Hitler appears to have viewed the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad as an appropriate model for waging genocidal, total war. During the mid to late 19th century, jihad total war campaigns—adapted to the conditions of modern warfare—were waged by the Ottoman Empire against its Bulgarian and Armenian Christian minorities. The Ottoman tactics included innumerable atrocities, mass slaughter, and extensive, murderous deportations. Official Ottoman jihad declarations during World War I assured that the genocidal aspects of Islamic doctrine were “updated” by the application of modern total war offensive doctrines, and directed at the Armenians, in particular. This jihad-inspired policy begot razzias (raids), massacres of villagers, massacres of Armenian conscripts in work battalions, and mass deportations—all representative of an overall total-war strategy implemented by the Ottoman state, and military high command.
And the disintegrating Ottoman Empire’s World War I jihad genocide against its Armenian minority, specifically, served as an “inspirational” precedent to Hitler. During August of 1939, Hitler gave speeches in preparation for the looming invasion of Poland which admonished his military commanders to wage a brutal, merciless campaign, and assure rapid victory. Hitler portrayed the impending invasion as the initial step of a vision to “secure the living space we need,” and ultimately, “redistribute the world.” In an explicit reference to the Armenians, “Who after all is today speaking of the destruction of the Armenians?,” Hitler justified their annihilation (and the world’s consignment of this genocide to oblivion) as an accepted new world order because, “The world believes only in success.”
Vahakn Dadrian—the foremost scholar of the Armenian genocide—observes that although Hitler’s motives in seeking to destroy the Jews were not identical with those of the Ottoman Turks’ in their attempts to eliminate the Armenians, “…the two victim nations share one common element in Hitler’s scheme of things: their extreme vulnerability.” Moreover, Hitler emphasized the urgent task, “…of protecting the German blood from contamination, not only of the Jewish but also of the Armenian blood.” Predictable impunity—the ease with which the Armenian genocide was committed and how the perpetrators escaped retributive justice—clearly impressed Hitler and his henchmen, considering a similar action against the Jews. Indeed, the German Jew, Richard Lictheim who as a young Zionist leader had negotiated with Ottoman leaders in Turkey during World War I, characterized the “…cold-bloodedly planned extermination of over one million Armenians…[as] akin to Hitler’s crusade of destruction against the Jews…” And as historian Abram Sachar noted, “…the genocide was cited approvingly twenty-five years later by the Fuehrer…who found the Armenian ‘solution’ an attractive precedent.”
Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS (Nazi Secret Service), and eventually all German police forces, was another champion of Islam’s singular bellicosity. Accordingly, Himmler foresaw that within the framework of the Waffen-SS, several Muslim divisions would be created to wage jihad “shoulder to shoulder” with Nazi and Axis power soldiers. Himmler was the guiding force behind the establishment of a Waffen-SS 13th (later dubbed Handzar) Division—comprised exclusively of Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He argued in support of the creation of this Muslim division that the global Islamic community (umma) was very sympathetic to Nazism, and that the targeted Balkan Muslims had a special consciousness of their Muslim Bosnian-Herzegovinian identity. Indeed, Himmler and his collaborators believed that these Balkan Muslims were ideally suited to forge a nexus between the Nazi Germanic “racial north,” and the Islamic east. SS General Gottlob Berger described how Himmler’s creation of the Handzar division was the apotheosis of this vision:
For the first time a connection is being established between Islam and National Socialism on an open, honest base, since it will be ruled from the North where blood and race are concerned, and from the East ideologically and spiritually.
As the ultimate fulfillment of his vision, Himmler also strove to re-create a contemporary version of the Ottoman Muslim devshirme levy, and form a modern janissary corps, not only in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but the Sanjak (regions in Serbia and Montenegro), most of Croatia, and the major part of Srem (which includes provinces in Serbia and Croatia between the Danube and Sava rivers). Historian Jennie Lebel describes this effort:
In order to supply the Reich on time with a “loyal population” for this planned SS border area [i.e., as outlined above in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia], Himmler gave orders to collect children, male and female, who had been left without one or both parents and send them to Germany in order “to create a kind of Janissaries” and the “future soldiers and soldiers’ women of the old military border of the Reich.” The collection of the children was to be taken care of by the commanders of the Waffen-SS divisions. They had to report once monthly to Himmler personally on the number of children collected. This was stated in two letters by Himmler, one addressed to General Arthur Phleps on May 20, 1944, and the other to General Gottlob Berger on July 14 of the same year. Copies were sent to General Kammerhofer, SS representative for the NDH [Croatia], to General Erwin Rosener in Slovenia, General Hermann Behrends in Serbia and General Herman Foegellein, liason officer of the Waffen-SS with Hitler.
