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New Research Sheds Light on Nazi Influence in Arab World

April 30, 2013 1:22 am 12 comments

Haj Amin el-Husseini, better known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, with Nazi SS officers in November 1943. Photo: German Federal Archives.

Nazi Germany’s effort to recruit supporters in the Arab world is attracting new attention among scholars.

With the 70th anniversary of a Palestinian Arab leader’s sabotage of a plan to rescue Jewish children from Europe coming up next month, Israeli scholar Edy Cohen spoke exclusively to about his current research on the role of Nazi and Axis propaganda in the Middle East. Cohen, 41, is on the staff of the Israel State Archives.

During the Holocaust years, Haj Amin el-Husseini, better known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, lived in Berlin, where he recorded pro-Nazi radio broadcasts that were beamed to the Arab world and recruited Bosnian Muslims to join an all-Muslim unit of the SS. Seventy years ago, on May 13, 1943, Husseini caught wind of a plan to permit 4,000 Jewish children, accompanied by 500 adults, to travel to Palestine in exchange for the release of 20,000 German prisoners of war. Both the Germans and the British had agreed to the exchange, but the Germans backed down when the Mufti objected.

The Mufti was the most prominent Arab figure to support the Nazis, but he was not alone. “My research tracks the effort by the Germans, Italians, and Japanese to spread their propaganda and influence in Palestine and various Arab countries,” said Dr. Cohen, who was born and raised in Beirut and immigrated to Israel in 1995. “They worked hard at it and, to a significant extent, they succeeded.” Cohen has been combing through Arabic-language Nazi and Axis leaflets and radio broadcasts that were collected and analyzed by Haganah intelligence in the 1930s and 1940s.

Some of the leaflets found by Cohen feature stark headlines such as “Kill the Jews and the British!” Some were printed on the back of facsimile British pounds or American dollars, so that when they were dropped by German planes over Arab regions of Palestine, they looked like money and immediately attracted attention.

Haj Amin el-Husseini, better known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Photo: American Colony (Jerusalem), Photo Dept., photographer.

According to Cohen, some of the Arabic-language Nazi propaganda promised that those who attacked Jews would be rewarded by being given “the most beautiful of the Jewish girls” after Palestine’s Jewish community was vanquished. “That sort of language makes one think of the promise that Muslim terrorist leaders today sometimes offer—that those who die while killing Jews will receive seventy virgins in heaven,” Cohen said.

The text of the leaflets and broadcasts were composed by Nazi authors, and then translated into Arabic by members of the Mufti’s entourage in Berlin. Some of the Mufti’s men in Germany were more than writers: several parachuted into Palestine in 1944 with vials of poison that they intended to dump in the Tel Aviv water system. They were intercepted by the British police before they could carry out the attack.

Cohen found an internal memo from British police headquarters in Jerusalem in 1939 reporting, “The Arab population in Palestine are listening to the Berlin Broadcasts in Arabic most attentively, particularly in town and village coffee shops where large crowds gather for the purpose.” The report stated that the “uneducated classes are undoubtedly being influenced” by the Nazi propaganda.

In 1945, the activists known as the Bergson Group successfully lobbied the government of Yugoslavia to indict the Mufti as a war criminal, because of atrocities committed against Allied soldiers and civilians by members of the Bosnian Muslim SS unit, known as “Handschar,” that he helped create. The Yugoslavs never took steps to extradite him, however.

Husseini fled Berlin during the final days of the war but was briefly detained by the French authorities and placed under house arrest in a Paris villa. In response to Arab pressure, the French permitted the Mufti to stage a faux escape, and he found haven in Cairo. Later he moved to Beirut, where he passed away in 1974.

Earlier this year, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas stirred controversy when, in a PA television broadcast, he listed the Mufti’s name among a number of “martyrs and heroes” who have died while fighting Jews or Israelis.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, DC. His latest book is “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,” available from Amazon.


  • I am very glad to see more publicity on this as it has been swept under the rug and covered up long enough. I often wonder why Israeli leaders never mention Islam’s pact with Hitler? Below is some more info you probably know about that involves the Catholic Church, Islam and the Nazis. Thanks for the article.

  • I do trust all the concepts you’ve presented
    for your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are too brief for newbies.
    May just you please lengthen them a bit from next time?
    Thanks for the post.

  • Can anyone here tell me if they know of any relation between the aforementioned Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Yasser Arafat ? One book I read claimed that Arafat is the nephew of this Grand Mufti al-Husseini and that Arafat’s real name is Mohammed Abdel Rahman al-Husseini .

  • Moshe Ben Rangel

    We,d failed once when Yhaveh ask us to kill them all,He commanded:”Kill the elder,the young,their choldren,the pregnand women their animals even the grass growing in their fields you shald burn”but our fathers failed to do it,noe we,re living with the consecuences.We can’t not fail again the future of our people deppends on it.

    • That’s not a failure, it’s a moral success. We do not behave like Israel’s worst enemies would.

  • @richard sherman, are you sure you read the whole history or you just read the part of killing??? you missed the part where Jews broke the truce and tried to backstab Muslims to sneak in foreign forces!!!


    1. In August 1943 a group of about 1200 children arrived at Terezin where they stood in almost complete isolation for about two months. It was possible to note that they had had a terrible experience. At the end of October they left for …. with nurses and a doctor of Terezin. Among the volunteers who followed them there had been a sionist activist of Vienna whom the then Elder Eppstein maybee entrusted to forward a message to “foreign organizations” These children came from Byalistoc and, abroad, could be able to show better their terrifying experiences. So it is hardlu thinkable that the exchance Jewish childre/German prisoniers would have permitted by Himmler, even without the advice of the Great Mufti.
    2. Nazi criminals found safe heaven and appointments for suitable positions – according their “professional skills” – in several Arab states. In Syria government and rebel forces show how they had learnt those lessons.


    In German archives documents had been found by historians showing how in July 1942 SS Collonel Walter Rauff (by the way the inventor of the first Gas Chambers) with three “comrandes” arrived in Tripoli in order to direct the Shoah in the Middle East “relying on locals”.
    Fron about 1933 Italian fascist government handed out arms and other material to the followers of the “Great Muftu”.
    But in 1937 – contacts conducted bu Adolf Eichmann – the Mufti choose the alliance with Nazi Germany, the only power able to stop the immigration from East Europe.
    In October 1939 the had been the show of a “Jewish Settlement” at Nislo in Polamd.
    The is matter to study more.

    • hello,
      i read your reply.thank you.
      have you got any documents that prove that the 1933 Italian fascist government handed out arms and other material to the followers of the “Great Mufti” like you said?. i would like to know if there any documents in this can send me email :
      thank you in advance

  • The British colonies were in uproar around the time of WWII, independence was the cry, especially lands the Brits had occupied after the collapse of Turkish Empire what is the Mid East. Indian too listen to Radio Berlin and if you were caught your in trouble. So I see nothing alarming if the Grand Mufti did so, it was against the British occupation. They had no other means to fight the Brits except tease them. People in India kept butterfly mustaches, which a symbol of Hitler, to defy the British rulers.

  • Antisemitism is foundational to both Islam and national socialism..Muhammad personally decapitated 900 unarmed Jews at Quarjayza…..Which was really the first Auschwitz…The Nazis simply expanded on on Muhammad’s example of slaughtering unarmed Jews..

    So finally Jew killing is foundational to both Islam hand national socialism..

    As Winston Churchill so wisely stated in THE GATHERING STORM in 1948: “MEIN KAMPF was the new KORAN”.


    America Unite BOSTON BOMBING

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