Hitler's Mufti, not Hitler's Pope
Many readers of The New York Times no doubt believe that Pope Pius XII was Hitler's Pope.
John Cornwell's bestselling book told them that, and it's been reaffirmed by Garry Wills, Daniel Goldhagen and other writers since. It's been said so often in fact that most well-read Church bashers know it for a certainty. The only trouble is: It isn't true.
Not only does it contradict the words of Holocaust survivors, the founders of Israel, and the contemporary record of The New York Times, but even Cornwell, the originator of the moniker “Hitler's Pope,” has recanted it saying that he was wrong to have ascribed evil motives to Pius and now found it “impossible to judge” the wartime Pope.
But there's something else that has been ignored nearly altogether. Precisely at the moment when Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church in Rome (and throughout Europe) were saving thousands of Jewish lives, Hitler had a cleric broadcasting from Berlin who called for the extermination of the Jews.
He was Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the viciously anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem, who resided in Berlin as a welcome guest and ally of the Nazis throughout the years of the Holocaust.
As I point out in my book, The Myth of Hitler's Pope, the outrageous calumny directed against Pope Pius XII has not only besmirched the reputation of a man who did more than any other religious leader to save Jewish lives, it has deflected attention from the horrible truth of Hajj Amin al-Husseini— who continues to be a revered figure in the Muslim world.
It is possible to trace modern Islamic anti-Semitism back along a number of different historical and intellectual threads, but no matter which one you choose, they all seem to pass, at one point or another, through the hands of Hajj Amin al-Husseini —Hitler's mufti.
In late March 1933, al-Husseini contacted the German consul general in Jerusalem and requested German help in eliminating Jewish settlements in Palestine — offering, in exchange, a pan-Islamic jihad in alliance with Germany against Jews around the world. It was not until 1938, in the aftermath of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's infamous capitulation to Hitler at Munich, that al-Husseini's overtures to Nazi Germany were officially reciprocated. But by then the influence of Nazi ideology had already grown significantly throughout the Arab Middle East.
Several of the Arab political parties founded during the 1930s were modeled after the Nazi party, including the Syrian Popular Party and the Young Egypt Society, which were explicitly anti-Semitic in their ideology and programs. The leader of Syria's Socialist Nationalist Party, Anton Sa'ada, imagined himself an Arab Hitler and placed a swastika on his party's banner.
Though he was the grand mufti of Jerusalem, al-Husseini moved his base of operations (and pro-Nazi propaganda) to Lebanon in 1938, to Iraq in 1939 (where he helped establish the strongly pro-German Rashid Ali al-Gaylani as prime minister), and then to Berlin in 1941.
Adolf Eichmann's deputy, Dieter Wisliceny, testified at the Nuremberg Trials that al-Husseini “was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and adviser of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of this plan. He was one of Eichmann's best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures.” At Auschwitz, al-Husseini reportedly “admonished the guards running the gas chambers to work more diligently.”
After the defeat of the Axis powers, al-Husseini escaped indictment as a war criminal at Nuremberg by fleeing to Egypt, where he received political asylum and where he met the young Yasser Arafat, his distant cousin, who became a devoted protégé — to the point that the Palestinian Liberation Organization recruited former Nazis as terrorist instructors. Up until the time of his death, Arafat continued to pay homage to the mufti as his hero and mentor.
This unholy legacy continues. Hajj Amin al-Husseini has inspired two generations of radical Islamic leaders to carry on Hitler's war against the Jews, which is why today, as was true 60 years ago it is not the Catholic Church that is the great threat to the survival of the Jewish people, it is Islamofascism.
Rabbi David G. Dalin is a professor of history and political science at Ave Maria University and is the author of thenewly released book The Myth of Hitler's Pope.
- September 25-Oct. 1, 2005