Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Christopher Browning on Netayahu's Holocaust revisionism

Christopher Browning addresses the now-notorious piece of Holocaust revisionism that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used before the Zionist Congress last Tuesday in A Lesson for Netanyahu from a Real Holocaust Historian Yahoo! News/Foreign Policy 10/22/2015.

On the particular claim that Netanyahu made about the Grand Mufti's advice to Hitler, Browning writes:

As of this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has undertaken an even more blatantly mendacious attempt to exploit the Holocaust politically. In a speech to the World Jewish Congress, Netanyahu claimed that at the time of the meeting between Hitler and Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, on Nov. 28, 1941, the former was still in favor of expelling Jews and the latter opposed this because the expelled Jews would come to Palestine. Instead, according to Netanyahu’s version of history, the mufti urged Hitler to “burn” them, thus becoming the prime instigator of the Final Solution. The Netanyahu account of this meeting is an historical fabrication, or more simply a lie.
That's one thing that someone like Browning, one of the world's preeminent Holocaust historians, can say directly with credibility: "The Netanyahu account of this meeting is an historical fabrication, or more simply a lie."

Browning also addresses the meeting to which Netanyahu referred:

There’s plenty more evidence contradicting Netanyahu’s account. Hitler’s interpreter, Paul Schmidt, recorded the meeting with the mufti, and his memorandum of the meeting has long been available in the official publication of German foreign-policy documents. According to Schmidt, it was Hitler who assured the mufti that he had no territorial ambitions in the Middle East. Germans would come as liberators: “Germany’s objective would then be solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere under the protection of British power.” Hitler conveniently and deceptively did not tell the Husseini that he deferred to Italy’s Benito Mussolini concerning the final disposition of Arab-populated territories in the Mediterranean region. As Hitler had done with Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, and others, he seemed to be playing upon the wishful thinking of the grand mufti, trying to give the impression that if Arabs helped in the murder of Jews, this would facilitate their own national independence. Husseini, rather, was not the instigator of the Final Solution but rather the target of Hitler’s attempted manipulations.
He adds, "When Hitler met with Husseini, the fateful shift in Nazi Jewish policy from expulsion and decimation to systematic and total mass murder had already occurred."

Browning concludes his piece, "Netanyahu’s shameful and indecent speech is a disservice to anyone — Jew and non-Jew — for whom research, teaching, and preservation of the historical truth of the Holocaust has value, meaning, and purpose."

One thing that the work of Browning and other historians of the Holocaust have rightly stressed in that the mass killing operations by the Germans against the Jews and others took place in a wartime context. As he summarized his conclusions in The Nazi Decision to Commit Mass Murder: Three Interpretations: The Euphoria of Victory and the Final Solution: Summer-Fall 1941 German Studies Review 17:3 (Oct 1994):

I will argue that there were two decisions for implementation: mid-July 1941 for the total mass murder of Soviet Jewry and early October for the Final Solution in German-occupied Europe. Each of these decisions was probably preceeded [sic] by several months of preparation initiated by Hitler. Each coincided with a peak of victory euphoria on the eastern front that emboldened Hitler to pass the point of no return-a pattern consistent with his earlier decisions for the Lublin Reservation and "ethnic cleansing" in western Poland in September 1939 and for the Madagascar Plan in June 1940.
It was the conditions created by the world war, from the nationalist fanaticism it inspired to the fact of the German forces being physically in control of the territory where millions of Jews in Russia and eastern Europe lived, in which Hitler actually began implementing the "Final Solution."

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