The Sephardi Perspective blog nails the myth, articulated most recently by President Ahmadinejad, that the Arabs, and especially the Palestinians, were innocent bystanders to Nazism (with thanks: Lily).
“There is a myth that has gained increasing currency in many quarters that the Palestinians and the Arabs should not suffer as a result of what was done to the Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. This myth of course relies on another myth; that the State of Israel was created purely on the ashes of the Holocaust. The fact is that the Balfour Declaration, Weizmann-Feisal Agreement and the Peel Commission report, to name but a few events that pre-dated the Holocaust; all led significantly to the creation of the Jewish State.
“The more insidious myth is the fabrication of history that allows for complete innocence on the part of the Palestinian and Arab populations during the Holocaust. The Arab stance towards Hitler and the Nazis was as an ally and supporter. The Arab masses and leadership gleefully welcomed the Nazis taking power in 1933 and messages of support came from all over the Arab world especially from the Palestinian Arab leader, Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was the first non-European to request admission to the Nazi party. The most influential party that emulated the Nazis in the Arab world was “Young Egypt,” which was founded in October 1933.
“They had storm troopers, torch processions, and literal translations of Nazi slogans – like “One folk, One party, One leader.” Nazi anti-Semitism was replicated, with calls to boycott Jewish businesses and physical attacks on Jews. Sami al-Joundi, one of the founders of the ruling Syrian Ba’ath Party, recalls: “We were racists. We admired the Nazis. We were immersed in reading Nazi literature and books… We were the first who thought of a translation of Mein Kampf. Anyone who lived in Damascus at that time was witness to the Arab inclination toward Nazism.”
“There was of course the infamous pogrom in Iraq led by the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali al-Kaylani in 1941. Kaylani also asked from Hitler the right to “deal with Jews” in Arab states, a request that was granted. Apart from the secular pro-Nazi stance, there were many other religious Arab leaders who issued fatwas that the Arabs should assist and support the Nazis against the Allies.
“However, the most infamous Arab figure most closely identified with the Holocaust was the leader of the Palestinians Arabs, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Husseini had fled to Germany in 1941 and was immediately granted a special place amongst the Nazi hierarchy. The Mufti and Hitler relayed many declarations to each other explicitly stating that the main enemy they shared were the Jews. However, the Mufti’s ideology transcended words and directed his actions. In 1945, Yugoslavia sought to indict the Mufti as a war criminal for his role in recruiting 20,000 Muslim volunteers for the SS, who participated in the killing of Jews in Croatia and Hungary.
“Adolf Eichmann’s deputy Dieter Wisliceny (subsequently executed as a war criminal) in his Nuremburg Trials testimony stated “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.” On a visit to Auschwitz, Husseini reportedly admonished the guards running the gas chambers to work more diligently. Throughout the war, he appeared regularly on German radio broadcasts to the Middle East, preaching his pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic message to the Arab masses back home.
“Even the Mufti himself explained that the main reason for his close cooperation with the Nazis was their shared hatred of the Jews and their joint wish for their extermination. “Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world,” the man who was known as the ‘Fuhrer of the Arab World’ wrote in his post World War Two memoirs. There is even evidence recently unearthed from British secretive records that the Palestinian Arabs had begun to draw up plans for a concentration/extermination camp in Palestine should the Nazis make their way there.
“In North Africa there were more than mere plans for concentration camps. From June 1940 to May 1943, the Nazis, their Vichy French collaborators and their Italian fascist allies applied in Arab lands many of the precursors to the Final Solution. These included not only ‘racial’ laws depriving Jews of property, education, livelihood, residence and free movement, but also torture, slave labor, deportation and execution. Thousands of Jews perished under Nazi and Axis control and in most cases, like their European counterparts, the local population at times assisted, collaborated and participated in this oppression and murder. Robert Satloff has written extensively on the Arabs and the Holocaust and he found that much of the local Arab population willingly participated in this institutional Jew-hatred. One example Staloff provides is in an interview with a survivor from the concentration camp in Djelfa, in the Algerian desert. When asked whether the local Arabs who administered the camp were just following orders, he replied “Nobody told them to beat us all the time. Nobody told them to chain us together. Nobody told them to tie us naked to a post and beat us and to hang us by our arms and hose us down, to bury us in the sand so our heads should look up and bash our brains in and urinate on our heads. . . . No, they took this into their own hands and they enjoyed what they did.”
“(Robert) Satloff’s book “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Reach into Arab Lands” chronicles much of the nature of the Holocaust in Arab Lands and Sephardi communities in North Africa and the Middle East. He tries to show that there were Arabs who helped rescue and hide Jews during the Holocaust, but just like in Europe these examples are exceptions to a sadly more pervasive assistance or indifference to Jewish suffering and murder.
In Libya, many Jews were sent not only to
local concentration camps but also to European camps like Bergen-Belsen
and Biberach. In a film titled “Goral Meshutaf” (Shared Fate), some
Tunisian eyewitnesses claim that the Nazis had begun building gas
chambers there. If the Allies had not won the decisive battle at El
Alamain, perhaps the fate of North African Jews would have been the same
as that befell European Jewry. A willing or indifferent local
population was an important ingredient in the destruction of European
Jewry and it was certainly present amongst the Arabs of North Africa.
Many of the current leadership in the Middle East owe their power base to the emergence of their predecessors during these murky times. The Palestinians still revere Al-Husseini and many of the terrorist groups are named after groups he founded. Many have suggested strong links between the Baath parties of Assad’s Syria and formerly in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Gamel Abdel Nasser, the founder of the modern Egyptian State and the greatest proponent of Pan-Arabism, was a friend of the Nazis and hid many fleeing Nazis after the war.
The Holocaust is often thought of as a disaster that befell only European Jews. However, more and more documentation is arising about the suffering of Sephardi Jewry outside of Europe, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East. The lie that the Arabs were innocent bystanders to the Nazi Holocaust is well known by Sephardim who lived through these dark times. It is about time that this capricious myth was exposed, not just for the sake of correcting false histories and their like, but also out of respect to those Jews who suffered at the hands of the Nazis everywhere.”