An Israeli prime minister wouldn’t be one’s first choice of potential Holocaust deniers. Or second. Or third. He wouldn’t figure at all.
Yet, following his speech at the Zionist Congress, some papers are accusing Netanyahu of being just that. That’s unfair.
A Holocaust denier claims it never happened or, if it did, certainly not on the scale universally believed to be true. Netanyahu said nothing of the sort.
He simply remarked that Hitler’s original intent was to expel Jews, not to exterminate them (possibly true), and that the Holocaust only happened because Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, nudged Hitler that way (undocumented).
It does seem that Bibi got carried away there. Since Israel’s present enemies typologically descend from the mufti on a direct line, and since, like their progenitor, they daydream of killing every Jew, there’s political capital to be built on such a claim – and Netanyahu is a politician above all else.
And yes, the absence of evidence isn’t the evidence of absence, as the saying goes. But a politician’s fecund imagination is even less evidential.
Netanyahu cited the following conversation between Hitler and the mufti, for which there isn’t a shred of documentary support. He left a few lines blank, but my imagination can fill voids too:
H: What on earth am I going to do with those vermin? Oh I know, I’ll kick them out of Germany.
M: Mein Führer, I’m afraid that’s not good enough.
H: Why in Gottes Namen not, Haj?
M: Just use your noggin, mein Führer. You expel them, and where d’you suppose they’ll go? They’ll come to Palestine! Can’t have that, can we now?
H: What are you suggesting then? How do I get rid of the Juden?
M: Burn them, mein Führer.
H: Wundebare Idee! Why didn’t I think of that? Consider it done, Haj.
M: Heil Hitler!
H: Allahu akhbar!
I hope my Israeli friends won’t be cross with me, but I find such an exchange to be highly improbable, even though the mufti was a Nazi, a Jew-hater and a murderer.
Thing is, so was Hitler, and I doubt he needed any encouragement to act on his violent intentions towards the Jews, and certainly not from someone he must have considered almost as racially inferior as a Jew.
Hitler’s intentions had been transparent ever since the 1923 publication of Mein Kampf, where ‘fighting’ Jews is the central theme. ‘Fighting’ crystallised to mean ‘exterminating’ later, after the war with the USSR started.
Since Hitler used the words ‘Jews’ and ‘communists’ interchangeably, his ever-present racial hatred was then augmented by political animosity, hitherto kept in check while Stalin was Hitler’s ally. He also needed a battle cry to rally the troops.
It was that combination that produced the Holocaust, not the mufti’s prodding, even supposing it had happened. If anything, Hitler was probably more encouraged by the way occupied Eastern Europeans responded to the massacre.
The enthusiasm they showed in torturing and murdering their erstwhile Jewish neighbours outdid even the Nazis’ ardour, with, especially, the Balts, Slovaks, Poles and Ukrainians making even the Germans queasy at times.
It’s not just for logistic reasons that the worst death camps were sited in Eastern Europe, not Germany proper: the ambient population welcomed them even more.
In post-war Germany, guilt over the Holocaust has become an essential psychological factor in creating a new ethos – or even, if you believe such a thing possible, the new German, a sensitive liberal in touch with his feminine side.
Take that away, and German self-image would lose a redemptive aspect, leaving only the less attractive parts, such as philistinism, obsession with bodily functions and readiness to take over Europe with banks, rather than tanks.
No wonder that, on hearing Bibi’s pronouncement, my friend Angie was up in arms.
“You can’t take it away from us! It’s ours!” she screamed. “What’s all this Scheiße?!? Himmelherrgott! Whatever next! You can’t change history, particularly not on this issue!”
It sounded as if changing history on other issues would be fine with Frau Merkel, but then she was agitated, and it was all Bibi’s fault. But who can blame him? He’s a politician after all.