Rabbi Says Holocaust Victims Were Sinners

ByABC News
August 6, 2000, 4:20 PM

J E R U S A L E M, Aug. 6 -- Controversy raged in Israel today after arabbi who heads the biggest ultra-Orthodox political party said thesix million Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust died becausethey were reincarnations of sinners.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of the Shas party, also declared thatPrime Minister Ehud Barak has no sense because he is trying tomake peace with the Palestinians, who are snakes.

Yosef was speaking in his weekly Saturday night sermon broadcastover the partys radio stations and is even beamed overseas bysatellite.

He called the Nazis evil and the victims poor people,but he said the six million were reincarnations of the souls ofsinners, people who transgressed and did all sorts of things whichshould not be done. They had been reincarnated in order to atone.

Comments Stir Controversy

Barak told the cabinet today the statement is unworthy of arabbi of Yosefs status. His words could harm the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust and could hurt the feelings of theirfamilies and the feelings of the entire nation, the primeminister said.

Legislator Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, who heads the secularist Shinuiparty, said Rabbi Yosef is an old fool who has done a serviceto those who are trying to rehabilitate Adolf Hitlers reputation.

In the world it will be said that a distinguished rabbi inIsrael is in effect confirming what Hitler said, that the Jews aresinners, said Lapid, who is himself a Holocaust survivor.

The two main radio stations were inundated with phone calls andmessages, most of them criticizing Yosefs statement. YehoshuaMashav, a listener, told Israel radio that in plain language Yosefwas saying Hitler was innocent and that he was simply themessenger of God sent to give the Jewish people their justdeserts.

We Are All Sinners

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international center forHolocaust remembrance, said the rabbi absolved the perpetrators ofthe Holocaust of their responsibility. If those Jews deserved todie for past sins, why blame those who carried out the deathsentence? said Ephraim Zuroff, director of the groups Jerusalemoffice.