The Mufti and Hitler: Historical facts and Netanyahu's lies

The Mufti and Hitler: Historical facts and Netanyahu's lies
Comment: Tayseer Khalaf rebuts Netanyahu's claims that the grand mufti of Jerusalem masterminded the Holocaust, and argues that his alliance with Germany was borne of necessity.
6 min read
23 Oct, 2015
Husseini sought a pragmatic alliance with Germany, but was not responsible for the Holocaust [Getty]
Once again, the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has accused the late Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini (1895-1974) of masterminding the genocide against Jews in Germany.

Netanyahu made his accusations at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on Wednesday, in controversial remarks that appeared to exonerate the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his henchmen from the crime of the Holocaust.

While Netanyahu tried to backtrack following the outrage over his comments, he still tried to claim that mid-20th-century Palestinian leaders were anti-Semites who systematically called for genocide against Jews.

"It is... absurd to ignore the role played by the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a war criminal, for encouraging and urging Hitler," Netanyahu said later.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian establishment denounced Netanyahu's claims.
Germany itself rushed to reaffirm its responsibility for the Holocaust.

Clearly, Netanyahu's revisionism is meant to incite the world against the Palestinians, at the height of the latest Palestinian uprising taking place against Israeli occupation.

Historical facts trump Netanyahu's claims. In truth, historians - including Zionists and Germans - studied the Holocaust at length and left no stone unturned, and yet found not a single shred of evidence supporting Netanyahu's claims about Haj Amin al-Husseini's responsibility.

In 1996, Netanyahu used the same revisionist logic in his book A place among the nations, prompting many rebuttals, including from Israeli historians.

Yet he did not relent, and proceeded to smear Haj Amin al-Husseini on an extremely sensitive subject.

It is not necessary to become involved in a polemical debate regarding the credibility of the claims that Husseini gave Hitler the idea of the Final Solution when they met, as Netanyahu alleged.

Most Holocaust historians agree today that the Final Solution started in the wake of Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938, when riots erupted against German Jews across German cities. Dozens of Jews were killed that night, with 30,000 Jews detained, 7,000 Jewish shops destroyed, and 1,574 synagogues burned down.

At the time, the Grand Mufti was in a small town north of Beirut, under house arrest imposed by the French Mandate authorities. He had been apprehended as he tried to enter Lebanon via Tyre.

The German Fuhrer made clear his intentions to exterminate Jews in his Reichstag address on January 30, 1939, almost three years before he would meet for the first time with Husseini in November 1941.
     The Fuhrer made clear his intentions to exterminate Jews almost three years before he would meet Husseini

Nuremberg trials

Netanyahu further claimed that Hussein was wanted by the Nuremberg Tribunal, established to try Nazi war criminals.

This is factually incorrect. Rather, the Zionist movement sought to build charges against the mufti before the tribunal, held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946.

The Zionist movement allegedly co-opted a German Nazi involved in the Holocaust, Dieter Wisliceny, to claim he had seen the mufti with the head of the Gestapo, Adolf Eichmann, planning to exterminate six million European Jews, in exchange for a reduced sentence.

No one bought the claims, however. Eichmann denied the encounter and denied having had any personal acquaintance with the mufti later, when he was apprehended and tried in Israel - his second visit to the country.

In 1947, the Zionist movement, citing the mufti's opposition to Jewish immigration from Hungary in a letter he sent to Hungary's foreign minister, claimed that this led or could have led to their extermination.

The Zionist movement filed a complaint before the United Nations against Husseini, who asked Hungary to direct Jewish immigrants to a destination other than Palestine, but failed, as the complaint presumed, non-proven malicious intent on the part of Husseini.

Read more: The history Netanyahu forgot

Palestine and Bosnia

In his memoirs, Haj Amin al-Husseini wrote about his relations with Germany and Italy between the two world wars. He stated that it was the Germans who initiated contact with him, via Fritz Grobba, the German ambassador in the Near East and Baghdad. Grobba wanted to cajole the Arabs and Muslims to join the Axis powers in the Second World War.

Hajj Amin al-Husseini at the time was not just the foremost Palestinian leader, but also one of the leading figures in the Arab and perhaps Muslim worlds.

For this reason, the demands he communicated to the Axis powers were not limited to Arab rights, but also Muslim rights, including in Italian-occupied Libya and Bosnia, where Muslims were being massacred by the Serbian general Draga Mikhailovich, backed by both the Allies and the Axis nations.

The mufti documented his 1941 meeting with Hitler in his memoirs. He said he had sought hard to obtain a promise from Hitler to guarantee Arab rights, sovereignty, independence, and unity, but did not succeed, as Hitler seemed to have been obsessed with "The Jewish Question" in their conversations.

"Hitler told me: The plans of my struggle are clear: I am fighting Jews relentlessly, and this fight includes the so-called Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Jews want to establish a central state to further their destructive goals... I am determined to find a solution to the Jewish Question," he wrote.

Meanwhile, the mufti sought throughout his four-year stay in Berlin to create a Bosnian Muslim army to protect Bosnians against Serbian massacres.

The Bosnian battalion, dubbed Handschar, did not take part in any battles against either the Allies or Jews, and strictly defended themselves in their own country.

The mufti also worked to create an Arab legion to fight the British and Zionists in Palestine, but the Germans broke the agreement, according to a Palestinian officer, Zulkifli Abdul Latif.

Instead, the Arab volunteers were forced to go to Stalingrad, despite the mufti's objections. The Arab soldiers never made it to the Russian front, and instead deserted and returned to the Arab countries, shocked by the way the Germans had treated them and their cause, according to Abdul Latif.
     The above does not mean that the mufti did not commit mistakes or miscalculations

Setting the record straight

The mufti's alliance with the Germans was motivated by the alliance between the Zionists and the Allied nations, and the British insistence on establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine without accommodating Arab rights and interests.

Haj Amin Husseini had no illusions, however, about the real goals of the Axis powers, and his alliance with them was one of realism and pragmatism, due to the Arabs' lack of alternatives. Nevertheless, the mufti restricted his plans to Palestine, before the Germans betrayed him. The mufti ultimately ordered his supporters among the Arab officers to withdraw from the battle and return home.

The above does not mean that the mufti did not commit mistakes or miscalculations. Like any politician, he can be criticised for many things, but his alleged - and fabricated - role in the Holocaust is not one of them.

In one important encounter documented in his memoirs, Husseini wrote that Heinrich Himmler, leader of the Nazi SS, told him that by 1943, the number of Jews killed in Europe was three and a half million.

Himmler then asked Husseini: "What about you, how will you solve the Jewish Question in your country?" The mufti answered: "We would not kill Jews who lived among us for many centuries. All we want is for your Jews to return whence they came, and forget the idea of a national homeland on our land."

According to Husseini's memoirs, Himmler retorted angrily: "We will never allow them to return to Germany."

Zionist-Nazi collaboration

Binyamin Netanyahu forgot to mention German Zionist Rabbi Stephen Wise, who praised Hitler in the 1930s, for helping rein in moderate Jewish nationalists that saw themselves as full German citizens.

Netanyahu should have criticised that rabbi for working with Hitler and the Nazis against anti-Zionist Jews, instead of fabricating charges against Haj Amin al-Husseini.

While Hitler massacred Jews in the concentration camps, Rabbi Wise, a founder of the Zionist lobby in the US, was visiting Germany frequently, with the knowledge of Hitler and his lieutenants.

Netanyahu turned a blind eye to this historical fact, thinking that being a historian's son allows him to say whatever he wants about history without being challenged.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition