JERUSALEM (The Thursday Times) — At the 2015 Zionist Congress, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the contentious assertion of accusing Haj Amin al-Husseini, the then-Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, of having a significant role in prompting the Holocaust. Netanyahu made the claim that al-Husseini encouraged Adolf Hitler, the notorious dictator of Nazi Germany, to move from the mere deportation of Jews to their complete extermination. This claim has since faced significant criticism from historians and global political figures who maintain that the Holocaust was initiated by the Nazi regime itself.
Netanyahu detailed a purported dialogue between Hitler and al-Husseini from their 1941 meeting, where the Grand Mufti allegedly advised, “If you expel them, they’ll all come here [to Palestine].” When Hitler asked what he should do with the Jews, al-Husseini purportedly responded, “Burn them.”
Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s comments went so far as to prompt a rare rebuke from the German government. A spokesperson for Germany asserted the country’s responsibility for the Holocaust, stating, “We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.” This statement was a direct response to Netanyahu’s remarks, which seemed to imply that without al-Husseini’s intervention, the genocide might not have occurred.
Moreover, Netanyahu brought up al-Husseini’s period after the war, noting, “Haj Amin al-Husseini… was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution.” Despite al-Husseini’s documented views and collaboration with the Nazis, historians have largely disputed the idea that he was a principal architect of the Holocaust.
Opposition politicians and Holocaust scholars swiftly criticised Netanyahu, citing his father’s prominent history background, for misrepresenting historical facts. They pointed out that the encounter between Husseini and Hitler occurred on November 28, 1941, which was well after Hitler’s explicit January 1939 Reichstag speech, where he expressed his resolve to annihilate the Jewish people.
Speaking on a private radio station, Netanyahu’s then-defense minister and close associate, Moshe Yaalon, also corrected the prime minister, asserting that Netanyahu was mistaken. “It certainly wasn’t Husseini who conceived the Final Solution [the Holocaust],” he stated on-air. “That nefarious plan was the creation of Hitler himself.”
In response to criticism from journalists and members of his own cabinet, Netanyahu defended his statements, claiming there was “substantial evidence” to support his allegations against Husseini, including a testimony from one of Adolf Eichmann’s deputies at the Nuremberg trials after World War II. Adolf Eichmann was a notorious figure, often referred to as one of the principal architects of the Holocaust. Netanyahu’s office, while not identifying the aide by name, seemed to imply reference to Dieter Wisliceny. Wisliceny, an assistant to Eichmann, was reported as early as the late 1940s to have told the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal that Husseini had advocated on multiple occasions for the extermination of European Jews to the Nazi leadership.
“It’s absurd. I had no intention of absolving Hitler of his satanic responsibility for the annihilation of European Jewry. Hitler is the one who made the decision,” Israeli prime minister Netanyahu went on to say, despite the apparent inconsistency in his earlier remarks.