Enlisting Arabs for the Nazi Cause
Enlisting Arabs for the Nazi Cause

Nine part must-read series that details the influence of the propaganda arena in the war between the Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews

Part III (for previous parts, click here)

From 1941-1945, historian Antonio J. Muñoz estimated that about 5,000 Arab and Indian Muslims volunteered to serve in the German armed forces, hardly sufficient to constitute an army of liberation. Their worth as a military force was negligible compared with units created with Muslims in the Balkans and the USSR. Though the Germans failed to conquer the region, the units did have propaganda value which the Nazis exploited.

Joseph Schechtman credited the mufti in helping establish espionage networks to provide information about British troop movements. His news transmissions to the Middle East reported acts of sabotage that would normally have been censored. His agents, who infiltrated the Middle East by land or by air, cut pipe and telephone lines in Palestine and Transjordan and destroyed bridges and railways in Iraq.

His agents, who infiltrated the Middle East by land or by air, cut pipe and telephone lines in Palestine and Transjordan and destroyed bridges and railways in Iraq.
He also organized an Axis-Arab Legion known as the Arabisches Freiheitskorps that wore German uniforms with “Free Arabia” patches Schechtman said. As part of the German Army, the unit guarded communications facilities in Macedonia and hunted down American and British paratroopers who jumped into Yugoslavia and were hiding among the local population. The legion also fought on the Russian front. Another major success was el-Husseini’s recruitment of tens of thousands of Balkan Muslims into the Wehrmacht.  Moshe Shertok (Sharett), chief of the political department of the Jewish Agency, reported that on a visit to Bosnia in 1943, the mufti appealed to local Muslims to join the Moslem Waffen-SS Units and met with the units that were already operational.

In addition, Middle East expert Robert Satloff said Haj Amin used his contacts with Muslim leaders in North Africa to urge them to obstruct the Allied advance in every way possible. After Allied troops invaded North Africa in November 1942, Vichy officers in Tunisia established the Phalange Africaine, also called the Légion des Volontaires Française de Tunisie. There were 400 men in the unit, approximately one-third Arab and the rest a mélange of European pro-Fascists. The German Army assumed command of the Phalange in February 1943, fighting the British and the Free French for most of 1944. In 1944, a French military court convicted the unit’s commander, Pierre Simon Cristofini, of treason and executed him.

A second all-Arab unit under German command, known as the Brigade Nord Africaine, Satloff noted was established by Mohamed el-Maadi, a former French officer and antisemite whose nickname was “SS Mohamed.” They fought the partisans, a group of resistance fighters, in the Dordogne region in South-West France.

In March 1944, Schechtman said the mufti urged the Arabs to “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion.” In keeping with this religious imperative, historian Raul Hilberg said the mufti asked the German Foreign Minister on May 13, 1943 “to do his utmost” to prohibit further departures of Jews from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary to Palestine. Four thousand Jewish children, accompanied by 500 adults, had recently arrived in Palestine, prompting the mufti to urge that the escape routes be terminated. When the International Red Cross asked Romanian Prime Minister Marshal Antonescu, two weeks later, to allow Jewish emigration to Palestine on Red Cross ships, the German Foreign Office refused, asserting that Palestine was an Arab country.

Historian Yehuda Bauer stated that in 1943, when Himmler suggested that 20,000 German prisoners in Allied hands be released in return for allowing Jewish 5,000 children to leave the Third Reich, the mufti allegedly said he would rather have all the Jews be killed. When the plan failed to materialize, the mufti got his wish.

On July 27, 1944, Jeffry Herf noted that the Mufti wrote to Himmler to ask that Jews be prevented from entering Palestine. In acceding to the mufti’s request, Himmler would thus demonstrate Germany’s “friendly attitude” to Arabs and Muslims.

Had Rommel had been victorious at the Second Battle of El-Alamein, (October 23, – November 1, 1942), the Germans would have reached Palestine enabling Hitler to exterminate the Jewish populace. German historians Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers found that Nazi intelligence informed their superiors in Berlin that once Rommel entered Cairo and Palestine, he could rely on some Egyptian officers and the Muslim Brotherhood for their help. An SS division had been activated to fly to Egypt to oversee the destruction of the Jewish population.

Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler

Gideon Hausner, who as Israel’s Attorney General, headed a team of prosecutors at the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961, described the mufti’s “long standing” relationship with Adolph Eichmann, who played a critical role in the destruction of European Jewry. In early 1942, the mufti and his entourage met with Eichmann’s office in Berlin, to outline the nature of the Final Solution.

The mufti was “so strongly impressed,” with what he heard, he asked Heinrich Himmler, the “Architect of Genocide,” to assign someone on Eichmann’s staff to be his ”personal adviser” on “finally solving” the Jewish problem also in Palestine, as soon as the Mufti was reinstated in his position by the triumphant Nazis.  Eichmann appreciated the offer. “A priceless jewel…The biggest friend of the Arabs,” is how the mufti described Eichmann in his diary.

German Islamic scholar Gerhard Höpp, noted that the mufti had a cordial relationship with Himmler, whom he often met for tea. In his memoirs, the mufti records that in the summer of 1943 Himmler informed him that “up to now we have exterminated [abadna] around three million of them.

The mufti labored diligently to ensure the destruction of the Jews of Europe. Jeffry Herf found that he even urged the Germans to bomb Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. Historian David G. Dalin and John F. Rothmann, lecturer and political and foreign policy consultant, add that in 1943 the mufti began asking the German Air Force Command to bomb the headquarters of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem and to launch an air assault on Tel Aviv on November 2, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The appeal was refused as was the one he made on April 1, 1944.

At the post-war Nuremberg Trials, Dieter Wisliceny, an aide to Adolf Eichmann, claimed that the mufti was an “initiator” of the policy to exterminate the Jews. Eichmann and the mufti denied the accusations at the Eichmann trial in 1961. Historian Bernard Lewis found no corroborating testimony about either statement, but the Germans hardly required any encouragement from anyone to annihilate the Jewish people.