Jan Bernhoff teaches computer science at Åsö adult education college in Stockholm. He spoke at the Iran conference on Monday, giving a lecture entitled The Holocaust Demography. In it, he said that only 300,000 Jews died at the hands of the Nazis during the Second World War, rather than the figure of six million widely accepted by historians.
“This is deplorable,” said Jesper Svartvik, chairman of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, to The Local.
“I have never met a serious scholar who would come up with a figure as low as 300,000,” he said.
Britt-Marie Johansson, headteacher at the school, said she knew nothing of the conference until she was informed on Wednesday morning.
“This is a conference with an anti-semitic flavour, and I don’t think our teachers should take part it. This is a question of democratic values, and the equal value of all people,” she told Svenska Dagbladet.
Following a meeting between Bernhoff and Johansson on Thursday morning, the teacher was suspended for the rest of the term. Johansson said his actions would now be investigated.
“This means that he is not allowed to work, but will retain a full salary,” she said.
Among the other conference delegates were former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and a smattering of largely-discredited historians. Many of the speakers claimed that the accepted history Holocaust was fabricated to benefit Israel.
International leaders attacked the decision to hold the event, with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel condemning it “in the strongest terms,” and Britain’s Tony Blair saying it was “shocking beyond belief.”
Jesper Svartvik stressed that he had not read the whole of Bernhoff’s lecture, but said his attendance represented a tendency among some in Sweden “to instrumentalize the Holocaust for other purposes.”
Svartvik pointed to a recent incident in Malmö, in which a demonstrator carried a placard equating the star of David with the swastika.
“In Sweden, and in Europe, one uses these arguments not only to attack Israel, but also to excuse Europe’s behaviour towards the Jews,” he said. Svartvik also pointed out that a Swedish computer science teacher is hardly the best qualified person to give a lecture on the topic.
“He has gone to Teheran not as a specialist but because he holds the right views.”
Lotta Edholm, the politician with responsibility for education matters on Stockholm council, said the man’s participation in the conference was inappropriate:
“It is very unlikely that one can share the values of the curriculum if one has views such as this,” she told Metro.