Mohammed Amin al-Husseini was a Palestinian Arab nationalist and Muslim leader in Mandatory Palestine.
Al-Husseini used his influence and ties with the Germans to promote Arab nationalism in Iraq. He was among the key promoters of the pan-Arab Al-Muthanna Club, and supported the coup d’état by Rashid Ali in April 1941. The situation of Iraq’s Jews rapidly deteriorated, with extortions and sometimes murders taking place.When the Anglo-Iraqi War broke out, al-Husseini used his influence to issue a fatwa for a holy war against Britain. As the British advanced on the capital, the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad,where over 180 Jews were killed and 1,000 injured)
(Mass grave of victims of the Farhud, 1941l
led by members of the Al-Muthanna Club, which had served as a conduit for German propaganda funding, erupted in June 1941, following the Iraqi defeat and the collapse of Rashid Ali’s government. The pogrom was rooted in antisemitic incitement during the preceding decade against the backdrop of the conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine.
When the war failed for the Iraqis—given its paucity, German and Italian assistance played a negligible role in the war al-Husseini escaped to Persia (together with Rashid Ali), where he was granted legation asylum first by Japan, and then by Italy. On 8 October, after the occupation of Persia by the Allies and after the new Persian government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi severed diplomatic relations with the Axis powers.
Al-Husseini was taken under Italian protection and conveyed through Turkey to Axis Europe in an operation organized by Italian Military Intelligence (Servizio Informazioni Militari, or SIM).
Al-Husseini arrived in Rome on 10 October 1941. He outlined his proposals before Alberto Ponce de Leon. On condition that the Axis powers ‘recognize in principle the unity, independence, and sovereignty, of an Arab state, including Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Transjordan’, he offered support in the war against Britain and stated his willingness to discuss the issues of ‘the Holy Places, Lebanon, the Suez Canal, and Aqaba’. The Italian foreign ministry approved al-Husseini’s proposal, recommended giving him a grant of one million lire, and referred him to Benito Mussolini, who met al-Husseini on 27 October. According to al-Husseini’s account, it was an amicable meeting in which Mussolini expressed his hostility to the Jews and Zionism.
Back in the summer of 1940 and again in February 1941, al-Husseini submitted to the Nazi German Government a draft declaration of German-Arab cooperation, containing a clause:
Germany and Italy recognize the right of the Arab countries to solve the question of the Jewish elements, which exist in Palestine and in the other Arab countries, as required by the national and ethnic (völkisch) interests of the Arabs, and as the Jewish question was solved in Germany and Italy.
Encouraged by his meeting with the Italian leader, al-Husseini prepared a draft declaration, affirming the Axis support for the Arabs on 3 November. In three days, the declaration, slightly amended by the Italian foreign ministry, received the formal approval of Mussolini and was forwarded to the German embassy in Rome. On 6 November, al-Husseini arrived in Berlin, where he discussed the text of his declaration with Ernst von Weizsäcker and other German officials. In the final draft, which differed only marginally from al-Husseini’s original proposal, the Axis powers declared their readiness to approve the elimination (Beseitigung) of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.
On 20 November, al-Husseini met the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and was officially received by Adolf Hitler on 28 November.
He asked Adolf Hitler for a public declaration that ‘recognized and sympathized with the Arab struggles for independence and liberation, and that would support the elimination of a national Jewish homeland’.Hitler refused to make such a public announcement, saying that it would strengthen the Gaullists against the Vichy France,but asked al-Husseini ‘to lock …deep in his heart’ the following points, which American Historian Christopher Browning summarizes as follows, that
‘Germany has resolved, step by step, to ask one European nation after the other to solve its Jewish problem, and at the proper time, direct a similar appeal to non-European nations as well’. When Germany had defeated Russia and broken through the Caucasus into the Middle East, it would have no further imperial goals of its own and would support Arab liberation… But Hitler did have one goal. “Germany’s objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power”. (Das deutsche Ziel würde dann lediglich die Vernichtung des im arabischen Raum unter der Protektion der britischen Macht lebenden Judentums sein). In short, Jews were not simply to be driven out of the German sphere but would be hunted down and destroyed even beyond it’
A separate record of the meeting was made by Fritz Grobba, who until recently had been the German ambassador to Iraq. His version of the crucial words reads “when the hour of Arab liberation comes, Germany has no interest there other than the destruction of the power protecting the Jews”.Al-Husseini’s own account of this point, as recorded in his diary, is very similar to Grobba’s. According to Amin’s account, however, when Hitler expounded his view that the Jews were responsible for World War I, Marxism and its revolutions, and this was why the task of Germans was to persevere in a battle without mercy against the Jews, he replied: “We Arabs think that Zionism, not the Jews, is the cause of all of these acts of sabotage.”
In December 1942, al-Husseini held a speech at the celebration of the opening of the Islamic Central Institute (Islamisches Zentralinstitut) in Berlin, of which he served as honorary chair.
In the speech, he harshly criticised those he considered as aggressors against Muslims, namely “Jews, Bolsheviks and Anglo-Saxons.” At the time of the opening of the Islamic Central Institute, there were an estimated 3,000 Muslims in Germany, including 400 German converts. The Islamic Central Institute gave the Muslims in Germany institutional ties to the ‘Third Reich’
Much of the case against Husseini’s role in The Holocaust emerged in the immediate aftermath of WW2, with those collecting evidence working for the Jewish Agency in the context of an intensive public relations exercise to establish a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine.Husseini has been described by the American Jewish Congress as “Hitler’s henchman”and some scholars, such as Schwanitz and Rubin, have argued that Husseini made the Final Solution inevitable by shutting out the possibility of Jews escaping to Palestine.
Although some historians have questioned al-Husseini’s knowledge of the Holocaust while it was in progress, Wolfgang G. Schwanitz notes that in his memoirs Husseini recalled that Heinrich Himmler, in the summer of 1943, while confiding some German war secrets, inveighed against Jewish “war guilt”, and revealed the ongoing extermination (in Arabic, abadna) of the Jews.
Gilbert Achcar, referring to this meeting with Himmler, observes:
The Mufti was well aware that the European Jews were being wiped out; he never claimed the contrary. Nor, unlike some of his present-day admirers, did he play the ignoble, perverse, and stupid game of Holocaust denial… . His amour-propre would not allow him to justify himself to the Jews… .gloating that the Jews had paid a much higher price than the Germans… he cites… : ‘Their losses in the Second World War represent more than thirty percent of the total number of their people …’. Statements like this, from a man who was well placed to know what the Nazis had done … constitute a powerful argument against Holocaust deniers. Husseini reports that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler … told him in summer 1943 that the Germans had ‘already exterminated more than three million’ Jews: “I was astonished by this figure, as I had known nothing about the matter until then.” … Thus. in 1943, Husseini knew about the genocide.
In November 1943 the Mufti declared.
It is the duty of Muhammadans [Muslims] in general and Arabs in particular to … drive all Jews from Arab and Muhammadan countries… . Germany is also struggling against the common foe who oppressed Arabs and Muhammadans in their different countries. It has very clearly recognized the Jews for what they are and resolved to find a definitive solution [endgültige Lösung] for the Jewish danger that will eliminate the scourge that Jews represent in the world.