Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stirred up a storm with comments apparently downplaying Hitler’s role in the deaths of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
In an Oct. 20 speech to the Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu claimed that the idea for the so-called “final solution” came not from the Nazis, but from the former Muslim authority in Jerusalem, Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini. In response, Germany’s government has been quick to remind the prime minister, who is visiting Germany this week, that they are to be blamed for the Holocaust, not the Palestinians.
“All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust,” chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
He continued: “This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.”
In his speech, Netanyahu described a meeting during World War Two between the then Grand Mufti and German leader Hitler, claiming:
Attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution.
Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (to Palestine).’ According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: “What should I do with them?” and the mufti replied: “Burn them.”
As many experts and observers rushed to point out, Netanyahu’s story is riddled with historical inaccuracies. The mufti was a known Nazi collaborator, who escaped prosecution during the Nuremberg trials. However, the idea for final solution came from the Nazis themselves, and mass killings were initiated before the mufti met with Hitler—as Chemi Shalev, the New York correspondent for Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, pointed out:
This is not the first time Netanyahu has made the claim. In 2012, he called the mufti “one of the leading architects of the Final Solution.” With increased tension between Israel and Palestine, the prime minister is scoring points on anti-Palestinian sentiment in his country, a tactic made evident in his apology one day after the controversial comments:
“I did not want to absolve Hitler from responsibility but to show that the father of the Palestinian nation wanted to destroy the Jews, also without there being territories, occupation, settlements,” he said as he was leaving for Germany. “Hitler is responsible for the destruction of European Jewry. Hitler is responsible for the Final Solution of the destruction of six million, and he made the decision. On the other hand, it is absurd to ignore Husseini’s role.”