Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Claims Holocaust Not Really Hitler’s Idea

Filed in International by on October 21, 2015

Can’t. Make. This. Stuff. Up.

During an address Tuesday to delegates at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu posited that the Nazi fuehrer did not initially intend to annihilate the Jews, but rather sought to expel them from Europe. According to the prime minister’s version of the events, Hitler changed his mind after meeting with Husseini — who was grand mufti of Jerusalem from 1921 to 1948, and president of the Supreme Muslim Council from 1922 to 1937 — in Berlin near the end of 1941.

“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time [of the meeting between the mufti and the Nazi leader]. He wanted to expel the Jews,” Netanyahu said. “And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here [to mandatory Palestine],’” continued the prime minister.

“‘So what should I do with them?’ He [Hitler] asked,” according to Netanyahu. “He [Husseini] said, ‘Burn them.’”

Um… okay. I got nothing. Talk about going Godwin.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Steve Newton says:

    This is a warped version (verry warped) of a legitimate historical argument between two camps of Holocaust history known as the “structuralists” and the “intentionalists.”

    The Intentionalists argue that the genocide of the Jews was a conscious element of Hitler’s plan from the beginning, although the precise manner in which it unfolded was largely improvisational–Hitler was an opportunist–with the key turning point coming between June 1941-December 1942 and the invasion of the Soviet Union.

    Little-known stat: on June 1, 1941, 80% of the Jews who would die in the Holocaust were still alive; by December 31, 1942, 80% of the Jews who would die in the Holocaust were dead. Put differently, in the 12 years of the Third Reich’s existence, 60% of the European Jews who died, were killed in that single 18-month period, Auschwitz and Dachau (not fully operational at the time) notwithstanding.

    Why is that stat important? The Structuralists, who include a number of well-respected Jewish historians, argue that Hitler had originally intended to expel not eliminate the Jews, but that the course of the war kept delivering larger and larger numbers of them into his hands, and that his original plan–shipping them off to Zanzibar (not kidding there)–became unworkable because the US and UK controlled the seas. So there were too many Jews and no place to put them, so a conscious part of Operation “Barbarossa” (invasion of USSR) was not just military subjugation of the Soviet Union but the beginning of the elimination of Europe’s Jews through genocide.

    Point being: although there is absolutely no evidence that Hitler’s meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (which did happen) had any impact on the Holocaust, there is quite a bit of dispute over whether the Holocaust was originally intended or ultimately evolved.

    (Then there’s David Irving, who argued that Adolf Eichmann made it up all by himself at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 and Hitler never knew about it.)

    This is why I hate politicians who also claim to be historians. They get enough of it right to distort and discredit legitimate historical arguments.

    OK, I’m sure that was more than anybody wanted to know.

  2. pandora says:

    Nope, that was interesting.

    However… Netanyahu is nuts. If someone had told me a month ago that the Israeli Prime Minister would be… excusing Hitler? Giving him the benefit of the doubt? Giving cover to Neo-Nazis? I would have said they had lost their ever-loving mind. But, here we are.

  3. Jason330 says:

    “a legitimate historical argument between two camps of Holocaust history known as the “structuralists” and the “intentionalists….”

    Hitler held the Jews responsible for Germany’s loss in the Great War. He wrote about it in ‘Mein Kampf’ in the 1920’s and spoke about it frequently. That there is an academic debate about what his true intentions were is a sign that there are too many Doctoral Candidates chasing too few historical topics.

  4. Steve Newton says:

    Cute snarky comment jason … and pretty much completely off base. The argument is between some of the most well-respected European historians of the past century, and goes back to the 1950s/1960s. Just because you don’t know the evidence they are disputing, doesn’t mean your casual linkage to Mein Kampf to the Holocaust has anything but wit to stand on.

    Raoul Hillberg, whose three-volume Destruction of the European Jews remains the standard in-depth treatment of the “German side” of the Holocaust finds plenty of evidence that Hitler spoke (even in his inner circle) of deportation almost exclusively until the spring of 1941. There are existing transcripts and notes from pre-Barbarossa meetings between Hitler, Himmler, and members of the German General Staff that document pretty clearly that they were told the decision was made to include the “racial component” as a major part of the strategy only because plans for evacuation and deportation had fallen through.

