Nazi Influence in the Middle East – Haj Amin al-Husseini

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Introduction: A US National Archives report released in 2010 titled “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War” documents Nazi influence in the Middle East.  This report is an addendum to a 2004 US government report, “US Intelligence and the Nazis”  and both are based on thousands of documents declassified under the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. Of significance, this report supports the significant role that Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem played in WWII as well as the documenting the link between Adbel Nasser, the second President of Egypt and the Nazis.

In this article we trace Haj Amin al-Husseini from his role in the British Mandate for Palestine between WWI and WWII, through his meeting with Adolf Hitler where he secured the Fuhrer’s promise for “Arab liberation” and the”destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere to his close relationship with Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Nazi concentration camps, to his role immediately after the war in the politics of the Middle East, specifically Egypt.

Haj Amin al-Husseini – Grand Mufti of Jerusalem
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Haj Amin al-Husseini also known as Mohammed (Effendi) Amin al-Husseini was appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 by the British under the Mandate for Palestine.  The role of the position of Grand Mufti was as the supreme Muslim religious leader. He used the position to promote Islam, push for Arab independence and oppose the establishment of a Jewish national home in the British Mandate for Palestine.

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In his determination for Arab independence, al-Husseini incited his followers to a three-year war against the Jews in Palestine and the British who administered the Palestine Mandate, which is known as the 1936-39 Arab Revolt. The British published the Peel Report in 1937 recommending the partition of Palestine between Jews and Arabs, however the Arabs rejected the Peel plan and escalated their revolt. Evading a British arrest warrant, al-Husseini fled British Palestine and took refuge in the French Mandate of Lebanon. When World War II started, the Mufti was asked to leave Lebanon and first went to the British Mandate of Iraq, escaped via Tehran to Italy and eventually ended up in Berlin, where he lived until the end of the war.

Once in Berlin, the Mufti received an enthusiastic reception by the “Islamische Zentralinstitut” and the whole Islamic community of Germany, which welcomed him as the “Führer of the Arabic world“.

The Mufti and Hitler
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Grand Mufti al-Husseini meeting Adolf Hitler November, 28 1941, Berlin

On meeting Adolf Hitler on November 28, 1941 in Berlin,  the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini requested backing for Arab independence and support in opposing the establishment of a Jewish national home in the British Mandate for Palestine, however al-Husseini got much more than he sought.

[actual German archive documents of the meeting between the Mufti and the Fuhrer, as well as the transcript in previous post]

Adolf Hitler himself told al-Husseini of his intention to eliminate the Jews of British Palestine in their November 28, 1941 meeting in Berlin.  In that meeting,  Hitler said that the outcome of the war in Europe Nazis and the Middle East would also decide the fate of the Arab world. Hitler told al-Husseini that German troops intended to break through the Caucasus region and move into the Middle East and that this would result in the liberation of the Arabs there. Hitler said that Germany’s objective was the destruction of the Jews.

Archived documents on German Foreign policy (posted in the earlier article, link above) document Adolf Hitler promising the Grand Mufti:
(1) “Arab liberation
(2) “destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power”
(3) letting the Grand Mufti become theauthoritative spokesman for the Arab worldwhere he wouldset off the Arab operations, which he had secretly prepared“.

[Editorial note: It would appear that his desire for “Arab liberation” and the “destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere” made Adolf Hitler the first advocate for the “Free Palestine” movement.  Wait until you read below who joined Hitler and al-Husseini (the Grand Mufti) in the 1950’s! Hint: he became President of Egypt.]

Hitler’s third promise to al-Husseini was that he was to become the “authoritative spokesman for the Arab world” is supported by a recently released US National Archives report titled “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War” (an addendum to a 2004 US government report, “US Intelligence and the Nazis“). This report is based on thousands of documents declassified under the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. This report supports that the Nazis planned for al-Husseini to serve as leader after Nazi conquest. More on that below.


Note: The balance of this article is based on this newly released US National Archives report titled “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”. Photos were added by us, to support the text. We have included the references cited in the report throughout the rest of the article to support that this is far from conjecture.


