It’s usually a bad idea for politicians to fish in murky historical waters — of which they are often profoundly ignorant — to justify their present policies or prejudices.
Who, for example, can forget our own David Cameron’s historical howler when, despite all the advantages of an Eton and Oxford education, he described Britain in 1940 as the US’s “junior partner” in the Second World War? In reality (as any fule kno) we stood almost alone against the might of Nazi Germany, with the US only entering the war when she was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbour in December 1941.
A similar storm has been unleashed among historians of the Holocaust by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s blaming a prominent Palestinian leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, for the Holocaust. By doing so, they charge, “Bibi” has deflected responsibility for the 20th century’s gravest act of genocide away from its true author — Hitler himself — and on to his Palestinian opponents.
While it is indisputably true that the Grand Mufti, at a time when Arabs and Jews were in armed conflict in British-ruled Palestine, was a bitter enemy of Jewry and Zionism, met Hitler in 1941, and lived for a considerable time in Berlin during the war, Hitler needed no encouragement from him or anyone else to pursue his insane goal of physically exterminating the Jewish race. And by the time he met the Mufti the terrible events we know today as the Holocaust were well under way.s
The seeds of Hitler’s murderous anti-Semitism, which came to their full poisonous fruition in the Holocaust were first planted in his fertile but horribly twisted mind before the First World War when he was living the life of a down and out in Vienna while trying in vain to enter the city’s Fine Art School.
The Mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, was an open, if idiosyncratic anti-semite, and the city was awash with gutter literature extolling the Germanic race, and excoriating the “lesser breeds” of the multinational Habsburg empire who had flooded into the cosmopolitan capital – especially the Jews. The future Fuehrer eagerly lapped up these racist pamphlets and newspapers, forming a murderous mindset that was to last for the rest of his life.
Hitler spewed out his hatred of the Jews in speech after speech after founding the Nazi party in Munich in 1919, and set it down in cold print when he was imprisoned for almost a year after the failure of his 1923 Beerhall Putsch, and used his enforced leisure in the fortress prison of Landsberg to dictate his notorious combined autobiography and political manifesto “Mein Kampf”.
In a chilling prophecy of what actually happened when he achieved the power to put his sick schemes into action, Hitler talked of holding Jews “under gas”, and his writing exudes a physical disgust with Jews deflowering pure Aryan maidens. Later, before his hand-picked Reichstag meeting in Berlin’s Kroll Opera House, Hitler openly predicted that if war broke out in Europe it would end in the extermination of European Jewry. He could hardly have made his hideous intentions clearer.
In ongoing debates about the origins of the Holocaust, historians are still divided between “intentionalists” who hold that it was Hitler’s intention all along to physically wipe out the Jews, and those who claim that the actual circumstances of the war were responsible for the setting up of the Polish death camps – Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Sobibor and Majdanek among others – where most of the industrialised killing took place. None, however, have argued that the Grand Mufti gave Hitler the idea.
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