After World War II, American counterintelligence recruited former Gestapo officers, SS veterans and Nazi collaborators to an even greater extent than had been previously disclosed and helped many of them avoid prosecution or looked the other way when they escaped, according to thousands of newly declassified documents.Here are sections about the Mufti from the actual report:
In chilling detail, the report also elaborates on the close working relationship between Nazi leaders and the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who later claimed that he sought refuge in wartime Germany only to avoid arrest by the British.
In fact, the report says, the Muslim leader was paid “an absolute fortune” of 50,000 marks a month (when a German field marshal was making 25,000 marks a year). It also said he energetically recruited Muslims for the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military command, and was promised that he would be installed as the leader of Palestine after German troops drove out the British and exterminated more than 350,000 Jews there.
On Nov. 28, 1941, the authors say, Hitler told Mr. Husseini that the Afrika Corps and German troops deployed from the Caucasus region would liberate Arabs in the Middle East and that “Germany’s only objective there would be the destruction of the Jews.”
The report details how Mr. Husseini himself was allowed to flee after the war to Syria — he was in the custody of the French, who did not want to alienate Middle East regimes — and how high-ranking Nazis escaped from Germany to become advisers to anti-Israeli Arab leaders and “were able to carry on and transmit to others Nazi racial-ideological anti-Semitism.”
“You have an actual contract between officials of the Nazi Foreign Ministry with Arab leaders, including Husseini, extending after the war because they saw a cause they believed in,” Dr. Breitman said. “And after the war, you have real Nazi war criminals — Wilhelm Beisner, Franz Rademacher and Alois Brunner — who were quite influential in Arab countries.”
In October 1945, the report says, the British head of Palestine’s Criminal Investigation Division told the assistant American military attaché in Cairo that the mufti might be the only force able to unite the Palestine Arabs and “cool off the Zionists. Of course, we can’t do it, but it might not be such a damn bad idea at that.”
“We have more detailed scholarly accounts today of Husseini’s wartime activities, but Husseini’s C.I.A. file indicates that wartime Allied intelligence organizations gathered a healthy portion of this incriminating evidence,” the report says. “This evidence is significant in light of Husseini’s lenient postwar treatment.” He died in Beirut in 1974.
Rauff ’s Einsatzkommando, technically subordinated to Rommel’s army, reported directly to the RSHA in Berlin. After Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated in Czechoslovakia, SS chief Heinrich Himmler took direct command of this umbrella security-police organization. Two German historians have indicated that Himmler conferred with Hitler about the deployment of Einsatzkommando Egypt, which was to take “executive measures” against civilians on its own authority, in other words, the mass murder of Jews.
In 1946 Hoth commented only that his Einsatzkommando was supposed to perform the usual Security Police and SD duties in Egypt; he avoided saying that such duties elsewhere had included the mass execution of Jews. But this context puts a rather different light on what his British interrogator called Hoth’s idealism.
Hitler himself signaled his intention to eliminate the Jews of Palestine. In a November 28, 1941, conversation in Berlin with Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hitler said that the outcome of the war in Europe would also decide the fate of the Arab world. German troops intended to break through the Caucasus region and move into the Middle East. This would result in the liberation of Arab peoples. Hitler said that Germany’s only objective there would be the destruction of the Jews.
Recent books have added greatly to our knowledge of Haj Amin al-Husseini’s activities as leader of anti-Jewish revolts in the British Mandate in Palestine in 1929 and 1936, as the impetus behind the pro-German coup in Iraq in April 1941, and as a pro-Nazi propagandist in Berlin, broadcasting over German short-wave radio to large audiences in the Middle East starting in late 1941. CIA and U.S. Army files on Husseini offer small pieces of new evidence about his relationship with the Nazi government and his escape from postwar justice.
