The Holocaust during World War II, in which Nazis rounded up and killed millions of Jews, was a "horrifying period with no match in history," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Friday. The statement was made to mark the United Nations' first international day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.
Turkey, which is 99 percent Muslim, is Israel's closest regional ally, but is in a tricky geographical position bordering Muslim countries openly hostile to the Jewish state, including Iran, whose president has denied the Holocaust and called for Israel's elimination.
"On this meaningful day, we respectfully commemorate the deaths of all people who died in the Holocaust in World War II. We hope all humanity will learn the necessary lessons of this horrifying period with no match in history, so that similar events will not be repeated," the Foreign Ministry said.
Turkish Sultan Beyazid II accepted Jews into the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, after they were expelled from Spain in 1492. Turkey also aided Jews fleeing the Holocaust, including Turkish Jews abroad, the Foreign Ministry statement said.
"The Jewish academics who took refuge in our country took positions at universities and made important contributions to the education of our children," the statement said.
There are an estimated 27,000 Jews in Turkey, according to figures from the Jewish Community of Turkey, reports the AP. I.L.