Strangely, the Jerusalem grand mufti Muhammad A. Husain claimed on October 25, 2015 that Jews never had a temple on the Temple Mount. Yet, the Supreme Muslim Council of one of his predecessors made a 1929 booklet that says the Temple Mount’s identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. Another controversy grew over Premier Netanyahu’s talk on October 20 accusing Amin al-Husaini, grand mufti of Jerusalem 1921 to 1948, of complicity in the Holocaust. Netanyahu struck an essential truth: there is much evidence for his claim that this mufti had also a substantial sway on the genocide in Nazi-occupied Europe. Al-Husaini’s 1941 to 1945 stay in Berlin is a part of German-Mideastern history, as is his biogra-phy. First, I point at an uncharted gap of eleven days.
Speaking in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said of the “Fuehrer’s” well-documented 1941 meeting with Jerusalem grand mufti al-Husaini, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here [to Palestine].’” According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked what he should do with them, to which the mufti replied, “Burn them.” I have not seen the quotations in the records [scholars of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute validated them]. But there is much evidence to support Netanyahu’s underlying claim that the grand mufti had a substantial (and for a non-European, unparalleled) influence on the genocide that unfolded in Nazi-occupied Europe —and that was planned for the Middle East as well.
After 20 years of inciting violence against Jews as Jerusalem’s grand mufti (notably in 1920, 1929 and 1936), claiming the “al-Aqsa mosque is in danger,” al-Husaini found an ally in Hitler’s Berlin in the 1930s. The mufti and many Arabs of his day saw themselves as a defeated and humiliated people [losing the war with the Berlin allied Ottomans], much like all Germans in World War I. Thus, Nazi ideology resonated deeply in the Islamic areas. In 1933, Arab newspapers serialized Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, and it became a bestseller.
The Germans encouraged the mufti’s activities, even providing funds and weapons for the 1936-39 Palestinian revolt led by al-Husaini. He had a steady link to the Nazi security service from 1937 on. In that year, the mufti called on all Muslims to rid their lands of Jews and provided on November 24 a Nazi-Islamist pact [here abridged; full text is in my German book, page 413] to promote [§3] the spread of the Nazi ideology in the Mideast, [§6: to wage “acts of terror” in all French colonial/manda-tory areas; §7: to fight against the founding of the Jewish state in Palestine by all means; §9: in case of a victory of the liberation movement just to rely on the German capital and spiritual forces], and [§5:] to boycott all Jewish goods.
In 1941, the mufti instigated Iraq’s al-Farhud pogrom. Above all, he called for the Axis powers to stop Jewish influx into the Middle East [al-Husaini drafted §7 too for a joint Ger-man-Italian declaration on Arab freedom, given to envoy Fritz Grobba in February 1941.]
On Friday, November 28, 1941, the mufti met with Hitler and the two came to an under-standing that Jews would be killed rather than simply deported [as in the Madagascar plan that was still an option]. Although Nazi mass shootings of Jews began soon after the June 1941 attack on Russia, Berlin devised [“in the Reich combined and actionable”] plans for their comprehensive extermination in the aftermath of the Friday talk. At that point, Hitler saw the Mideast as the next non-European theater of war. Thus, he was averse to disrupting his Nazi-Islamist axis by flooding the area with Jewish refugees [the mufti’s take: if Hitler wanted jihadists on his side when he would invade the area, he had to hold Jews in Europe].
Adolf Eichmann and his SS men briefed Amin al-Husaini, who lived in Berlin [in 1942 and 1943 also in Rome, since mid-1944 in Oybin, Saxony] on the ongoing genocide, as if to reassure him that Hitler had not changed his mind [in four lands the mufti went to sites from or to which Jews were deported]. Al-Husaini met often with Eichmann [see my Ger-man book, pages 317-19], who years later testified in Jerusalem about the grand mufti’s fierce opposition to the mass transfer of Jews to Palestine. In East Prussia SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler told al-Husaini in mid-1943 “that three million Jews had been liquid-dated so far.” Eichmann’s aide Dieter Wisliceny was quoted at Nuremberg trials [some of his texts were admitted in the 1961 Eichmann trial], “The mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry … He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures. I heard him say, accompanied by Eichmann, he had visited incognito the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”
Al-Husaini certainly believed that his encouragement of Hitler and others to destroy the Jews of Europe was decisive in their choice to do so. He wrote in his memoirs, the “world Jewry wanted to bring the Eastern European Jews to Palestine … Germany agreed to this … we were able to foil this effort.” [In 1961 he said the Nazis “did not need me.” But Hit-ler insisted twice (orders #30 Iraq, #32 Russia) to rely on his “Arab liberation movement.”
The mufti favored genocide in Europe also by his direct advice to key Nazis in the 22 days before he met Hitler, and thereafter. On April 28, 1942, he asked Berlin and Rome in a secret letter to agree to the liquidation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. They did on May 14, confirming Hitler’s and al-Husaini’s genocidal pact of November 28, 1941, to kill Jews in the Mideast too. In Europe, the mufti sent protest letters to five states to keep Jews, not to let them go to Palestine, and not to exchange them with prisoners of war. Rather, he advised Hungary about European Jews on June 28, 1943 “send them to Poland” where they are “under active control,” and in a June 22, 1944 letter to “prevent the immigration to Pale-stine of Hungarian Jews.” On July 25, Budapest gave it “the utmost consideration.” In his June 27 letter (deportations lasted April to July), he reminded even Himmler on his pledge: the destruction of a Jewish home in Palestine is an integral part of the German Reich’s rule.]
The mufti further explained, “This caused the Jews to put ugly blame on me for being re-sponsible for the liquidation of 400,000 Jews who were then not able to travel to Palestine.” About half of them perished. Indeed, he put photocopies of those letters into his memoirs. Beyond this, the mufti’s role in recruiting and indoctrinating Muslim SS troops in the Bal-kans and in Soviet Asia makes him responsible for more victims. Netanyahu was not equa-ting al-Husaini with all Palestinians, then or now. Rather, he was highlighting that the kind of eliminationist Palestinian incitement against Jews, that began with the grand mufti, con-tinues, and it emanates from the same Islamist ideological strain, using the same symbols and rhetoric about “protecting” holy sites from Jews. “For the murder to stop, the incite-ment must stop,” Netanyahu stressed.—Also in German-Mideastern history al-Hajj Amin deserves further research based on academic values, for he spent his life often showing this link between incitement and murder. Wolfgang G. Schwanitz
Originally published under the title “Netanyahu was right about Hitler and the Mufti,” updated on 06/03/16 as illustrations, links, texts were added in brackets. Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, Middle East Forum, co-authored with Barry M. Rubin Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale UP 2014). His recent German books are Islam in Europe, Revolts in the Mideast (Weist Berlin, 2nd Ed. 2014) and Mideast Mosaic 2013. The latter deals with Egypt’s Revolt, Syria’s Civil War and the Iranian Nukes Deal (Weist Berlin 2015).
This article appeared in The Jerusalem Post, November 4, 2015. Updated & expanded June 3, 2016