Prof. Dina Porat, chief historian of Yad Vashem, called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Hitler did not seek to exterminate the Jews until his meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem at the time, Haj Amin al-Husseini “completely erroneous, on all counts.”
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Porat, a senior historian at Tel Aviv University who specializes in Holocaust studies, told Haaretz on Wednesday: “Hitler did not need anyone to encourage the final solution. In terms of the facts, there’s no debate ... all these actions, Hitler’s obsessions, have no link to the mufti.”
In his speech to the 37th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Netanyahu ostensibly quoted from the conversation between Hitler and the mufti at their meeting in Berlin in November 1941: “And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’” According to Netanyahu, Hitler asked Husseini, “So what should I do with them?,” to which the mufti replied, “Burn them.”
When asked whether Netanyahu fabricated the dialogue that he quoted, Porat said that Netanyahu is very knowledgeable about Jewish history. “He grew up in a home full of Jewish history. But what he said is not in the minutes of the meeting. That should be clear.”
The meeting between Hitler and Husseini was documented only with general statements and topic headings, and was not transcribed word for word. There is no record of Hitler asking Husseini what to do with Europe’s Jews.
“The mufti did not speak to Hitler in terms of ‘you should do this,’ or ‘what do you think of a final solution?’ Nor is it recorded that the mufti told Hitler to ‘burn them.’ Hitler never asked anyone what to do with the Jews,” Porat said. She did say, however, that Hitler told the mufti that he would “’continue his plans,’ meaning that he had already begun, and certainly not because the mufti asked him to.”
According to Porat, “all of the facts show that during Hitler and the mufti’s meeting, the ‘final solution’ was already under way.”
Porat explained that Hitler’s plan to exterminate European Jewry dated back to years before his meeting with Husseini, noting references to it in “Mein Kampf,” which was published in 1925, as well as the 1933 Nazi party charter and remarks in the Reichstag in 1939, when Hitler threatened to “exterminate the Jewish people.”
“And there’s no debating later on, with the invasion of Poland, the orders from Berlin to build ghettos, which were documented as a stage of the ‘final solution,’” Porat said. Later, mass killings of Jews began with the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. “The order to kill wasn’t signed by Hitler, but the first death camp, Chelmno, began operating in December 1941, a few weeks after the meeting with the mufti — and it’s something that had been worked on long before,” added Porat.
Husseini asked Hitler to advance the final solution in the Middle East, but he certainly didn’t come up with the plan himself, Porat said. “Had Netanyahu added the words ‘in the Middle East’ to his speech, he wouldn’t be in this mess. But he didn’t add them,” Porat said: “That’s what the mufti wanted, and that’s why he went to Berlin.”