German police open investigation into Abbas over Holocaust remarks

At issue are statements Abbas made in which he compared the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Holocaust during a joint press conference Tuesday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

 German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands as they attend a news conference, in Berlin, Germany, August 16, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands as they attend a news conference, in Berlin, Germany, August 16, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER)

Berlin police opened a criminal investigation against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday to evaluate whether his statement that Israel had committed "50 Holocausts" against the Palestinians met the standard for Holocaust denial.

The German Embassy in Israel explained that this was a preliminary probe. “The police have not yet asked the federal prosecutor to investigate: This is necessary for a legal proceeding to be opened,” the embassy stated.

At issue are statements Abbas made in which he compared the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Holocaust during a joint press conference Tuesday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

Abbas was asked whether he would apologize for the attack on the Israeli Olympic team by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. He responded by saying that, “if you want to go over the past, go ahead. I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed... 50 massacres, 50 slaughters... 50 holocausts.”

Abbas later attempted to clarify his comments. In a statement published on Wafa, the Palestine News Agency, he said that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history,” stressing that his statement at the press conference was not “intended to deny the singularity of the Holocaust that occurred in the last century.”

 PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during his news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on August 16.  (credit: Lisi Niesner/Reuters) PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during his news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on August 16. (credit: Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

German Jew files police report against Mahmoud Abbas

Berlin native and descendent of Holocaust survivors Mike Delberg filed an official police report against Abbas on Wednesday.

Delberg explained in the Berlin police report that the issue was personal for him.

"I am a Jewish German and grandson of Holocaust survivors whose grandfather fought on the front lines against the Wehrmacht," wrote Delberg. "Through his statements, Mahmoud Abbas downplayed the most terrible time in the history of our country and in the history of my family and religious community."

PLO Executive Committee Secretary General Hussein al-Sheikh on Friday accused those who were pursuing Abbas over his Holocaust comment of incitement.

"Despite the presidential clarification statement issued after the press conference … Some parties insist on the continuation of the campaign of incitement against the #Palestinian President," al-Sheikh tweeted.

"These parties, he wrote, have attempted "to reverse, falsify and distort the facts… In light of our emphasis on condemning the Holocaust and not denying it, we affirm that our people have been and still are being subjected to the crimes of the occupation," he wrote.

Delberg is an outspoken advocate for Israel and recently visited for the Maccabiah Games as the PR manager for the German delegation.

“I would like to achieve nothing more and nothing less with my complaint than that Mr. Abbas is held responsible for his statements,” Delberg told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. “Antisemitism can no longer be tolerated in Palestinian politics; it must be addressed openly and resolutely opposed – directly and not afterward via Twitter.”

German criminal defense attorney Udo Vetter told German newspaper Bild that “the statement simply cannot be understood other than downplaying it in the sense of a bold relativization – unless you allow Mr. Abbas to live in a fantasy world. Initial suspicion of downplaying the Nazi tyranny cannot be dismissed out of hand.”

Augsburg University criminal law prof. Michael Kubiciel also acknowledged a solid basis for criminal proceedings. “The comparison is completely misplaced and can therefore be evaluated as a trivialization of the Holocaust,” he told Bild. “The disturbance of the public peace is blatant.”

Scholz reacts to Abbas's comments

At the press conference, Scholz did not immediately react to the PA president’s comments, but video footage showed his visceral discomfort.

On Wednesday Scholz tweeted: “For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by… Abbas.”

Scholz’s office also summoned the head of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Berlin to protest Abbas’S remarks, a German government spokesperson said. In addition, the German chancellor called Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday to personally condemn the remarks.

Scholz’s response was not fast enough for some, such as Delberg, who tweeted: “POV: You are the Chancellor of Germany – the country in which six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust – and you simply do not react at all when the Holocaust is relativized in your house because: Unfortunately the press conference is over. A shame, Mr. Scholz!”

“Chancellor Scholz’s silence was devastating... How can politicians demand citizens to stand up and intervene when they see antisemitism, racism or injustice of any kind, while the chancellor is silent in his own house on such an issue?”

Mike Delberg

Delberg told the Post in no uncertain terms that “Chancellor Scholz’s silence was devastating... How can politicians demand citizens to stand up and intervene when they see antisemitism, racism or injustice of any kind, while the chancellor is silent in his own house on such an issue?”

Reuters contributed to this report.