Netanyahu Downplays Earlier Hitler-Mufti Comments During Press Conference With Merkel

Prime minister rejects claims that his comments were similarly inflammatory to Abbas's; maintains that mufti called on Nazis to 'prevent Jews from fleeing Europe and support the Final Solution.'

AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retracted on Wednesday a large portion of his claims regarding Jerusalem Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini’s role during the Holocaust, and toned down the accusations he made against the mufti.

After a speech in Jerusalem on Tuesday in which Netanyahu claimed it was the mufti that convinced Hitler to annihilate European Jewry, the prime minister said on Wednesday during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the mufti’s role during the Holocaust was to “call on the Nazis to prevent Jews from fleeing Europe and support the Final Solution.”

During their press conference, Merkel commented on Netanyahu’s initial remarks and said “Germany is clear on its responsibility for the Holocaust.” Merkel noted that her government is convinced Germany must pass on the knowledge of its responsibility for the Holocaust to future generations. “We stand behind our responsibility and I don’t see any need to change our relation to history,” said Merkel.

Netanyahu, who spoke after Merkel, rejected claims that his comments on the mufti’s role during the Holocaust were similarly inflammatory to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's recent comments. A few moments before their press conference, senior U.S. officials told Haaretz that they heard Netanyahu’s remarks about the Holocaust. “We’ve stressed in the past both publicly and privately that it’s important to refrain from making inflammatory statements, accusations or activity on both sides, that are likely to increase the violence,” said the senior U.S. official.

Netanyahu, who toned down his accusations regarding the Mufti’s role during the Holocaust said during the press conference that Hitler is the one responsible for the Holocaust, and no one must deny this. At the same time, Netanyahu reread parts of testimony from Eichmann’s deputy, Dieter Wisliceny, who claimed that the mufti encouraged Hitler to destroy European Jewry.

Netanyahu did not, however, retract claims that during their meeting in 1941, al-Husseini called on Hitler to “burn the Jews.” Over the last 24 hours, many historians have claimed that Netanyahu fabricated the statement, lied about the mufti’s statements and that there is no historical documentation that such statements were made.

“The questions about the mufti shouldn’t be directed at me,” said Netanyahu during the press conference with Merkel. “The questions should be directed to President Abbas. Why do he and the Palestinian Authority officially glorify the mufti and call him the father of the Palestinian people? It’s important to see what they’re doing in textbooks as well. During the twenties, the Mufti also said that the Jewish people want to damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and it was as much a lie then as it is today. Therefore we must ask Abbas – why do you glorify him?”