Netanyahu Is Cheapening the Memory of the Holocaust

One would expect more judicious words from the son of an important historian.

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Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, greeting Muslim Waffen-SS volunteers with a Nazi salute, November 1943. Credit: Bundesarchiv / Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was the one who had inspired Hitler to annihilate Europe’s Jews is completely erroneous. One would expect more judicious words from the son of an important historian.

It’s true that in the 1930s the Nazis wanted to expel Germany’s Jews, and later, the Jews of Austria and Czechoslovakia, but at that time there was no contact between the mufti and the ideological Nazi elite.

The mufti was undoubtedly a radical anti-Semite and became an enthusiastic supporter of Nazism. After fleeing the land of Israel in 1937 to Lebanon and from there to Iraq — where he was among those inciting attacks against Jews — the mufti came to Germany, via Italy, in 1941. The Nazis used him in their propaganda targeting the Middle East, and to set up a Muslim SS unit in the Balkans. The mufti was also active in preventing Jewish children with official entry permits from entering the land of Israel from Hungary, and wholly supported the murder of Jews. But he had no influence on German policy.

Al-Husseini met Hitler once, on November 28, 1941, for a conversation, in which he didn’t propose anything to the Fuhrer. Hitler was the one who spoke and outlined the German policy. The mufti asked what would happen to the world’s Jews after Germany’s victory, saying he understood Germany would abolish the Jewish home in the land of Israel. Hitler replied that he would first ask all European states and then all the world’s states to deal with the Jews as the Germans were dealing with them in Europe.

This was after the annihilation had begun. It started in June 1941 with the Germans’ invasion of the Soviet Union, half a year before that conversation. Hitler did not need an Arab (or other) leader to suggest the “final solution.”

The use Israeli politicians make of the Holocaust for topical purposes reduces Nazism and Hitler’s responsibility specifically and cheapens the Holocaust’s memory. It seems that if the real historical background doesn’t serve the political incitement, they invent “facts” and associations.

The memory of the millions who were murdered is first of all undoubtedly a Jewish matter. But to a growing extent is it becoming a subject that impacts all of humanity. What these politicians are doing constitutes a sort of Holocaust denial: a denial of the Holocaust as it really happened. It’s a distortion of truth as it is known not only to historians but to considerable parts of the public both in Israel and abroad.

The memory, which is an ongoing trauma for Jews in Israel and elsewhere — and not only for them — is degraded for the sake of wrong, improper propaganda, which isn’t especially effective, either. This is not the way to remember the Holocaust.