A Backgrounder of the Nazi Activities in North Africa and the Middle East During the Era of the Holocaust
Key issues the reader should note: 1. The Islamic leadership (vis-à-vis the Mufti) did in fact have a significant relationship with the German government during the era of the Holocaust. 2. Pro-Nazi sentiment often resulted in grave consequences against the Jews in Arab countries during the Holocaust. 3. The Germans influenced the Arabs resulting in incitement that led to attacks against Jews in Arab cities during the Holocaust. 4. The Mufti promoted the idea to the Nazis of destroying the Jews before they could escape to Palestine. 5. The Axis powers persecuted Jews in North Africa during the Holocaust…
• Bernard Lewis states: “We know that within weeks of Hitler’s coming to power in 1933, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem got in touch with the German consul general in Jerusalem, Doctor Heinrich Wolff, and offered his services.” 1 There, the Mufti spoke approvingly of the Nazi’s Jewish policies, particularly of the anti-Jewish boycott in Germany.
• A Pan-Arab Committee established at Baghdad in the Spring of 1933 approached Fritz Grobba, the German Ambassador to Iraq, two years later with proposals for closer ties and cooperation.
• Hitler’s Mein Kampf was translated into four different Arabic translations and circulated between 1933-1939 in Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo and Berlin.
• In the first few months of WWII, shops in the towns of Syria would frequently show posters with Arabic sayings: “In heaven God is your ruler, on earth Hitler.” In the streets of Aleppo… Damascus a popular verse in a local dialect said: “No more ‘Monsieur’, no more ‘Mister’-God in heaven, on earth Hitler!”
Nazi Hatred Dwells in the Arab World
By Shelomo Alfassa February 23, 2007
…Although the Allies killed Nazi troops, destroyed their buildings, burned Nazi books, and even the fact that German Fuehrer killed himself, the Nazi spirit lived on. This spirit of Jew hatred was brought into the Arab world by Amin Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
The relationship between Amin Al-Husseini and the Third Reich was strengthened when the Mufti visited the German Consul General at Jerusalem in 1937. After that, he met with Eichmann when he visited Palestine. This was when the Nazis were examining the possibility of deporting German Jews to Palestine. It has been reported that based on war-crimes testimony and the Eichmann trial transcripts, Eichmann and the Mufti enjoyed a close relationship. The Mufti would soon become the spiritual leader of the Islamic legions that were trained by-and-for the Nazis.
The rise of Hitler to power in 1933 marked a turning point in the new mufti?s activities. He sent a cable of congratulations to the Nazi leader and expressed support for the Jewish boycott in Germany. Soon after Hitler’s Mein Kampf was translated into four different Arabic translations and circulated between 1933-1939 in Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo and Berlin. In the first few months of WWII, shops in the towns of Syria would frequently show posters with Arabic sayings: “In heaven God is your ruler, on earth Hitler.” In the streets of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus a popular verse in a local dialect said: “No more ‘Monsieur’, no more ‘Mister’-God in heaven, on earth Hitler!”
Anti-Jewish feeling continued to mount in the Middle East during the 1930s, as the Fascist and Nazi regimes and doctrines made increasing sense to many Arab nationalists. King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia sought German arms and contacts and was favorably received. Various delegations of Syrians and Iraqis attended the Nrnberg party congresses, and there were several different Arabic translations of Mein Kampf. Both the German and Italian regimes were active in propaganda in the Arab world, and there was much pro-German sentiment in Egypt.
Anti-Semitic elements seized upon the Palestine problem and Arab Revolt of
1936-1939 to portray international Jewry, including the Jews of the Maghrib, in a negative way to the Muslims, many of whom expressed solidarity with the Palestinian Arabs against Zionism and the British Authorities in the Mandate. Nazi propaganda broadcasts from Berlin and Stuttgart, as well as broadcasts from fascist Italy, added fuel to the ongoing anti-Jewish campaigns.
As part of the new, tough policy against Arab violence, the British dismissed Al-Husseini from his post as head of the Supreme Moslem Council. Fearing arrest, on October 12, 1937, the grand mufti donned disguise and fled to Lebanon, where the French gave him asylum. During 1937, Damascus was center for anti-Jewish activities. During this same year, a Nazi delegation went to Syria where a symbiosis was developed that would lead to intensified anti-Jewish sentiment, especially among both German and Arab youth.
Nazi Germany started transmitting in Arabic for the first time in April 1938. Germany thus became an Italian radio surrogate, providing a new programming dimension by the addition of anti-Jewish and anti-British themes broadcast by several prominent Arab exiles, including Rashid Ali El-Ghailani, an ex-prime minister of Iraq, and the Mufti, Al-Husseini.
The Mufti developed a world headquarters in Germany. In an office in Berlin, his activities included: 1. radio propaganda; 2. espionage and fifth column activities in the Middle East; 3. organizing Muslims into military units in Axis-occupied countries and in North Africa and Russia; and 4. establishment of the Arab Legions and the Arab Brigade. These groups were trained by the Nazis and used by them. The Mufti’s radio broadcasts were some of the most violent pro-Axis broadcasts ever produced. He had at least six stations, Berlin, Zeissen, Bari, Rome, Tokyo and Athens. He used these radio broadcasts to tell Muslims across the world to commit acts of sabotage and kill the Jews.
Hitler had made it clear that the project of killing Jews was by no means confined to Europe. As he explained to the Mufti, “his hopes of military victory in Africa and the Middle East would bring about the destruction of Jews in the Arab World.” In November of 1941 Hitler informed the Mufti at a meeting in Berlin that he intended to kill every Jew living in the Arab world, including those in Palestine as well as “Syria, Iraq, Iran, the Arabian peninsula, Egypt, and French Northwest Africa.” Hitler asserted that, in the event of a German advance into the Middle East, the German objective would be the “destruction” of “Judaism” in Palestine.
During 1941, in Mosul, Iraq, pro-Nazi Arab activists continued to propagandize against Jews. In Baghdad, when the war film For Freedom showed in cinemas, audiences cheered Hitler and booed Churchill. Leaflets circulated: “Rashid Ali, the Leader of all the Arabs, is returning with ropes and gallows to hang a number of criminal Jews, Christian traitors and other enemies of Islam.”
October 5, 1943, the Mufti arrived in Frankfort, Germany visiting the Research Institute on the Jewish Problem where he declared that Arabs and Germans were, “Partners and allies in the battle against world Jewry.” The Mufti beamed radio sermons to the Balkans, the countries of North Africa, and the Muslims in India. Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Egypt were called upon for Jihad against the British, these statements included the suggestion Muslims could “save their souls by massacring the Jewish infidels” they came across.
In a letter to Himmler, dated September 28, 1944, General Berger of the Waffen S.S. reported: “Today the Mufti came to see me for a long talk. He talked about his work and noted happily that the day is nearing he will head an army to conquer Palestine.” It was during this same year that the Mufti developed an Arab Brigade in 1944 that included Arabs trained in Holland by the Germans.
It was said the Mufti even visited Auschwitz and Maldanek. In both of these death camps, he paid close attention to the efficiency of the crematorium, spoke to the leading personnel and was generous in his praise for those who were reported as particularly conscientious in their work. He was on friendly terms with such notorious practitioners of the “Final Solution” as Rudolf Hess, the overlord of Auschwitz; Franz Zeireis of Mauthausen; Dr. Seidl of Theresienstadt; and Kramer, the butcher of Belsen.
After VE Day, May 8, 1945, Nazi officials were prepared to allow Jews to be diverted from concentration camps and even let children go to Palestine via “illegal” ships — all in exchange for cash. Yet, Al-Husseini insisted they get dispatched to concentration camps. That same year, liberated Yugoslavia sought to indict the Mufti as a war criminal for his activities in Bosnia, but with help from the Nazi SS, the Mufti had already escaped Germany with other members of his clan.”
While it is easy to reinvent history, it is not easy to overlook original first hand documents, tens of thousands which show the Mufti of Jerusalem in bed with Hitler. As Dr. Bernard Lewis of Princeton University recently said, “The Nazi propaganda impact was immense. We see it in Arabic memoirs of the period….”
The fierce anti-Jewish hatred that was exacerbated by the Mufti in the Islamic world, fueled by the German war machine, continues to resonate today throughout the Arab and Persian world. Incitement, instituted decades earlier, remains a root cause of anti-Semitism as well as the reason for hostility toward the State of Israel after its formation. This is the reason why over 900,000 Jewish people, born in Arab counries, were made refugees after 1948. Simply, because while the Nazis were destroyed and the Holocaust ended, the intense hostility instituted during that era lived on — and continues to live on in the Islamic world.
Dilemmas of Dhimmitude
Jewish Quarterly. No. 197. Spring 2005
Newly independent Iraq gave formal undertakings on minority rights when joining the League of Nations in 1932 – and massacred thousands of Assyrian Christians within the year. Xenophobic nationalism, together with anti-British and anti-French feeling, gave rise to political parties and paramilitary youth movements of the Nazi and fascist type. The German envoy to Iraq, Dr Fritz Grobba, set about disseminating Nazi ideology and anti-Jewish propaganda, reinforcing local prejudice. Dozens of Jews were quietly dismissed (although some were reinstated after the community protested). Laws were gradually brought in to deprive Jews of jobs, then education and, eventually, property, residence and free movement. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, colluded with the ex-Prime Minister, Rashid Ali, to engineer a pro-Nazi coup, eventually culminating in the farhoud massacre of 1941. For two days and one night of looting, rape and murder, the mob rampaged through Jewish districts of Baghdad. One hundred and seventy Jews were killed.
Naturally, the Palestine question was also to have serious repercussions on the Jewish population. Menahem Salih Daniel, a Baghdad Jewish leader, expressed his misgivings as early as 1922 in a letter to the Secretary of the Zionist Organisation in London (quoted by Nessim Rejwan), even though there had as yet been no active resistance to Zionism:
It is . . . the feeling of every Arab that it is a violation of his legitimate rights, which it is his duty to denounce and fight to the best of his ability. Iraq always having been an active centre of Arab culture and activity, the public mind is always stirred up as regards Palestine.
One Jewess, growing up in the 1930s, recalls how the mob would rampage every anniversary of the Balfour declaration carrying clubs dipped in tar. It fell to a kindly neighbour to shelter her until the mob had passed.
In the 1941 farhoud too, when the forces of law and order failed to come to the Jews’ rescue, the last line of defence was again the kindly neighbour. As Nessim Rejwan writes,
Throughout the disturbances, with a few exceptions, Jewish homes in mixed neighbourhoods were defended and hundreds of Jews were saved by the willingness of their Muslim neighbours to protect them, in some cases at the cost of their own lives.
The broader picture
For the Jews, the 1930s and 1940s were a time of turmoil across the Arab world. Seven years before the farhoud, Jews had been killed in the pogrom of Constantine, Algeria. In Libya, 136 Jews, 36 of them children, were slaughtered in 1945. That same year, bloody riots erupted in Egypt and Aden, as in Syria in 1947.
All these events, targeting civilian communities, predated the creation of Israel. They demonstrated the vulnerability and insecurity to which Jews were exposed up to 50 years ago. Things might have turned out differently – Crown Prince Faisal, later the British-appointed King of Iraq, had signed a pact in 1919 with Chaim Weizmann viewing with sympathy the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine. Instead, Arab ruling elites made Zionism a crime from 1948 onwards, passed discriminatory legislation and whipped up popular feeling against the Jews to distract attention from their illegitimacy, their internal problems and obligations.
The situation today
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the concept of Ottoman pluralism (whatever its limitations) could not be more remote. The Arab world is almost monolithically Muslim and judenrein. Pan-Arab nationalism is a spent force but pan-Islamism is asserting its grip. Those Copts, Assyrians and other groups who have not fled continue to be persecuted and marginalized.
The mass media of the Muslim world pump out a new antisemitism, inspired by Saudi Wahabism, fed by Koranic accounts of Jewish treachery and drawing on every antisemitic motif and conspiracy theory in the book. This antisemitism is a product of the Israel-Arab dispute, but a fight between two nationalisms over the same piece of land has changed, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, into an intractable religious conflict. Israel is an affront to the umma: what was once Muslim territory can never become non-Muslim. Palestine must be reconquered by jihad and the Jews revert to their natural status of dhimmitude. Until this alarming religious dimension is addressed and the forces of Islamic militancy subdued, the conflict will be insoluble.
…One thousand years before the advent of Islam, Jews in substantial numbers resided in what are today Arab countries. For centuries under Islamic rule, following the Moslem conquest of the region, Jews were considered ‘dhimmi’, or second-class citizens. But they were nonetheless permitted limited religious, educational, professional, and business opportunities.
It is within the last 55 years that the world witnessed the mass displacement of over 850,000 long-time Jewish residents from the totalitarian regimes, the brutal dictatorships and monarchies of Syria, Trans-Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
The rise of pan-Arabism and independence movements in the 20th century resulted in an orchestrated, multi-state campaign against Zionism. These states vehemently opposed the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people. Hundreds of thousands of Jews resident in Arab countries were ensnared in this struggle.
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