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May 14, 2017 12:34 pm

The Palestinian Connection to the Nazis

avatar by Wolfgang G. Schwanitz

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The mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husaini, meets with Adolf Hitler in 1941. Photo: German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons.

Last month, Israel’s National Library blogged about Heinrich Himmler’s lost telegram to the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Contrary to the oft-repeated claim that Nazi Germany did not support Arab independence and the eradication of the nascent Jewish state, I argue that it did.

On the 26th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Himmler sent his best wishes for the mufti’s “protest meeting,” which took place in Berlin. The event was used to decry the Balfour Declaration, and to oppose the establishment of a Jewish state. Of course, such public support for Husseini would have been impossible without Adolf Hitler’s prior consent. In fact, Hitler and the mufti had agreed on a 1941 anti-Jewish pact of genocide.

Himmler’s telegram read as follows:

To the Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini,

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The National-Socialist Movement of the Greater German Reich has since its advent upheld the flag of its fight against world Jewry. Thus, it always closely watched the fight of the freedom-loving Arabs, above all in Palestine, against the Jewish intruders. The recognition of this enemy and the joint struggle against it are the firm base of the natural alliance between the National-Socialist Greater Germany and the freedom-loving Muslims of the whole world. In this spirit, I am conveying to you, on the anniversary of the wretched Balfour Declaration, my heartiest greetings and wishes for the lucky realization of your struggle until the certain final victory.

Reichsfuhrer-SS, Heinrich Himmler 

Himmler sent the cable on November 2, 1943. In the note, Himmler assured Husseini of the official sympathy of the Nazi movement with the freedom-loving Arabs, above all in Palestine, against world Jewry. In reality, it was always a two-way-street, because the Mideast also shaped young Nazis. Many of them fought there as officers on the side of the Ottomans, and later became commanders during World War II.

Moreover, Himmler named all Jews as the joint enemy of the German and Arab people, calling the Jews “common foes.”

The protest meeting was held in Herman Goring’s Luftwaffe Ministry. This means that Husseini was well connected to the top three men of Nazism. But why Goring? In February 1943, the mufti invested $920,000 in shares of seven big German companies. With Hitler’s consent, Goring managed the funds as a trustee. Had Berlin won the war, Husseini would have been a rich leader of a Greater Arab Empire, and supported by the Nazis.

And the mufti was not the only Arab guest in the Luftwaffe chief’s office near the Brandenburg Gate that day. Listening to the speech was Ali al-Gaylani, Iraq’s ex-premier, who led the failed anti-British coup in Iraq. In mid-1941, Gaylani and the mufti had initiated al-Farhud pogrom in Iraq as a “model to treat the Jews.” Hitler supported the effort, and used it as a diversion for his ensuing war against Russia.

Himmler said in his cable that “[our] joint fight against the Jewish intruders” rested on the natural alliance of Greater Germany and Islamic areas. He also treated Husseini as the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim leader. The Nazi leader also saw similarities between the ideologies of German National-Socialism and Palestinian National Islamism. But this contradicted a 1917 theory of Islamism, which called for just one global Muslim Brotherhood.

German Foreign Minster Joachim von Ribbentrop’s letter to Husseini.

In his dealings with Nazi Germany, Husseini had already gotten what he wished for: an Axis broadcast supporting Arab independence; the halt of Jewish emigration to the Mideast by the Nazis; and a secret 1942 letter between Berlin, Rome, Gaylani and him to agree to liquidate the Jews in Palestine. But then the mufti wanted public recognition of the “natural alliance” between Nazism and Islamism. Since 1937, he had forwarded four key drafts of such a text to the Nazis. Paragraph seven always stayed the same: a Jewish national home is illegal. Even when, in May 1943 the Axis Powers had been driven out of the Mideast, the mufti asked them to destroy the Jews of Palestine.

The mufti met with Himmler on July 4, 1943, at Himmler’s field quarters. They spent a day with SS men, all known Jew-hunters. Two years prior, the local Jews there had been killed by SS-commandos. Husseini later praised his meeting with Himmler as a solid base of mutual trust.

On that summer day, Himmler told the mufti that Germany had already killed three million Jews. He also confided to him other top secrets, such as German nuclear research. Himmler told the mufti that in three years, Berlin would have an atomic weapon that would secure “final victory.” The phrase “final victory” was modified in Himmler’s cable to “certain final victory,” perhaps betraying some uncertainty.

A year earlier, the Axis Powers had elevated Husseini, not Gaylani, to the leader of a future Greater Arab Empire. In turn, the mufti soon informed Berlin about the Allied landing in North Africa. But Hitler didn’t believe it. Many of the mufti’s plans remained idle, such as his attempts to bomb a 1943 Zionist meeting on Balfour Day in Jerusalem. The Nazis had no airplanes to spare, and refused to participate.

Himmler’s 1943 cable to the Grand Mufti al-Husaini.

In 1943, as the Nazis left the Mideast and retreated to Europe, the mufti sent 60 men to be trained as paratroopers at Den Haag’s SS “sabotage school.” He called them his “troop kernel” for the war against Palestine’s Jews. He visited his “Dutch commandos” in August. In turn, Himmler rewarded the mufti with that anti-Balfour telegram, which was given to each participant of that meeting — along with the mufti’s speech.

In the end, the mufti put all his eggs into Hitler’s racist basket — and lost alongside him.

A version of this article was originally published by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP).

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  • ESLombard

    Do check references to Nazis and Palestine. My view is that the Arabs who fought against the Jews in Israel 1948 sought their extermination rather merely their defeatwhich changes their claims as refugees

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