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Amin al-Husayni

(Redirected from Grand Mufti of Jerusalem)
Mohammad Amin al-Husayni
Mohammad Amin al-Husayni

Mohammad Amin al-Husayni (ca. 1895-1974), also spelt al-Husseini, was a Palestinian Arab nationalist and Muslim religious leader. A member of Jerusalem's most prominent family, his most important positions were as Mufti of Jerusalem and President of the Supreme Muslim Council.

Although commonly known as "Grand Mufti", he did not hold such a title officially. He played a major role in Arab resistance to Zionist political ambitions in Palestine and recruiting Muslims to fight in the German army during World War II. He became very close to the Nazi leading circle and conducted radio broadcasts and recruitment operations for them during the later part of the Second World War.


Early life

In 1913 at the age of 28, al-Husayni, made the pilgrimage to Mecca and received the honorific of Hajj. Prior to World War I, al-Husayni studied Islamic Law for about one year at al-Azhar University in Cairo. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, al-Husayni joined the Ottoman Turkish army, received a commission as an artillery officer and was assigned to the Forty-Seventh Brigade stationed in and around the predominately Greek Christian city of Smyrna. In November 1916, al-Husayni left the Ottoman army on three month disability leave and returned to Jerusalem where he remained for the duration of the war. In 1919, al-Husayni attended the Pan-Syrian Congress held in Damascus where he supported Emir Faisal for King of Syria. That year, al-Husayni joined (perhaps founded) the Arab nationalist club al-Nadi al-Arabi (English: The Arab Club) in Jerusalem and wrote articles for the first new newspaper to be established in Palestine, Suriyya al-Janubiyya (English: Southern Syria). Suriyya al-Janubiyya was published in Jerusalem beginning in September 1919 by the lawyer Muhammad Hasan al-Budayri, and edited by 'Arif al-'Arif, both prominent members of al-Nadi al-Arabi.

Until late 1921, al-Husayni focused his efforts on Pan-Arabism and Greater Syria in particular with Palestine being a southern province of an Arab state with it capital in Damascus. Greater Syria was to include territory now occupied by Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. The struggle for Greater Syria collapsed after Britain ceded control over present day Syria and Lebanon to France in July 1920 in accord with the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The French army entered Damascus at that time, overthrew King Faisal and dissolved Greater Syria.

After this, al-Husayni turned from a Damascus oriented Pan-Arabism to a particularly a Palestinian ideology centered on Jerusalem.

Palestinian nationalism

After helping to lead the 1920 Arab riots in Palestine in which 5 Jews were killed and 211 woundedand and inciting the masses to murder Jews and loot their homes. He organized a Jewish pogrom in May 1921, followed by the annual anti-Balfour riots. Anti-Semitic riots For his crimes the British military court sentenced Al-Husayni (who was in absentia) to ten years imprisonment on charges of fomenting the riots but he had already fled to Syria.

In 1921, the British military administration of Palestine was replaced by a civilian one. The first High Commissioner Herbert Samuel decided to drop the charges against al-Husayni and appointed him Mufti of Jerusalem, a position that had been held by the al-Husayni clan for more than a century. The following year Samuel "appointed" him as President of the newly formed Supreme Muslim Council , which controlled the Waqf funds worth annually tens of thousands of pounds, the orphan funds, worth annually about 50,000 pounds, besides controlling the Shariah courts, the Islamic religious court in Palestine. These courts, among other duties, appointed teachers and preachers.

This method of appointment was actually in consonance with tradition (some have said Al-Husayni seized power). For years under Ottoman rule, Muslim clerics would nominate three clerics and the secular temporal leader, the Caliph, would choose among the three who would become the Mufti. After the British took over Palestine, the secular temporal leader was the High Commissioner. This led to the extraordinary situation of a Jew, Herbert Samuel, choosing who would actually become Mufti. The only difference was that in this instance five candidates were nominated instead of three. It is thought that in furthering the dispute between the Nashashibi and Husseini clans.

