During World War II, the Nazis, in need of an ally, sought one in the Muslim world. The Germans had hoped to be seen as a potential liberator—”to pose to the Arabs as a champion of native peoples against foreign rule,” wrote Tablet contributing editor Adam Kirsch in a review of Jeffrey Herf’s Nazi Propaganda in the Arab World—despite they fact that they occupied nearly every country in Europe. At the time, however, Arab resentment of Britain was high.
In November 1941, Haj Amin el-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, met with Adolf Hitler in Berlin, where the mufti’s influence would be heard in years to come.
Germany’s Arabic-language radio made great use of Husseini’s speeches, such as the one he delivered in Berlin in 1943, explaining that the Jews “lived like a sponge among peoples, sucked their blood, seized their property, undermined their morals…. All this has brought the hostility of the world down on them and nourished the Jew’s hatred against all the peoples that had been burning for two thousand years.”
“One of the things Husseini and Hitler talked about…was their plans for the Jews in Palestine and throughout the Middle East,” wrote Kirsh. On Tuesday, in a speech at the 37th Zionist conference in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister told the world a snippet of their conversation:
These attackers, Arab attackers, murdered several Jews, including our celebrated writer Brenner. And this attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution. He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, “If you expel them, they’ll all come here.” “So what should I do with them?” he asked. He said, “Burn them.”
In essence, Netanyahu stated that Husseini gave Hitler the idea of the Final Solution—the systematic mass extermination of Jews—which was implemented in 1942. Netanyahu has since come under harsh scrutiny, and Germany has since come out to “recognize that the murderous racial fanaticism of the Nazis was the historical origin of…the Shoah.”
“But [Husseini] pushed the Nazis ahead,” wrote Wolfgang G. Schwanitz in Tablet last year, in response to David Mikics’s review of his book, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, which he co-authored with Barry Rubin.
Hitler had published his goal in his book of 1925: gassing Jews, destroying the “Judeo-Communist Empire.” The chief Nazis—Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Adolf Eichmann—remain the key perpetrators. Hitler is most responsible for the Holocaust, though al-Husaini swayed him along the way and made no secret of his four years of interventions with the Nazi leaders as soon as exchange projects of Jews for German civilians or prisoners of war came up… Himmler promised him to not let Jews go to the Middle East. Mikics missed this. Al-Husaini slammed shut the last exit doors of a burning house to keep the Jews inside.
In addition, the grand mufti got them killed by his Muslim SS troops in the Balkans and in Soviet Asia. He trained imams and mullahs for Nazi troops, spied for them, sent terror units to Palestine, and incited hatred against North African Jews and resistance against the Allies, especially America. In late 1941, he put America also on his target list. Only five decades later Osama bin Laden did the same. We have shown how their ideology of Islamism remained alive throughout those decades and served in today’s trouble as well.
In his memoirs, al-Husaini admitted that Himmler told him of having killed three million Jews by mid-1943. Yearly, he met with SS mass murderers and visited death camps. As a revered leader, he aroused many Islamists through broadcasts, prepared for and started the Middle Eastern genocide. At the same time, he blocked all British proposals for liberal compromises. As historians, we showed the missed opportunities and alternatives. This does not mean at all that “Rubin and Schwanitz make the astonishing claim that al-Husaini is nothing less than the architect of the Final Solution.” This would be wrong.
On Wednesday, Sam Sokol of The Jerusalem Post spoke with Yad Vashem’s chief historian Dina Porat who told Sokol “while the mufti ‘definitely’ played a role in the Holocaust, he was in no way one of the primary movers behind the adoption of the Final Solution and such comments are likely to ’cause some damage unless they are urgently clarified.’
The destruction of European Jewry had been on Hitler’s mind since the First World War and it was “his obsession,” Porat said. “The mufti had nothing to do with fomenting or developing the Final Solution.”
In 1939, years before Hitler and the mufti met in Berlin, the Nazi leader had already publicly stated that should the Jews “succeed in plunging the nations into a world war yet again, then the outcome will not be the victory of Jewry, but rather the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe,” Porat said.
She said further that the process of putting Jews into ghettos and the beginning of the mass murder of Jews in the Soviet Union occurred before the pair’s November 1941 meeting in Berlin.
Netanyahu was in Germany on Wednesday to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.