ICBPS– The beginnings of Jewish history in Iran date back to late biblical times. The biblical books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, contain references to the life and experiences of Jews in Persia. In the book of Ezra, the Persian kings are credited with permitting and enabling the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple; its reconstruction was carried out “according to the decree of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (Ezra 6:14). This great event in Jewish history took place in the late 6th century BC, by which time there was a well-established and influential Jewish community in Persia.
In the 20th century, the Pahlavi dynasty (1925 to 1979) implemented modernizing reforms, which significantly improved the life of Jews. The influence of the Shi’a clergy was weakened, and the restrictions on Jews and other religious minorities were abolished. ‘Reza Shah The Great’ prohibited the mass conversion of Jews and eliminated the Shi’ite concept of ritual uncleanness of non-Muslims. Regarding these decisions, the Modern Hebrew was incorporated into the curriculum of Jewish schools and Jewish newspapers were published. Jews were also allowed to hold government jobs. In 1915 two Jewish brothers, ‘Mordechai’ and ‘Asher ben Avraham,’ opened the first Jewish newspaper called “Shalom.” These changes moved the balance of power in the Jewish community from elders and Rabbis to the youth.
Rising Nazis in Germany and changing Persia to Iran
In 1935 the Iranian government requested those countries which it had diplomatic relations with, to call Persia, “Iran” which is the name of the country in Persian. The suggestion for change is said to have come from the Iranian ambassador to Germany, who came under the influence of the Nazis. At the time Germany was in the grip of racial fever and cultivated good relations with nations of “Aryan” blood. The history reports that some German friends of the ambassador persuaded him that, as with the advent of ‘Reza Shah The Great’, Persia had turned a new page in its history and had freed itself from the pernicious influences of Britain and Russia, whose interventions in Persian affairs had practically crippled the country under the Qajars monarchy, it only fitting that the country is called by its own name, “Iran.” This would not only signal a new beginning and bring home to the world the new era in Iranian history but would also signify the Aryan race of its population, as “Iran” is a cognate of “Aryan” and derived from it.
In the same era, Prior to Hitler joining, the Nazi Party held extremely nationalist, racist, and antisemitic views. After Hitler had joined the party, he expanded upon and marketed these ideas. Hitler had a racist world view. He believed that people could be separated into a hierarchy of different races, where some races were superior, and others were inferior. Hitler believed the German race to be the superior race, and called the German race ‘Aryan.’ Hitler and the Nazis considered Jews to be an inferior race of people, who set out to weaken other races and take over the world. Hitler believed that Jews were particularly destructive to the German ‘Aryan’ race, and did not have any place in Nazi Germany.
According to his views, Hitler ordered the establishment of an organization to force the countries which are having Jews minority to brand them as an inferior race. Rudolf Walter Hess headed this organization. After Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933, Hess was appointed Deputy Führer of the NSDAP and in December 1933 received a post in Hitler’s cabinet as a Minister without Portfolio. He was also appointed to the Cabinet Council in 1938 and 1939 to the Council of Ministers for Defense of the Reich. Hitler decreed in 1939 that ‘Hermann Göring’ was his official successor, and named Hess as next in line. In addition to appearing on Hitler’s behalf at speaking engagements and rallies, Hess signed into law much of the government’s legislation, including the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which stripped the Jews of Germany of their rights in the lead-up to the Holocaust.
Iranians defied Hitler’s decision
Despite the good diplomatic relations between Iran and Germany at that time, ‘Reza Shah The Great’, the king of Iran, refused Hitler’s request regarding announcing the Iranian Jews as an inferior race and second-class citizens. The Iranian diplomat Abdol Hossein Sardari, who is given the title Shindler of Iran, saved Jews in Europe from the Nazis during the wartime. Thousands of Iranian Jews and their descendants owe their lives to the Iranian Shindler.
Regarding today, despite media’s misdeeds and restless tries for misinforming, and also despite the Islamic Republic of Iran point of views and claims of wiping Israel from the world’s map, the Iranians, which means the people of Iran, historically and practically, not only orally, have proven that they have not even a slice of concerns on race differences. The Iranian Jews are first, and most, Iranian, and the people of Iran have sought to honor their father will, ‘Cyrus The Great’.