On 19 April 1936 the Arab rebellion broke out in Palestine, by the murders of nine Jews in Jaffa. Soon the rebellion had spread across the country, openly and officially led by the Mufti and his Arab Higher Committee, founded a week after the rebellion had started. The Committee, presided by the Mufti, proclaimed a general Arab strike. Jewish colonies, kibbutzim and quarters in towns, became the targets for continuous Arab sniping, bombing and terrorist activities. The British removed the leaders of his rivalling clan, the Nashashibis (Jerusalem's other most prominent clan, which tended to be more moderate and accommodating than the strongly anti-British Husaynis) from influental positions. The Mufti now reigned supreme in Palestine.

During most of the period of the British mandate, bickering between these two families seriously weakened the effectiveness of Arab efforts. In 1936 they achieved a measure of unity when all the Palestinian groups joined to create a permanent executive organ known as the Arab High Committee under al-Husayni's chairmanship. The committee called for a general strike, nonpayment of taxes, and the shutting down of municipal governments and demanded an end to Jewish immigration, a ban on land sales to Jews, and national independence. The general strike resulted in a rebellion against British authority lasting from 1936 to 1939. Al-Husayni was the chief organizer of the rebellion [1] . As a result, the British removed al-Husayni from the presidency of the Muslim Supreme Council and declared the Arab High Committee illegal in Palestine. In October 1937 al-Husayni fled to Lebanon, where he reconstituted the committee under his domination. Al-Husayni retained the support of most Palestinian Arabs and used his power to punish the Nashashabis.

Al Husseini formed an international Arab campaign to improve and restore the mosque known as the Dome of the Rock. Indeed, the current landscape of the Temple Mount was directly affected by Husseini's fundraising activities. He raised the vast sums necessary to plate the Dome of the Rock with gold.

The rebellion forced Britain to make substantial concessions to Arab demands in 1939. The British abandoned the idea of establishing Palestine as a Jewish state, and, while Jewish immigration was to continue for another five years (allowing a total of 75,000 Jews to immigrate), immigration was thereafter to depend on Arab consent. Al-Husayni, however, felt that the concessions did not go far enough, and he repudiated the new policy.

Nazi Ties and WWII

al-Husayni and Adolf Hitler (1941)
al-Husayni and Adolf Hitler (1941)

In 1933, within weeks of Hitler's rise to power in Germany, al-Husayni sent a telegram to Berlin addressed to the German counsul-general in the British Mandate of Palestine saying he looked forward to spreading their ideology in the Middle East, especially in Palestine and offered his services. Al-Husayni's offer was rejected at first out of concern for disrupting Anglo-German relations by allying with an anti-British leader. But one month later, Al-Husayni secretly met Wolff, the German Consul-General, near the Dead Sea and expressed his approval of the anti-Jewish boycott in Germany and asked him not to send any Jews to Palestine. Later that year, the Mufti's assistants approached Wolff, seeking his help in establishing a National Socialist Arab party in Palestine. Wolff and his superiors disapproved because they didn't want to become involved in a British sphere of influence, the Nazi's desired further Jewish immigration to Palestine, and because the Nazi party, was restricted to German speaking "Aryans" only.

On 21 July 1937, Al-Husayni paid a visit to the new German Consul-General, Döhle, in Palestine. He repeated his former support for Germany and "wanted to know to what extent the Third Reich was prepared to support the Arab movement against the Jews"

In September 1937 two SS officers, named Karl Adolf Eichmann and Herbert Hagen, came to Palestine with the objective of getting "acquainted with the country and the life and to establish contact with people" among them Al-Husayni.

In 1938, though Anglo-German relations were no longer a concern and Al-Husayni's offer was accepted. Al-Husayni's links to the Nazi regime grew very close. From Berlin, al-Husayni played a significant role in inter-Arab politics.

In 1939, al-Husayni fled from Lebanon to Iraq.

