering” of the German Jews, pushing them out of the mainstream of society, separating them and making them clear targets for further persecution.
These initial laws led to the eventual extermination of an entire population, culminating in one of the worst genocides in human history. Take a look at the list:
The first anti-Semitic German law required that all civil servants and government employees; must be “Aryans,” forcing out every Jewish person who worked in government;
The second law made it illegal for the state to pay Jewish doctors and patent attorneys;
The third law, ostensibly to relieve overcrowding in schools, made it almost impossible for Jewish children to go to a public school;
The fourth law stopped Jewish dentists from practicing;
The fifth law barred Jewish university professors;
The sixth law said the spouses of “non-Aryans” couldn’t work in government jobs;
The seventh law banned Jews from participating in Germany’s cultural and entertainment industry, which included the country’s literature, art, film and theatre sectors;
And the eighth law removed all Jewish journalists from their jobs–and placed every German newspaper under Nazi control.
With these laws, all passed and implemented in rapid succession in less than six months, the Nazis turned the German majority population’s anti-Semitic prejudices into a “lawful” campaign designed to marginalize, oppress and exterminate the Jewish minority. Essentially, along with the infamous Nuremburg laws the Nazis implemented two years later in 1935, they made being Jewish illegal.
But this horrible chain of events could never happen again, right? We know too much now to ever allow such travesties of justice to occur in the 21st Century, don’t we? Sadly, the answer is no.
Because exactly the same pattern unfolds right now in Iran, as the government there systematically and quietly goes about trying to destabilize, marginalize and exterminate the Baha’i community. In fact, to those who know how the Holocaust began in Nazi Germany, the parallels look eerily familiar.
During the summer of 1978 in the southern Iranian city of Abadan, four arsonists barred the doors of a movie theater and set it on fire, killing more than 400 people trapped inside. (Eventually Islamist demonstrators burned down 180 movie theatres in Iran.) The revolutionaries angrily blamed the Shah, and an enraged public believed them. Huge demonstrations ensued, and the Shah’s government fell in a few months. Later, Islamist militants admitted to starting the fire to fuel the revolution.
In January of 1979, the fundamentalist Islamic government took power with a promise to address Iran’s social “crisis”—a crisis inflamed and generated by strikes and demonstrations largely led by those bent on installing an authoritarian theocracy, using the same tactics the Nazis had employed 46 years before.
When the fundamentalist rule of the ayatollahs took hold, they quickly set plans in motion to destroy the Baha’i community. Because of the progressive Baha’i ideals—among them the oneness of humanity, the equality of women and men, the underlying unity of all religions—the conservative ayatollahs publicly demonized and denounced the Baha’is, and the government campaign against them turned deadly. The regime imprisoned, tortured and hanged hundreds of Baha’is, including young teenage girls and the elderly. They expelled Baha’i students from schools, commandeered businesses owned by Baha’is, destroyed Baha’i holy places and cemeteries, refused to prosecute people who brutally murdered Baha’is and generally outlawed the Baha’i Faith, just as the Nazis had made Judaism a crime.
If you’d like to know more, and help prevent another mass genocide from occurring, please follow along as we explore and explain the ongoing—and now worsening—plight of the Baha’is in Iran.