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Nazi Financial Support of the Mufti

 

The report documents that after the war, Carl Berthold Franz Rekowski, an official of the German Foreign Office who had dealt with Husseini, testified that the Foreign Office financially supported the two Arab leaders (Husseini and an Iraqi named Gailani), their families, and other Arabs in their entourage who had fled to Germany after the coup. The report documents that al-Husseini lived in a villa in the Krumme Lanke neighborhood of Berlin.  The report states that Husseini was a believer in a Pan-Arab state and that his closest ties were with the SSThe CIA file on al-Husseini indicated that he had a staff of 20–30 men in Berlin and from spring 1943 to spring 1944, al-Husseini was paid 50,000 marks monthly [JRofC note: 600,000 marks per year] for operational expenses and in addition received living expenses averaging 80,000 marks per month [JRofC note: 960,000 marks per year].  A German field marshal received a base salary of 26,500 marks per year. [JRofC note: al-Husseini was paid 1,560,000 marks per year by the Nazis]

[from pg 19 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow, source: Norman J.W. Goda, “Black Marks: Hitler’s Bribery of His Senior Military Officers,” Journal of Modern History, v. 72, n. 2 (June 2000): 413–52.]

Of great significance and supporting what Hitler said to Husseini when they met, Rekowski learned through conversations with other Foreign Office officials that Nazi authorities planned to use Husseini to control Palestine after Germany conquered them. 

[from pg 20 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Herf, Nazi Propaganda, 200.]

The Mufti – Nazi SS recruiter in Croatia

 

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The report states that in the fall of 1943 Husseini went to the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi ally, to recruit Muslims for the Waffen-SS. During that trip he told the troops of the newly formed Bosnian-Muslim 13th Mountain Waffen-SS division that the entire Muslim world ought to follow their example. Husseini also organized a 1944 mission for Palestinian Arabs and Germans to carry out sabotage and propaganda after German planes dropped them into Palestine by parachute. In discussions with the Foreign Intelligence branch of the RSHA, Husseini insisted that the Arabs take command after they landed and direct their fight against the Jews of Palestine, not the British authorities.

[from pg 20 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Herf, Nazi Propaganda, 200.]

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Mufti inspecting Muslim Nazi recruits
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Amin Al Husseini giving Nazi salute to Muslim Nazi recruits
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Muslim SS praying November 1943

SS- Officer Wilhelm Beisner had frequent contact with Husseini during the war and told Rekowski that Husseini had good ties with Heinrich Himmler and with Waffen-SS Gen. Gottlob Berger, who handled the recruitment of non-German forces into the Waffen-SS.

The Mufti and Heinrich Himmler

For those that do not know who Heinrich Himmler is, let us provide a brief background.

Heinrich Himmler was head of the Gestapo and the head of the Waffen-SS,  under which al-Husseini recruited Muslim fighters.  Himmler was also the main architect and organizer of the mass murder of Jews in the Third Reich.  In 1933, Himmler set up the first concentration camp in Dachau and with Hitler’s encouragement over the next several years, extended the range of those who ‘qualified’ for internment in concentration camps. 

From the outset of his position as Reichsfuhrer of the SS, Himmler introduced the principle of racial selection and special marriage laws which would ensure the systematic coupling of people of ‘high value’.  It was Himmler’s vision to transform the idea of racial selection from a negative concept based on anti-Semitism into a positive concept for building up the SS and forming a perfect Aryan Race.

Himmler’s vision of this perfect ‘Aryan race’ of blue-eyed, blond haired people was to be achieved by literally ‘cultivating them’ based on the ‘laws of selection’ and according to very specific criteria of physical characteristics as well as mental and physical abilities. Simultaneous with that, was the systematic extermination of Jews and others seen as inferior in his instrument of perfect design for such, the concentration camps.

Below are some photos of Husseini and Himmler; the first one  they are sharing a glass of wine at one of the concentration camps, looking over architectural plans for another concentration camp, presumably Auschwitz.

 

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Mufti al-Husseini and Himmler

 

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Both the SS leaders, including Hitler and Himmler had common values with Husseini.  According the documents declassified under the Nazi War Declassification Act of 1997, both stated that Nazism and Islam had common values as well as common enemies—above all, the Jews.

[from pg 20 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Document XX-8830, old pouch, November 1-26,1944, NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 58, Haj Amin alHusseini Name File, v. 1, f. 1.]


The Mufti wrote a pamphlet for the SS Handschar division, called ‘Islam i Zidovstvo’ (Islam and Judaism) which closed with a quotation from Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, a Sunni Islam Hadith which states:

“The Day of Judgement will come, when the Muslims will crush the Jews completely: And when every tree behind which a Jew hides will say: ‘There is a Jew behind me, Kill him!.

