Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech to the World Zionist Congress, stated that Hajj Amin al Husseini, the founding father of the Palestinian movement, had convinced the Nazis to exterminate the European Jews. We examine here the evidence relevant to this claim.
According to my own opinion, the Grand Mufti [Hajj Amin al Husseini], who has been in Berlin since 1941, played a role in the decision of the German Government to exterminate the European Jews, the importance of which must not be disregarded. He had repeatedly suggested to the various authorities with whom he has been in contact, above all before Hitler, Ribbentrop and Himmler, the extermination of European Jewry. He considered this as a comfortable solution of the Palestine problem. In his messages broadcast from Berlin, he surpassed us in anti-Jewish attacks. He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and has constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures. I heard say that, accompanied by Eichmann, he has visited incognito the gas chamber at Auschwitz.
—Nuremberg testimony of SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Dieter Wisliceny (Adolf Eichmann’s right-hand man) 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently stated that the father of the Palestinian movement, Hajj Amin al Husseini, convinced the Nazis to exterminate the European Jews. Here is a brief summary of what happened, published by the Jerusalem Post on 21 October 2015:
“In a speech to delegates at the 37th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on Tuesday, the premier claimed that Hitler’s original intentions were solely to expel the Jews.
According to Netanyahu, the Fuhrer changed his mind at the insistence of the Palestinian Arab leader at the time, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who argued that the expulsion of the Jews would result in their arrival en masse to Palestine, which at the time was under British Mandatory rule.”
This has created a storm. Immediately, authorities of all sorts were quoted in the media stating that Netanyahu’s claims were outrageous and untrue. I will examine the outraged reactions in a future piece. Here, I examine Netanyahu’s claim in light of the available historical evidence, so that readers may form an opinion as to whether they are true.
For context, I begin with a short summary of what is not in dispute.
First, Hajj Amin al Husseini is the father of the Palestinian movement, and mentor to such figures as Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, the current leader of this movement.
Second, Husseini organized several mass terrorist attacks against the Jews in British Mandate Palestine. The first was in 1920. Then, after the British made him the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, he used that position to launch new terrorist attacks in 1921, 1929, and 1936-39. The last was called the ‘Arab Revolt’ and Husseini and allies waged it with weapons supplied by Adolf Hitler.
Third, after he left the Mandate in 1939, Husseini went to Iraq to organize a pogrom against the Iraqi Jews that destroyed the Jewish community there (the Farhud).
Fourth, Husseini traveled to Italy and then to Berlin, where he was received with full honors and sat down for a high-profile chat with none-other than the Führer himself. The Nazi film (included in the documentary shown at top right) and a Nazi memorandum of this meeting both survived.
An especially relevant excerpt from that memorandum is the following:
“The Führer then made the following statement to the Mufti, enjoining him to lock it in the uttermost depths of his heart
- He (the Führer) would carry on the battle to the total destruction of the Judeo-Communist empire in Europe.
- At some moment which was impossible to set exactly today but which in any event was not distant, the German armies would in the course of this struggle reach the southern exit from Caucasia.
- As soon as this had happened, the Führer would on his own give the Arab world the assurance that its hour of liberation had arrived. Germany’s objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power…” 
So Husseini got assurances from Adolf Hitler that the German Nazis would exterminate the Jews in British Mandate Palestine. This is what the father of the Palestinian movement most wanted.
Fifth, Husseini spent the rest of the war in the German-occupied sphere and played an important role in Nazi propaganda inciting Muslims on the German radio to murder Jews.
Sixth, he recruited and supervised the formation of large SS divisions made up of Bosnian and Albanian Muslims that participated in the massacres of the Yugoslav chapter of the Holocaust (photographic evidence for these latter activities is abundant, and may be found on the internet).
|Husseini supervises the training of Muslim SS troops that he recruited|
All of the above points are uncontroversial, and for those not specifically footnoted here you may consult the relevant documentation in a different HIR article. You may also consult the documentation put together by The Nation in the 1947 article reproduced at right.
So what is the great brouhaha in the media all about? It is about the following two questions:
- Did the Nazis, as Netanyahu claims, initially mean to expel the Jews, rather than kill them all?
- Did Hajj Amin al Husseini, as Netanyahu claims, convince the Nazis to abandon the expulsion programme for a death camp system that would kill every Jew?
There is very little controversy on the point that the Nazis initially meant to expel the European Jews.
At the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, the Attorney General expressed in his opening statements that “At the beginning, when the Nazis were still sensitive to the reaction of world opinion, the solution took the form of forced emigration.” After summarizing at some length that very policy, he states: “The pressure on Jews to emigrate was not discontinued after the outbreak of war.” In fact, “it was only as the invasion of the Soviet Union drew near that the Germans went over to ‘the final solution’ in the new sense, that is, utter physical extermination.” The Attorney General interprets Hermann Goering’s instructions to Heydrich, issued on 31 July 1941, as marking the change to a policy of extermination, but these instructions state explicitly that Goering was giving Heydrich special powers “ ‘In order to complete the mission imposed on you in the order of 24 January 1939, to solve the problem of the Jews by means of emigration or evacuation’ ” (my emphasis). This was the middle of the summer of 1941, and still they were talking about expulsion. It was not until 27 October 1941 that Himmler “issued a decree forbidding any emigration of Jews from the areas of German rule.”
Thus it seems that, until the fall of 1941, to the Nazis ‘Final Solution’ still meant pushing most of the Jews out. As explained in another HIR article on this question,[5a] a number of historians have concluded precisely this from the bulk of the evidence.
