As it was, after the military demise of the Axis forces in Africa in May 1943, these Arab soldiers found themselves fighting as part of the German Waffen SS in the Muslim parts of the Balkans during 1943-1945.
Planning a Second Holocaust in the Middle East
When the British formed the Jewish Brigade, Haj Amin countered with a like Arab unit. During 1944, Palestinian paratroopers trained by the Germans in Holland were air-dropped into the Holy Land to spread revolt and chaos; a postwar second anti-Jewish Holocaust was planned for the Middle East in the interim.
According to author Elpeleg, Hitler blamed the Jews for the gas warfare in World War I that almost claimed his sight for good, the U.S. entry into the war in 1917, the 1918 overthrow of the Imperial German Second Reich, and the harsh 1919 Versailles peace treaty and its terms. Haj Amin concurred in these views.
In his postwar memoirs and other writings, the Grand Mufti insisted that he had not been involved in the first Holocaust, but he had opposed Jewish immigration from Nazi-occupied Europe to Palestine in his meetings with Hitler, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, and von Ribbentrop, thus indirectly helping to provide more victims for the destructive maw of the gas chambers.
A primary aim of the Greater German Reich was the negation of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, and Haj Amin was quoted as asserting that he was both delighted and pleased by the Nazi Final Solution of the Jewish Question during the four years that he spent within Nazi Germany during 1941-1945.
With the end of the Axis war effort in North Africa, Haj Amin turned his attention to the scattered Muslim populations throughout the Balkans. Two Waffen SS divisions were created for them, Handschar and Kama.
Leader of the Arab League
With the loss of the war in May 1945, Haj Amin slipped illegally into neutral Switzerland. Returning to prostrate Germany, he was arrested by the French and imprisoned at Varenne, rightly fearing indictment by the Allies as a war criminal at Nuremberg. He was saved miraculously from this fate, however, when General Charles de Gaulle personally intervened on his behalf, possibly to spite his British ally, Winston Churchill.
Thus, the Grand Mufti escaped yet again and was received at anti-British Cairo by Egyptian King Farouk and later welcomed back to Palestine as the unchallenged leader of the newly formed Arab League. Meanwhile, the failure of the 1946 London talks over what to do about the Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land brought the thorny question before the new United Nations in New York City for a vote.
The Arab League established its Liberation Army to resist the subsequent partition decision of November 29, 1947, and thus the stage was set for the creation of the new State of Israel, the first since the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem by the Romans in ad 70, almost 1,000 years earlier.
The key factors were the 1917 British Balfour Declaration that the Jews should have a national home in Palestine, the global sympathy for the victims of the Nazi Holocaust of 1941-1945, the withdrawal of the British Army, and the Transjordanian Arab Legion invasion of May 15, 1948. The rout of this formation and the Egyptian Army by the Jewish Defense Forces (JDF) and internal Arab political disunity spelled victory for the Jews on October 15 in the first of a trio of wars that occurred during 1948-1973.
“A Devil Straight From Hell”
King Abdullah of Transjordan called his political foe Haj Amin “a devil straight from hell,” while an armistice was signed on February 24, 1949, on the Isle of Rhodes. The catastrophic defeat of Arab arms meant doom for the Grand Mufti’s political career then and there, and he spent the last two decades of his life writing autobiographical articles and memoirs.
Shunted aside after almost three decades as a leading political and martial figure in the Arab world, Haj Amin was forced to watch from the sidelines during the creation of the PLO in 1964 and the rise of his spiritual godson, PLO leader Yasser Arafat, in 1968. On July 4, 1974, Haj Amin died of a heart attack in the American hospital at Beirut, Lebanon. He was buried in the Cemetery of the Fallen of the Palestinian Revolution there, with Arafat as a chief mourner. Israel refused him burial in Jerusalem, and thus his mortal remains are still in Lebanon.
Today, Haj Amin is viewed in the Arab world as a symbol of the 1948 defeat and also in the bloody saga of the Holocaust as the man whose Nazi broadcasts shrieked, “Kill the Jews wherever you find them! This pleases God, history and religion.”
This article first appeared on the Warfare History Network.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.