May 25th, 2012
04:07 PM ET
By Kim Segal, CNN
(CNN) - When he first became interested in learning about the Holocaust in the 1990s, Dr. Ari Babaknia had trouble finding any literature on the subject written in his native tongue, Farsi.
The California-based physician wanted answers to basic questions: Where was the rest of the world as millions were exterminated? And when did the world learn what was happening?
“There’s plenty of books in English on this, and the Farsi-speaking people, I thought - they’re not aware of this,” Babaknia says. “It’s something they should know about.”
So Babaknia, who came to the United States from Iran in 1974, decided to write the book himself, taking time off from his day job as a fertility specialist.
After 15 years of research, four volumes - “Man’s Inhumanity to Man," “America’s Response to the Holocaust,” “The World’s Response to the Holocaust” and “End of the Holocaust and Liberation of the Nazi Camps and the Genocides of the Last 100 Years” - are available for purchase online.
The volumes are self-published through a family foundation, but they're getting serious attention in the Jewish world. The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington are hosting book launch events for Babaknia.
As a Jew growing up in Iran, where Farsi is the official language, Babaknia and his classmates were taught little about the Holocaust. “We knew that 6 million people died,” Babaknia, 65, remembers. “Anything beyond that we really did not know. I knew only one name: Hitler.”
Knowledge of the Holocaust in Iran today is still limited. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is perhaps the international figure most closely associated with Holocaust denial.
Ahmadinejad is also one of Israel's most outspoken critics. Months after taking office in October 2005, he participated in a lengthy protest called "World Without Zionism,” and the Jewish state is deeply worried about his country's nuclear ambitions.
Deborah Lipstadt, professor for Holocaust studies at Emory University, says she welcomes the publication of Babaknia's books.
“I think a history book in Farsi could be very important,” says Lipstadt, who maintains Emory’s Holocaust Denier on Trial website.
“The problem is in Iran there are very few counter histories,” she says, "counter to the denial that Ahmadinejad puts out that a young person, a student, can go to and look up what do historians say as oppose to what politicians claim.”
More than 110 million people around the world speak the Persian language of Farsi.
Babaknia originally came to the United States to study medicine at John Hopkins University and had no ambition to write books. But he saw a need.
“I took it as a responsibility for myself,” he says. “You have to have resources, you have to have passion, you have to have knowledge in English and Farsi so it wasn’t an easy task, but it was a task that needed to be done.”
Unable to type in Farsi, Babaknia wrote his books out in longhand. He says the need for the collection was reaffirmed when a friend’s son from Iran came to visit him in the United States. The young physician saw Babaknia’s 400-plus research books in his library and asked, “Dr. B, what is Holocaust?
"Is it a medical term?" the visitor asked. "What is it? I haven’t heard of the word.”
Now, Babaknia has some books to give him written in his visitor's native tongue.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.