Haj Amin al-Husseini, the notoriously anti-Jewish grand mufti of Jerusalem, sought Adolf Hitler’s help for an Arab version of the “Final Solution” to the Jewish problem, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The center made the statement after analyzing documents uncovered at the United Nations Archives in New York.
The mufti wielded considerable power as both the religious and nationalist leader of Arabs in Palestine and beyond during much of the British mandatory period.
He fled to Nazi Germany in late 1941 and started a systematic drive to extend the Nazis’ anti-Jewish policies and methods to the Arab Middle East, anticipating an Axis victory.
One significant aspect of the find, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, is that it counters the longstanding argument among many Palestinians that while they had no part in Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, they are paying the price for his crimes.
“The documents, in fact, show that the dominant leader of the Palestinian Arabs wanted to do to the Jews of the Middle East what Hitler was doing to the Jews of Europe,” Hier said.
After participating in a short-lived pro-German coup in Iraq, Husseini arrived in Berlin on Nov. 6, 1941, and over the next few months sent Hitler 15 drafts, proposing an official declaration by Germany and Italy on the Middle East.
In one of the French-language drafts, annotated in Arabic in the mufti’s handwriting, he urged inclusion of the following statement: “Germany and Italy recognize the illegality of the ‘Jewish Home in Palestine.’
“They accord to Palestine and to other Arab countries the right to solve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries, in accordance with the interest of the Arabs and, by the same method, that the question is now being settled in the Axis countries.
“Under this agreement, no Jewish immigration into the Arab countries should be permitted.”
‘FIGHTING THE JEWS WITHOUT RESPITE’
At that time, the extermination of the Jews was already in full swing in the conquered Soviet territories, so there is little doubt what the mufti meant by solving the Jewish problem “by the same methods” employed by the Axis, Hier said.
Husseini had a chance to press his points with the fuhrer personally during a 90-minute meeting in late November 1941, which the mufti recorded in his own handwriting in a diary.
Hitler, according to the diary, assured the mufti that the Jews were his foremost enemy.
“Primarily, I am fighting the Jews without respite, and this fight includes the fight against the so-called Jewish National Home in Palestine, because the Jews want to establish there a central government for their own pernicious purposes,” the Nazi leader said.
“It is clear that the Jews have accomplished nothing in Palestine, and their claims are lies. All the accomplishments in Palestine are due to the Arabs and not the Jews,” he said. “I am resolved to find a solution for the Jewish problem, progressing step by step without cessation.”
While “our common enemies are Great Britain and the Soviets,” said Hitler, “behind them stands hidden Jewry, which drives them both.”
Despite these heartfelt assurances, Hitler put off the mufti’s pleas for an official Axis declaration of support for the Arabs. The right time for such a statement, Hitler said, would be after his armies conquered the Soviet Union’s southern Caucasus region, probably in 1942, opening the road to Iran and Iraq.
As it turned out, the Red Army successfully defended the southern Caucasus against the Nazi onslaught.
CONTINUED FIGHT AGAINST JEWS
Husseini remained in Germany throughout the war, met again with Hitler, with SS leader Heinrich Himmler, and apparently with Adolf Eichmann, and “toured” some of the main extermination camps as guest of their commandants.
In 1945, the government of Yugoslavia under former partisan leader Marshal Iosip Tito sought to indict him as a war criminal for his role in recruiting 20,000 Moslem volunteers for the SS, who participated in the killing of Jews in Croatia and Hungary.
He escaped from French detention in 1946 and continued his fight against the Jews, from Cairo and later Beirut, where he died in 1974.
The documents detailing Husseini’s petitions and meeting with Hitler were found in the mufti’s villa in Germany in 1945. They were transmitted to the United Nations Archives, with copies and some of the documents also held by the U.S. National Archives in Washington and the archives of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The U.N.-held documents were researched over a month’s period by Mark Weitzman of the Wiesenthal Center’s New York office.
Why weren’t the documents discovered earlier? “It’s a matter of what to look for and where to find them,” said Weitzman, pointing out that incriminating documents on the wartime service of Kurt Waldheim, the Austrian president, also lay undiscovered for decades in the same archives.
The Husseini family continues to play a role in Palestinian affairs, with Faisal Husseini, whose father was the mufti’s nephew, active as the leading spokesman for the Palestinian cause.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.