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Muslim soliers of Handschar Waffen SS reading Islam and Judaism

As well, on 1 March 1944 while speaking on Radio Berlin, al-Husseini said:

‘Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.

Husseini after the War

According to the report, right after the war ended a group of Palestinian-Arab soldiers in the British Army who were stationed in Lebanon had staged anti-French demonstrations. They carried around a large picture of Husseini and declared him to be the
sword of the faith.”

According to one source considered reliable by the American intelligence organization known as the Strategic Services Unit (SSU), British officials objected to French plans to prosecute Husseini, fearing that this would cause political unrest in Palestine.

[from pg 21 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Gensicke, Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten, 148. Burrell to Blum, March 7, 1946, NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 58, Haj Amin al-Husseini Name File, v. 1, f. 1. 22 Floyd A. Spencer, Asst. Military Attaché, Cairo Report, Background of Plan]

In October 1945, British head of Palestine’s Criminal Investigation Division Arthur Giles (who used the title Bey) told the assistant American military attaché in Cairo that the Mufti might be the only person who could unite the Palestine Arabs and “cool off the Zionists”.

[from pg 21 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Floyd A. Spencer, Asst. Military Attaché, Cairo Report, Background of Plan to Return … Husseini to Middle East, June 21, 1946, NARA, RG 165, Army G-2 3161.0503, MIS 279421.]

The report documents that after the war, Husseini was held in Paris when ” Palestinian Arab leaders” and “various Muslim extremists” agitated to bring him back to the Middle East“.  As prospects for a peaceful settlement in the British Mandate for Palestine declined, a delegate of the Palestine Higher Arab Committee went to Paris in June 1946 and told Husseini to get ready to escape France.

[from pg 22 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Floyd A. Spencer, Asst. Military Attaché, Cairo Report, Background of Plan to Return … Husseini to Middle East, June 21, 1946, NARA, RG 165, Army G-2 3161.0503, MIS 279421.]

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Amin Al Husseini, 1946 with founder Muslim Brotherhood Hassan al-Banna

Arab leaders from Morocco and Algeria worked out the details of Husseini’s escape. According to the report, the French government learned of the plan but chose not to intervene in order to avoid offending the Arabs of North Africa.

Husseini flew to Syria, then went via Aleppo and Beirut to Alexandria, Egypt.

[from pg 22 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: The Escape of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, August 2, 1946, NARA, RG 263, Grumbach Series 12]

Husseini denies Nazi-connection; blames Jews for spreading slander

According to the report, in 1947 Husseini denied that he had worked for the Nazis during the war. It is documented that Husseini told one acquaintance that he hoped soon to have documentary evidence “rebutting this slander, which the Jews were spreading.”  Husseini said that he had been forced to take refuge in Germany simply because British wanted to capture him.

[from pg 22 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Palestine: Views of Mufti: Desire for British Neutrality. Remarks of the Mufti to an experienced Arab source, May 14, 1947, and Reuters article of March 4, 1961, NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 58, Haj Amin al-Husseini Name File, v. 1, f. 1 and v. 2, f. 1.

While physically absent from British Mandated Palestine, al-Husseini continued to exert a great deal of influence from exile and backed by Muslim Brotherhood and other Arab states, the Arabs rejected the UN Partition Plan for Palestine with the intention of preventing the establishment of a Jewish state, no matter how small.

In the early 1950’s, a blend of Nazi ideology and Muslim-based hatred of Jews, inspired by the preaching of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and Haj Amin al-Husseini began to grow in influence.  In Part 2 of this article, we will cover the link between al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood and its direct impact on the brand of radical Islam we see today.

Here is a small taste:

Below is a photograph showing Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization at Husseini’s funeral, in 1974.

[Note: Arafat was born in Cairo, Egypt. His father (Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini) was from Gaza City but his father’s mother, Yasser’s paternal grandmother, was Egyptian.  Arafat’s mother (Zahwa Abul Saud) was from a Jerusalem-based family.]

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Yasser Arafat, funeral Amin Al Husseini

According to Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann’s deputy Dieter Wisliceny (subsequently executed as a war criminal), al-Husseini’s influence was critical to the German decision to annihilate the Jews of Europe.

