Responding to Arab pleas, Nazi Germany planned to open a "branch" of the Holocaust in Mandate Palestine and exterminate the half-million Jews then living in the land, in line with Adolph Hitler's quest to rid mankind of its "Jewish problem."
A new study by two German historians has revealed that in 1942, the Nazis created a special SS mobile death squad tasked to exterminate the Jews in British-mandated Palestine, just as in Poland, Russia and other parts of Europe.
Called the Einsatzgruppe Egypt, this force was formed shortly after Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, visited Hitler in Berlin and offered the services of his people in the cause of the Third Reich.
By then, nationalism was burgeoning among the Arabs of Palestine, who were despairing of their own efforts to prevent the rebirth of the Jewish state.
Two years earlier, al-Husseini messaged Hitler to congratulate him:
"... on the occasion of [your] great political and military triumphs... The Arab nation everywhere feels the greatest joy and deepest gratification on the occasion of these great successes... The Arab people confidently expect the result of your final victory will be their independence and complete liberation... [T]hey will [then] be linked to your country by a treaty of friendship and collaboration."
In late 1941, al-Husseini arrived in Rome and, after conversing with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Hitler, got the two fascist leaders to make a joint pronouncement committing their nations to "the elimination of the Jewish national home in Palestine."
Follow-up meetings between the Mufti and Hitler resulted in an understanding, says American historian Howard Sachar, whereby Hitler's forces would invade Palestine with the goal being "not the occupation of Arab lands, but solely the destruction of Palestine Jewry."
According to a report in Ynet News in mid-April, the director of the Nazi research center in Ludwigsburg, Klaus-Michael Mallman, and Berlin historian Martin Cueppers say an Einsatzgruppe was all set to go to Palestine and begin killing the roughly half-a-million Jews that had fled the Nazi death camps."
This special death squad, led by Obersturmbannfuehrer Walther Rauff, was attached to Rommel's Africa Korps and was waiting in Athens for the British to be driven from the Levant.
Wrote Mallman and Cueppers: "The central plan for the group was the realization of the Holocaust in Palestine."
Though he may never have realized the wider impact of his actions, the great British general Bernard Montgomery saved the Jews of Palestine when he hurled Rommel's forces back at El Alamein. The Einsatzgruppe Egypt never left Athens.
It was the beginning of the end for Hitler, who saw his primary calling and mission as being to "cleanse" the world, not just Europe, of all Jews. Even as he saw defeat coming, the Nazi leader frantically increased efforts to realize his goal. His Einsatzgruppen were ultimately responsible, by their own admission, for killing one million Jews. See also Page 49.
Much to the vexation of al-Husseini and his followers, they did not get to the Jews of Palestine. Nonetheless, the same hatred and religious fervor that drove the Mufti to applaud Hitler and seek to collaborate in his Final Solution persists in the Arab world today.
"The only thing we have against Hitler," wrote popular Egyptian columnist Anis Mansour a number of years ago, "is that he did not finish with the Jews."
The writer is co-editor of Jerusalem Newswire; www.jnewswire.com