After decades of near universal condemnation for the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, it’s time to give Adolf Hitler a bit of a break—or at least that’s the eyebrow-raising approach that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to support on Wednesday.
In a speech delivered at the 37th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu described a meeting between Hitler and then Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, in which he implied it was actually al-Husseini who wanted to exterminate Jews from Europe. Hitler? Apparently he just needed a little encouragement.
From his controversial speech:
And this attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution. He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, “If you expel them, they’ll all come here.” “So what should I do with them?” he asked. He said, “Burn them.” And he was sought in, during the Nuremberg trials for prosecution.
Politicians and historians were quick to denounce Netanyahu’s speech, the theme of which was “10 big lies.”
“He moves the responsibility of the Holocaust, for the destruction of the Jews, to the mufti and the Arab world,” Professor Moshe Zimmerman of Hebrew University said in response. “This is a trick intended to stain the Arabs of today because of the Arabs of the past.”
On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the international community in its criticism.
“All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.
“This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten. And I see no reason to change our view of history in any way. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own.”
Netanyahu’s remarks come amid escalating tensions and deadly attacks between Israelis and Palestinians this past month.