As Wisliceny testified at the Nuremberg Trials in July 1946:

The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and adviser of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of this plan… He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures. I heard him say, accompanied by Eichmann, he had visited incognito the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”

[source: https://training.ehri-project.eu/d07-testimony-dieter-wisliceny-during-nuremberg-trial-3rd-january-1946-about-eichmann-and-order]


In addition to al-Husseini’s tie to the Nazis and the Middle East, the report exposes another; that of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s link to the Nazis

In 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser lead a revolution in Egypt and became its second president however it was not known until very recently that along with Husseini, Nasser worked for the Nazis during war.

The document below, declassified under the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act and contained in the report (pg 23) provides the evidence that Gamal Abdel Nasser (called Jamal Nasir in one document and Gamal Nasir in another) had worked for the Germans during the war.

Furthermore, this document shows that both al-Husseini and Abdel Nasser reported to SS Officer Wilhelm Beisner during WWII.

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Husseini and Gamal Abdel Nasr of Cairo, Egypt on Nazi chart
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Husseini with Abdel Nasser Egyptian President

According to the report, Wilhelm Beisner spent the last part of the war in Italy, where American forces apparently captured him but Beisner escaped from American internment with French help and went to work for French intelligence in Austria.

[from pg 25 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Nachrichtenagent Willi Beissner, May 9, 1950, both in NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 10, Friedrich Beissner Name File

In late 1950 an Austrian official who located Beisner in Munich reported that Beisner had a business enterprise in Munich named Omnia that probably served as cover for French intelligence activities.

[from pg 25 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Chief of Station Vienna to Chief of Station Karlsruhe, December 8, 1950, and Chief of Station Karlsruhe to Chief of Station Vienna, December 29, 1950, and January 8, 1951, NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 10, Friedrich Beissner Name File]

According to the report, West German intelligence in March 1952 indicated that Beisner had been involved in black-market arms transactions among Switzerland, Spain, and France and that discovery of these activities forced him to go to Cairo, where he allegedly continued to work for the French and enjoyed good connections with the Americans.

The report goes on to say that Beisner seemed to have been active in purchasing arms for the Egyptian government. prior to Gamal Abdel Nasser taking power.

[from pg 26 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Beissner, Willi, Egypt, April 4, 1952, and CS-7845, April 30, 1953, NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 10, Friedrich Beissner Name File.]

A CIA document indicated that Wilhelm Beisner arrived in Cairo on July 21, 1951.

[from pg 26 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Pull 6790, IN 48795, February 19, 1957, NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 10, Friedrich Beissner Name File.]

So now we have al-Husseini living in Egypt just before his old buddy, Gamal Abdel Nasser led a revolution to become the second president of Egypt in 1956.

The Muslim-Nazi link becomes even stronger…

Egypt’s new President Gamal Abdel Nasser established an intelligence organization under Zakaria Mohieddin who chose Beisner’s former RSHA comrade Joachim Deumling as his intelligence adviser.

[from pg 26 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: Central Registry, 66th CIC Group, June 30, 1959, NARA, RG 319, IRR Deumling, Joachim, XE 017494]

Shortly after, Beisner suddenly decided to leave West Germany for….you guessed it… Egypt and traveled secretly to avoid attracting British attention.

[from pg 26 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source:  JX 5911, undated, and JX-6019, July 7, 1954, NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 23, Joachim Deumling Name File.]

According to the report, in February 1958 Franz Rademacher, a former Nazi living in Damascus under a pseudonym told a  CIA source in Syria that Gamal Abdel Nasser had worked for the Germans during the war and that Beisner had served as Nasser’s liaison and that Nasser and Beisner were still close.

[from pg 26 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”, source: IN-39568, March 6, 1958, DAMA, March 7, 1958, and 1961 chart of Beisner’s connections, NARA, RG 263, E ZZ-18, B 10, Friedrich Beissner Name File. ]

According to the report, Beisner who played an important role in the systematic killing of millions of Jews under the Nazis, as well as a number of other former SS (Rademacher, Brunner, Deumling ) and police officials had not only found haven in –, but postwar employment in the Middle East. 

It is from the safe shelter of the Middle East, that these former Nazis were able to carry on and transmit to others Nazi racial-ideological anti-Semitism .

[from pg 28 of the report “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War”]

Al-Husseini died in Egypt in 1974.

The section of the report dealing with the Middle East closes with the statement

Perhaps one day the opening of archives in Middle Eastern countries will allow further insight into how far their (Nazi) influence went.”

 


Source: Breitman, R., Goda, N. J. W., & United States. (2010). Hitler’s shadow: Nazi war criminals, U.S. intelligence, and the Cold War. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration