Telegraphic reminders of reality

What is striking about this telegram is not its contents but rather how similar its sentiments are to those regularly voiced today.

April 2, 2017 21:04
3 minute read.
The telegram written by Himmler and sent to Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini.

The telegram written by Himmler and sent to Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini.. (photo credit: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)

Upon her return from a class trip to Poland, taken as part of her Israeli high school education, my daughter recounted with passion the experience of seeing the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – now a museum of atrocities – in person.

I asked her how she felt about the letter I and the other parents had been instructed to write in secret, which the teacher was to distribute three days after the 11th graders arrived in Poland. In my letter, I tried to provide comfort for the emotional distress I assumed she would feel seeing the fingernail marks on the walls of the gas chambers and the rooms full of Jewish hair, eyeglasses and shoes. But I also wanted to say something uplifting about the history and future of our people, without prompting a cynical roll of the eyes.

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I did this by expressing how proud I was to be the mother of native Israeli children, born and raised in the Jewish state established just a few years after Adolf Hitler’s defeat and unsuccessful attempt at executing the Final Solution. This, I told her, was one answer to her and her brothers’ occasional questions about why I left the land of Toys ‘R’ Us and Macy’s for Jerusalem, of all places.

“You’re not going to believe this coincidence,” my daughter said. “A girl in my class whose mother is American wrote almost the same thing as you did. But her conclusion was that this was why we needed a Palestinian state.”

This story came to mind with the release Thursday of a German-language telegram sent by SS commander Heinrich Himmler to grand mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini. The document, dated around November 2, 1943, was uncovered in the archives of Israel’s National Library.

“From the outset, the National Socialist [Nazi] movement of Greater Germany has been a standard bearer in the battle against world Jewry,” Himmler wrote to Husseini. “For this reason, it is closely following the battle of freedom-seeking Arabs, particularly in Palestine, against the Jewish invaders. The shared recognition of the enemy and the joint fight against it are creating the strong base [uniting] Germany and freedom-seeking Arabs around the world. In this spirit, I am pleased to wish you, on the [26th] anniversary of the wretched Balfour Declaration, warm wishes on your continued fight until the great victory.”

What is striking about this telegram is not its contents – which simply constitute yet further evidence of the warm relations between the Nazis and the mufti – but rather how similar its sentiments are to those regularly voiced today. Not in Germany, where one could face charges for such antisemitic rhetoric, but in the Arab world and Palestinian Authority.

In other words, my daughter did not have to travel to Europe for a tour of Hitler’s gas chambers to be exposed to a purposeful and concerted effort to wipe her and her classmates off the face of the earth.

Indeed, in the 17 years preceding the excursion, my daughter learned how to don a gas mask, run to a bomb shelter, avoid suspicious people and packages, listen for air raid and ambulance sirens, run for cover and call home at the sound or sight of a suicide bombing on a bus or cafe, and attend funerals and memorial ceremonies. Lots of them.

A year after trekking to Poland, she was forced to exchange the fashionable jeans and tank tops she purchased at the mall (which terrorism warnings often prevented her from frequenting) for an IDF uniform.

Though now a grown woman, she still phones to let me know she is safe after every rocket strike, stabbing attack or car ramming. Whether her friend’s mother still says “this is why we need a Palestinian state” is unclear. But my daughter, like a majority of Israelis, realizes that the kind of “solution” the Palestinians have in mind comes from the playbook of Himmler and Husseini.

The writer is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.

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