Hajj Amin el-Husseini—the pre-eminent Arab Muslim leader of the World War II era—was viewed by Hitler (and also the Waffen-SS)—as a “Muslim Pope.” For example, the Nazi regime promoted this former Mufti of Jerusalem in an illustrated biographical booklet (printed in Berlin in 1943) which declared him Muhammad’s direct descendant, an Arab national hero, and the “incarnation of all ideals and hopes of the Arab nation.”
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the “Mandate for Palestine,” confirming the irrevocable right of Jews to settle in the area of Palestine—anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The Congressional Record contains a statement of support from New York Rep. Walter Chandler which includes an observation, about “Turkish and Arab agitators… preaching a kind of holy war [jihad] against…the Jews” of Palestine. During this same era within Palestine, a strong Arab Muslim irredentist current—epitomized by Hajj Amin el-Husseini—promulgated the forcible restoration of Shari’a-mandated dhimmitude for Jews via jihad. Indeed, two years before he orchestrated the murderous anti-Jewish riots of 1920, i.e., in 1918, Hajj Amin el-Husseini stated plainly to a Jewish co-worker (at the Jerusalem Governorate), I.A. Abbady, “This was and will remain an Arab land…the Zionists will be massacred to the last man…Nothing but the sword will decide the future of this country.”
Despite his role in fomenting the1920 pogroms against Palestinian Jews, el-Husseini was pardoned, and subsequently appointed Mufti of Jerusalem by the British High Commissioner, in May 1921, a title he retained, following the Ottoman practice, for the remainder of his life. Throughout his public career, the Mufti relied upon traditional Koranic anti-Jewish motifs to arouse the Arab street. For example, during the incitement which led to the 1929 Arab revolt in Palestine, he called for combating and slaughtering “the Jews”, not merely Zionists. In fact, most of the Jewish victims of the 1929 Arab revolt were Jews from the centuries old dhimmi communities (for eg., in Hebron), as opposed to recent settlers identified with the Zionist movement. With the ascent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, the Mufti and his coterie intensified their anti-Semitic activities to secure support from Hitler’s Germany (and later Bosnian Muslims, as well as the overall Arab Muslim world), for a jihad to annihilate the Jews of Palestine. Following his expulsion from Palestine by the British, the Mufti fomented a brutal anti-Jewish pogrom in Baghdad (1941), concurrent with his failed effort to install a pro-Nazi Iraqi government. Escaping to Europe after this unsuccessful coup attempt, the Mufti spent the remainder of World War II in Germany and Italy. From this sanctuary, he provided active support for the Germans by recruiting Bosnian Muslims, in addition to Muslim minorities from the Caucasus, for dedicated Nazi SS units. The Mufti’s objectives for these recruits, and Muslims in general, were made explicit during his multiple wartime radio broadcasts from Berlin, heard throughout the Arab world: an international campaign of genocide against the Jews. For example, during his March 1, 1944 broadcast he stated: “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion.”