For example, Gunnar Paulsson explains that “expulsion”—not extermination—“had initially been the general policy of the Nazis towards the Jews.” Tobias Jersak writes: “Since the 1995 publication of Michael Wildt’s documentation on the SS’s Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst SD) and the ‘Jewish Question,’ it has been undisputed that from 1933 Nazi policy concerning the ‘Jewish Question’ aimed at the emigration of all Jews, preferably to Palestine.” Even after the conquest of Poland, writes Paulsson, “Jewish emigration continued to be permitted and even encouraged, while other expulsion plans were considered.” Christopher Simpson points out that, though many Jews were being murdered, and people such as Reinhard Heydrich of the SS pushed for wholesale extermination, “other ministries” disagreed, and these favored “deportation and resettlement,” though they disagreed about where to put the Jews and how much terror to apply to them. And so, “until the autumn of 1941,” conclude Marrus & Paxton, “no one defined the final solution with precision, but all signs pointed toward some vast and as yet unspecified project of mass emigration.”
It is true that a great many Jews were being killed on the Eastern front, and these deaths of course must be counted in what is called the Shoa (or ‘Holocaust’), but, according to these historians, “until the autumn of 1941” there wasn’t as yet a decision to kill all of the European Jews in death camps. Husseini arrived in Berlin in “the autumn of 1941” (November 1941, to be precise). Husseini thus arrived right on time to argue powerfully in favor of what became the Wannsee Conference decision to kill every last living European Jew. This agrees nicely with Netanyahu’s claims.
But, in fact, the evidence is even more agreeable than this to Netanyahu’s claims.
At his trial, Adolf Eichmann confessed that he made an early trip to British Mandate Palestine in 1939 to see if the Jews could be sent there. Another objective of his trip, he confessed, was to meet with ‘Grand Mufti’ Hajj Amin al Husseini.[10a] So Husseini had ample opportunity to argue influentially in favor of total extermination well before November of 1941, for he was in contact with the very Nazi leaders who wanted to send the Jews to Palestine much earlier than that (something that is obvious, anyway, from German Nazi shipments of weapons to Husseini’s terrorists during the so-called ‘Arab Revolt’ of 1936-39). Nothing necessarily hinges, therefore, on Husseini’s arrival in Berlin, or on the exact date of the first killings to be labeled ‘Holocaust,’ as many seem to think.
Finally, according to Dieter Wisliceny, right-hand man to Adolf Eichmann, Husseini did contribute to the Nazi decision to create a death camp system, precisely in the manner that Netanyahu claims.
After the war, and prior to his execution for crimes against humanity, Wisliceny was asked to comment on the testimony of one Eng. Andrej or (Endre) Steiner. During the war, according to Steiner’s testimony, Wisliceny had stated that the Mufti Husseini had played an important role convincing the Nazis to opt for extermination. Wisliceny confirmed the testimony. This was all summarized by State Attorney Bach at the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem:
[Excerpt from the Eichmann trial transcript begins here]
State Attorney Bach: This is our document No. 281. Mr. Steiner first tells us that Wisliceny described his talks with Eichmann, why Palestine cannot be considered as the destination for emigration: “When I asked him why, he laughed and asked whether I had never heard of the Grand Mufti Husseini. He explained that the Mufti has very close contact and cooperation with Eichmann, and therefore Germany cannot agree to Palestine being the final destination, as this would be a blow to Germany’s prestige in the Mufti’s eyes.”
Then he goes on: “At this further conversation Wisliceny gave me more details about the cooperation between Eichmann and the Mufti. The Mufti is a sworn enemy of the Jews and has always fought for the idea of annihilating the Jews. He sticks to this idea always, also in his talks with Eichmann” – and here we have one of the points about which Wisliceny has reservations – “who, as you know, is a German who was born in Palestine. The Mufti is one of the originators of the systematic destruction of European Jewry by the Germans, and he has become a permanent colleague, partner and adviser to Eichmann and Himmler in the implementation of this programme.”
Here Wisliceny adds: “I have read these descriptions and find them correct, except for this, that Eichmann was born in Palestine, and that the Mufti was a permanent partner of Himmler’s; this is not what I said.”
[Excerpt from the Eichmann trial transcript ends here]
Wisliceny, an eyewitness to the relationship between the Mufti Husseini and Eichmann, agreed to everything that Steiner had said except for the bit about Eichmann having been born in Palestine and about his relationship with Himmler. So Wisliceny agreed that “The Mufti is one of the originators of the systematic destruction of European Jewry by the Germans”—in other words, that he had played an important role in the decision to set up the death camp system.
Those who disagree with Netanyahu cannot simply express ‘outrage’ and claim, in the abstract, that Netanyahu is wrong. No matter that they consider themselves great ‘authorities’ invested with institutional prestige. No matter that they claim to speak for Yad Vashem, or ‘Holocaust survivors,’ or the ‘Jewish people’ or ‘real’ or ‘serious’ historians—or any other category of presumed scientific or moral authority which they hope will seem like a big enough stick to beat Netanyahu with. The sources are the sources. If Netanyahu’s detractors wish to disagree with the sources that support his claims, they must speak directly to their content and make a specific argument. That is the sport of historical interpretation. We’ll be waiting.
In closing, I will add that I find the moral arguments brandished to attack Netanyahu especially interesting. And they are most revealing, I believe, about a number of things, including who really has influence over media content, and which forces are ultimately responsible for shaping Israeli politics. I shall have much to say about this in a future piece, soon to come.