    There are conference notes in the High Command where the details of deportation are hashed out between 1938-early 1941, and where there is no mention of extermination. Lest you argue that this is “talking to the record” to obscure their intent, the same conference notes refer quite openly to the “elimination” of the Polish intelligentsia. So it is not that they were squeamish about the overt planning of mass murder.

    Even the Intentionalists have had to fall back to arguing that Hitler had this long-term plan in mind but kept it to himself until late 1940/early 1941 because there literally isn’t any record of it ever being discussed … and we have mountains and mountains of records of all sorts of equally horrible things being discussed during the period.

    Your dismissal makes me sad, because it is essentially the same anti-intellectual knee-jerk response you find … in Republicans.

  5. Jason330 says:

    Well I’ve been smacked down, and I’ve been smacked down. And when I’m smacked down, I’m smacked down.

    That said – it seems very clear to me (as a layman) that Hitler wanted to kill all the Jews in Europe and when given the opportunity, he tried his level best to do that. And, for the sake of argument, if he came to that idea later than the 1920’s – his late adoption of the idea doesn’t show through his efforts.

  6. Liberal Elite says:

    “and that his original plan–shipping them off to Zanzibar (not kidding there)”

    Wasn’t that Madagascar? Zanzibar is too small.

  7. Steve Newton says:

    Right–I meant Madagascar. (Had just been rereading John Brunner’s “Stand on Zanzibar” last night and I guess the name infiltrated).

  8. Delaware Dem says:

    Netanyahu wants to excuse Hitler because I bet he now identifies with Hitler.

  9. Delaware Dem says:

    And that’s the true irony.

  10. Jason330 says:

    It was probably inevitable that Israeli apartheid would devolve into fascism.

  11. SussexWatcher says:


  12. pandora says:

    Thanks for catching my typo!

  13. Tom Kline says:

    Not likely but then again you voted for Obama twice I’m guessing..

    Netanyahu wants to excuse Hitler because I bet he now identifies with Hitler.

  14. puck says:

    It is entirely within the realm of reason to believe that conversation with the Grand Mufti actually happened. I am not a Netanyahu fan but this is not the reason why.

    At this point though the reported exchange may just be a legend with a grain of truth. I always thought Hitler initially wanted to expel the Jews, and got around to the idea of extermination later on his own or with his own advisors.

  15. pandora says:

    Hitler’s thought process/internal debate isn’t the issue. The Israeli Prime Minister just gave Hitler cover (benefit of the doubt?) and took some of the blame off of Hitler. This was not said in some intellectual, historical discussion. It was a political comment said for political reasons.

  16. Steve Newton says:


    The meeting between Hitler and the Grand Mufti actually occurred in either October or December 1941 (can’t recall; think it was the latter). There is not only documentary but also photographic evidence of the meeting. However, the meeting happened well within the 18-month period in which 60% of the Holocaust happened, and had absolutely no causal effect on the genocide.

  17. puck says:

    Steve… The timeline does not preclude the possibility that those words were exchanged, or something like it.

  18. puck says:

    Actually, rereading the first part of Netanyahu’s comment, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time of the meeting” – Hitler actually WAS exterminating Jews at the time of the meeting. So whatever was said at the meeting, Netanyahu was not correct about Hitler’s intent. But I wonder if this is a widely held belief in Israel?

  19. Steve Newton says:

    I don’t think, puck, that this is a widely held belief in Israel, but I admit I am basing that off (1) Hannah Arendt’s work on the Eichmann case, which has long been the lens through which Israelis conceptualize the Shoah; and (2) a sort of superficial following (on my part) of the writings of Israeli historians of the period like Tom Segev. That doesn’t rule out some of the ultra-conservative rabbis feeling that way.

    Even if the timing were correct, this would be an implausible story. The Grand Mufti appears to have met Hitler for no more than 5-10 minutes. Hitler’s recorded conversations over the next three years (of which there are literally thousands of hours of transcripts for) never mentions him. The Mufti was a guy who got to meet Hitler because Himmler thought he would be useful in recruiting Bosnian Muslims for the Waffen SS, and because Alfred Jodl at OKW thought that as Rommel resumed his offensive toward Egypt in January 1942 the Mufit might be able to stir up some shit behind British lines. He actually did do some recruiting for the Handschar Division, but as for the other, nothing important ever happened.

    The story, quite honestly, is one of those balloons blown up into pseudo-significance by the crazies and the conspiracy theorists.

  20. Geezer says:

    @Tom Kline: The next Hitler always objects to the comparison to the original.