A new catalog published by the Kedem Auction House contains a valuable historical item: six previously unknown photographs from a visit by the mufti of Jerusalem to Nazi Germany.
Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini’s connection to Nazi Germany has made headlines several times in recent years thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who used him as an example of Palestinian attitudes toward Israel to bolster his claim that Israel has no Palestinian partner.
Granted, Netanyahu exaggerated when he claimed in 2015 that Husseini had persuaded Hitler to launch the Final Solution, but the storm that erupted over that statement did raise awareness of Husseini’s Nazi ties.
Two months ago, the National Library of Israel made its own contribution to raising awareness of this story when it published a telegram to Husseini from Heinrich Himmler in which the SS chief wished him success in his battle against “the Jewish invaders.”
The six photos that Kedem is now offering for sale show Husseini “during a tour apparently held at a camp” in Nazi Germany circa 1943, the auction house’s website says. The photos, three of which are on the site, show Husseini with several senior Nazi officials in uniform as well as government staffers in civilian dress.
Meron Eren, Kedem’s co-owner, said the photos were purchased from a document dealer in Germany “by someone who understood the importance of what he saw in the pictures,” and the anonymous buyer is now offering them for sale. The opening bid is set at $10,000, but Kedem predicts that the photos could ultimately fetch up to $30,000.
Though other photos of the mufti in Germany, including pictures of him with Hitler and Himmler, are readily available via a Google search, the Kedem photos are apparently unknown even to historians and researchers of the Nazi period.
All six photos have a label on the back saying “Photo-Gerhards Trebbin,” indicating that they were developed in the German city of Trebbin.
No other details about the photos are available, but Kedem’s catalog speculates that the other people shown in them include Mile Budak, a Croatian politician from the Ustase party who was Croatia’s envoy to Germany from 1941 to 1943, Iraqi politician Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, and Austrian politician Arthur Seyss-Inquart, famous for his role as Reichskommissar in the occupied Netherlands.
Also on that list is Fritz Grobba, who was Germany’s ambassador to Iraq and later headed the German Foreign Ministry’s Middle East desk. Grobba had close ties with both Husseini and Gaylani.
Husseini, born in 1895, fled British Mandatory Palestine in 1937. After some time in Lebanon and Iraq, he went to fascist Italy and from there to Nazi Germany.
There, he was in contact with Foreign Ministry officials and senior SS and Gestapo officers and even met with Hitler more than once, the first time in 1941. But he never realized his goal of obtaining a German-Italian declaration recognizing the independence of Arab states and their right to work to prevent the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in the Holy Land.
It’s worth recalling that other Muslim clerics at that time acted very differently toward the Nazis. Imam Si Kaddour Benghabrit, for example, saved the lives of Jews by hiding them in his Paris mosque. His story was even made into a movie.
The old-new pictures of Husseini in Nazi Germany highlight the importance of public auction houses as a source of historical knowledge. Sometimes, a perusal of an auction house’s catalog isn’t a bad substitute for a history lesson.