Hajj Amin made an especially important contribution to the German war effort in Yugoslovia where the Bosnian Muslim SS units he recruited (in particular the Handzar Division) brutally suppressed local Nazi resistance movements. The Mufti’s pamphlet entitled, “Islam and the Jews”, was published by the Nazis in Croatian and German for distribution during the war to these Bosnian Muslim SS units. This incendiary document hinged upon antisemitic motifs from the Koran (for example, 5:82), and the hadith (including Muhammad’s alleged poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess), and concluded with the apocalyptic canonical hadith describing the Jews’ annihilation. And Jan Wanner has observed that,
His [the Mufti’s] appeals…addressed to the Bosnian Muslims were…close in many respects to the argumentation used by contemporary Islamic fundamentalists…the Mufti viewed only as a new interpretation of the traditional concept of the Islamic community (umma), sharing with Nazism common enemies
This hateful propaganda served to incite the slaughter of Jews, and (Serb) Christians as well. Indeed, the Bosnian Muslim Handzar SS Division was responsible for the destruction of whole Bosnian Jewish and Serbian communities, including the massacre of Jews and Serbs, and the deportation of survivors to Auschwitz for extermination. However, these heinous crimes, for which the Mufti bears direct responsibility, had only a limited impact on the overall destruction of European Jewry when compared with his nefarious wartime campaign to prevent Jewish emigration from Europe to Palestine. Wanner, in his 1986 analysis of the Mufti’s collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II, concluded,
…the darkest aspect of the Mufti’s activities in the final stage of the war was undoubtedly his personal share in the extermination of Europe’s Jewish population. On May 17, 1943, he wrote a personal letter to Ribbentrop, asking him to prevent the transfer of 4500 Bulgarian Jews, 4000 of them children, to Palestine. In May and June of the same year, he sent a number of letters to the governments of Bulgaria, Italy, Rumania, and Hungary, with the request not to permit even individual Jewish emigration and to allow the transfer of Jews to Poland where, he claimed they would be “under active supervision”. The trials of Eichmann’s henchmen, including Dieter Wislicency who was executed in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, confirmed that this was not an isolated act by the Mufti.
Invoking the personal support of such prominent Nazis as Himmler and Eichmann, the Mufti’s relentless hectoring of German, Rumanian, and Hungarian government officials caused the cancellation of an estimated 480,000 exit visas which had been granted to Jews (80,000 from Rumania, and 400,000 from Hungary). As a result, these hapless individuals were deported to Polish concentration camps. A United Nations Assembly document presented in 1947 which contained the Mufti’s June 28, 1943 letter to the Hungarian Foreign Minister requesting the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Poland, includes this stark, telling annotation: “As a Sequel to This Request 400,000 Jews Were Subsequently Killed.” Moreover, in the Mufti’s memoirs (Memoirs of the Grand Mufti, edited by Abd al-Karim al-Umar, Damascus, 1999) he describes what Himmler revealed to him during the summer of 1943 regarding the genocide of the Jews. Following pro forma tirades on “Jewish war guilt,” Himmler told the Mufti that “up to now we have liquidated [abadna] around three million of them.”
According to historian Howard M. Sachar, meetings the Mufti held with Hitler in 1941 and 1942 lead to an understanding whereby Hitler’s forces would invade Palestine with the goal being “..not the occupation of the Arab lands, but solely the destruction of Palestin(ian) Jewry…” And in April, 2006, the director of the Nazi research center in Ludwigsburg, Klaus-Michael Mallman, and Berlin historian Martin Cueppers, revealed that a murderous Einsatzgruppe Egypt, connected to Rommel’s Africa Korps, was stationed in Athens awaiting British expulsion from the Levant, prior to beginning their planned slaughter of the roughly 500,000 Jews in Palestine. This plan was only aborted after Rommel’s defeat by Montgomery at El Alamein, Egypt, in October/November 1942.
The Mufti remained unrelenting in his espousal of a virulent Judeophobic hatred as the focal tenet of his ideology in the aftermath of World War II, and the creation of the State of Israel. And the Mufti was also a committed supporter of global jihad movements, urging a “full struggle” against the Hindus of India (as well as the Jews of Israel) before delegates at the February 1951 World Muslim Congress: “We shall meet next with sword in hand on the soil of either Kashmir or Palestine.” Declassified intelligence documents from 1942, 1947, 1952, and 1954 confirm the Mufti’s own Caliphate desires in repeated references from contexts as diverse as Turkey, Egypt, Jerusalem, and Pakistan, and also include discussions of major Islamic Conferences dominated by the Mufti, which were attended by a broad spectrum of Muslim leaders literally representing the entire Islamic world (including Shia leaders from Iran), i, e., in Karachi from February 16-19, 1952, and Jordanian occupied Jerusalem, December 3-9, 1953. Viewed in their totality these data do not support the current standard assessment of the Mufti as merely a “Palestinian Arab nationalist, rife with Jew hatred.”