The Nazi government financed Husseini and Rashid Ali el-Gailani, the former premier of Iraq who had joined Husseini in Berlin after his failed coup in Iraq. After the war Carl Berthold Franz Rekowski, an official of the German Foreign Office who had dealt with Husseini, testified that the Foreign Office financially supported the two Arab leaders, their families, and other Arabs in their entourage who had fled to Germany after the coup. Husseini and Gailani determined how these funds were distributed among the others. The CIA file on Husseini includes a document indicating that he had a staff of 20–30 men in Berlin. A separate source indicates that he lived in a villa in the Krumme Lanke neighborhood of Berlin. From spring 1943 to spring 1944, Husseini personally received 50,000 marks monthly and Gailani 65,000 for operational expenses. In addition, they each received living expenses averaging 80,000 marks per month, an absolute fortune. A German field marshal received a base salary of 26,500 marks per year. Finally, Husseini and Gailani received substantial foreign currency to support adherents living in countries outside Germany.
Through conversations with other Foreign Office officials, Rekowski learned that Nazi authorities planned to use both Arab leaders to control their respective countries after Germany conquered them. Gailani was an Iraqi nationalist who maintained good ties with the German Foreign Office. Husseini, however, was a believer in a Pan-Arab state. His closest ties were with the SS. The other Arabs were divided into one camp or the other. SS-Sturmbannführer Wilhelm Beisner, like Hoth, an officer on Einsatzkommando Egypt, had frequent contact with Husseini during the war. Beisner told Rekowski that Husseini had good ties with Himmler and with Waffen-SS Gen. Gottlob Berger, who handled the recruitment of non-German forces into the Waffen-SS. SS leaders and Husseini both claimed that Nazism and Islam had common values as well as common enemies—above all, the Jews.
Another independent source of information on Husseini’s ties with the SS was the disaffected and abused wife of a young Egyptian, Dr. Abdel Halim el-Naggar, who had worked in Berlin for the German Foreign Office and the Propaganda Ministry. An Egyptian named Galal in Berlin edited an Arabic-language periodical designed to stir up the Arabs to support Germany, and el-Naggar assisted him in 1940. By 1941 el-Naggar had his own Arabic publication for Middle Eastern audiences, and in 1942 he took on the additional job of director of Nazi short-wave broadcasts to the Near East. After Husseini came to Berlin, he wanted to cooperate with el-Naggar on Middle Eastern broadcasts, and for a time they worked together successfully. Then el-Naggar established an Islamic Central Institute in Berlin. Husseini had wanted to head this institute, and after el-Naggar refused him, Husseini used his influence with the SS to get el-Naggar removed from the broadcasting job.
In the fall of 1943 Husseini went to the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi ally, to recruit Muslims for the Waffen-SS. During that trip he told the troops of the newly formed Bosnian-Muslim 13th Mountain Waffen-SS division that the entire Muslim world ought to follow their example. Husseini also organized a 1944 mission for Palestinian Arabs and Germans to carry out sabotage and propaganda after German planes dropped them into Palestine by parachute. In discussions with the Foreign Intelligence branch of the RSHA, Husseini insisted that the Arabs take command after they landed and direct their fight against the Jews of Palestine, not the British authorities.
Today we have more detailed scholarly accounts today of Husseini’s wartime activities, but Husseini’s CIA file indicates that wartime Allied intelligence organizations gathered a healthy portion of this incriminating evidence. This evidence is significant in light of Husseini’s lenient postwar treatment.
In the spring of 1945, a German Foreign Office official reached agreement with Gailani effective April 1: his cash payments were raised to 85,000 marks, but Gailani would repay the Germans after his forces reconquered Iraq. Similarly, according to a newly declassified document, the Foreign Office and Husseini signed a contract for subsidies of up to 12,000 marks per month to continue after April 1, 1945, with the Mufti pledging to repay these amounts later. In April 1945 neither side could have had much doubt about the outcome of the war. The continuing contractual relationships meant that Nazi officials and the two Arab leaders hoped to continue their joint or complementary political-ideological campaign in the postwar period.
Declassified CIA and Army files establish that the Allies knew enough about Husseini’s wartime activities to consider him a war criminal. Apparently fearing Allied prosecution, he tried to flee to Switzerland at the end of the war. Swiss authorities turned him over to the French, who brought him to Paris. Right after the war ended a group of Palestinian-Arab soldiers in the British Army who were stationed in Lebanon had staged anti-French demonstrations. They carried around a large picture of Husseini and declared him to be the “sword of the faith.”
According to one source considered reliable by the rump American intelligence organization known as the Strategic Services Unit (SSU), British officials objected to French plans to prosecute Husseini, fearing that this would cause political unrest in Palestine. The British “threatened” the French with Arab uprisings in French Morocco.
In October 1945 Arthur Giles (who used the title Bey), British head of Palestine’s Criminal Investigation Division, told the assistant American military attaché in Cairo that the Mufti might be the only person who could unite the Palestine Arabs and “cool off the Zionists…. Of course, we can’t do it, but it might not be such a damn bad idea at that.” French intelligence officials, bitter at France’s loss of colonial territory in the Middle East, said they would enjoy having the Mufti around to embarrass the British.
Husseini was well treated in Paris. Meanwhile, Palestinian Arab leaders and various Muslim extremists agitated to bring him back to the Middle East. According to the American military attaché in Cairo, this plan initially embarrassed moderate officials in the Arab League. But as prospects for a peaceful settlement in the British Mandate for Palestine declined and as other Arab prisoners were released or escaped (Gailani escaped), sentiment changed. A delegate of the Palestine Higher Arab Committee went to Paris in June 1946 and told Husseini to get ready for a little trip.
According to another American source in Syria, at a meeting in the Egyptian Embassy in Paris, the ambassador, the ministers of Syria and Lebanon, and a few Arab leaders from Morocco and Algeria worked out the details of Husseini’s escape. The French government learned of, or was informed of, the plan, but chose not to intervene in order to avoid offending the Arabs of North Africa. Husseini flew to Syria, then went via Aleppo and Beirut to Alexandria, Egypt.
By 1947 Husseini denied that he had worked for the Axis powers during the war. He told one acquaintance that he hoped soon to have documentary evidence rebutting this slander, which the Jews were spreading. Similarly, after Adolf Eichmann was brought to Israel for trial in March 1961, Husseini, by now in Beirut, denied having ever met Eichmann during the war. He said that he had been forced to take refuge in Germany simply because British wanted to capture him. Nazi persecution of Jews had served Zionism, according to Husseini, by exciting world sympathy for them. Husseini never worked for American intelligence; the CIA simply considered him a person worth tracking. He died in Beirut in 1974.He should have been hung as a war criminal - but today Husseini gets praised by the President of the Palestinian Authority.
But the Mufti was not the only prominent Arab leader who had Nazi ties:
Beisner’s importance grew in February 1958 when Franz Rademacher, living in Damascus under a pseudonym, told an unnamed CIA source in Syria that Gamal Abdel Nasser (called Jamal Nasir in one document and Gamal Nasir in another) had worked for the Germans during the war, and that Beisner had served as his liaison. They still were close, Rademacher claimed.
After leading a revolution and becoming the second president of Egypt in 1956, Nasser had established an intelligence organization under Zakaria Mohieddin. Zakaria had chosen Beisner’s former RSHA comrade Joachim Deumling as his intelligence adviser. Deumling had worked for the British Army of the Rhine after the war, but the British blacklisted him for security reasons in 1951.
When he decided to leave West Germany for Egypt, he traveled secretly to avoid attracting British attention. Zakaria, who soon became minister of the interior as well, praised Deumling’s intelligence work in Egypt.
Beisner may have benefited from an increasing presence of former Nazis in Cairo under Nasser. He later claimed that while in Cairo he had helped to train Algerian volunteers for the struggle to liberate Algeria from French control and that he sold arms to the Algerian National Liberation Front. Whether he operated on his own or with Egyptian intelligence approval is unclear.I have had posts about Nazis being recruited to help Arabs in 1947-8 to fight Israel and about the Arab Nazi paratroopers who parachuted into Israel - apparently on the Mufti's orders.