-- (To come in here: activities in Iraq, start of negotiations with Germany)

In May 1940, the British Foreign Office declined a proposal from the chairman of the Vaad Leumi (Jewish national council in Palestine) that they assassinate al-Husayni, but in November of that year Winston Churchill approved such a plan. In May 1941, several members of the Irgun including its leader David Raziel were released from prison and flown to Iraq for this purpose. The mission was abandoned when Raziel was killed by a German plane (Mattar, 1984).

in 1941 the Mufti and the "Golden Square" pro-German army officers, led by General Rashid Ali, forced the Iraqi Prime Minister, the pro-British Nuri Said Pasha, to resign. In May he declared jihad against Britain. In a few months British troops crushed the rebellion and the Mufti went to Germany, via Iran, Turkey and Mussolini's office in Rome.

See also farhud.

-- (To come in here: move to Germany, meetings with Mussolini and Hitler, radio propaganda etc)


Haj Amin el Husseini fled to Europe dressed as a woman, in violation of Islamic law. On 20 November 1941 the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop and was officially received by Adolf Hitler on November 28, 1941 in Berlin. Nazi Germany established for der Grossmufti von Jerusalem a Bureau from which he organized the following: 1) radio propaganda on behalf of Nazi Germany; 2) espionage and fifth column activities in Muslim regions of Europe and the Middle East; 3) the formation of Muslim Waffen SS and Wehrmacht units in Bosnia, the Balkans, North Africa, and Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union; and, 4) the formation of schools and training centers for Muslim imams and mullahs who would accompany the Muslim SS and Wehrmacht units. As soon as he arrived in Europe,the Mufti established close contacts with Bosnian Muslim and Albanian Muslim leaders. He would spend the remainder of the war organizing and rallying Muslims in support of Nazi Germany. Two months after The Mufti's arival the Nazi system of working Jews to death changed to a systematic attempt to exterminate them.

"Germany and Italy recognize the illegality of the Jewish National Home in Palestine. They recognize the right of Palestine and other Arab countries to solve the question of the Jewish elements in Palestine and in other Arab countries as required by national interests, and in the same way as the Jewish question in the Axis lands is being solved."

The Mufti

The Mufti approached representatives of the Nazi regime and sought cooperation on July 21, 1937, when he visited the German Consul in Jerusalem. He later sent an agent and personal representative to Berlin for discussions with Nazi leaders. SS Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich was second in command to Heinrich Himmler in the SS hierarchy and was the chief of the Reich Security Head Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA) and was the head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the SS Security Service. In Septemper, 1937, Heydrich sent two SS officers, SS Hauptscharfuehrer Adolf Eichmann and SS Oberscharfuehrer Herbert Hagen on a mission to Palestine, one of the main objectives being to establish contact with the Grand Mufti. During this period Husseini received financial and military assistance and supplies from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

After meeting Hitler and Ribbentrop in Berlin in 1941, the Mufti was made an SS Gruppenfuehrer by Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler.

Beginning in 1943, al-Husayni was involved in the organization and formation of Bosnian Muslims into several divisions of the Waffen SS and other units. The largest was the 13th "Handschar" division (21,065 men), which conducted operations against Communist partisans in the Balkans from February 1944. In fact 13th SS "Handschar" was at least made up of 10% catholic Croats, this was done out of compromise since the Croat facists, the Ustashe had objected to the recruitment of the Bosnian Muslims, since they were worried about possible independence and considered the Muslim areas apart of their greater Croatia. The uniform worn by the division was regular SS issue, with a divisional collar patch showing an arm, holding a Scimitar, over a Swastika. On the left arm was a Croatian armshield (red-white chessboard). Headgear was the Fez, in field grey (normal service) or red ("walking out"), with the SS eagle and death's head emblazoned. Non-Muslim members could opt to wear the normal SS mountain cap. The oval mountain troop Edelweiss patch was worn on the right arm. The division also had Muslim imams in the division.

The "Handschar" division was entirely commanded by German officers and was sent to France for training where some members staged a mutiny on sept 17-18 1943, in reality it was only a small number of communist sympathizers who staged the mutiny, a few were killed during the mutiny and later 12 others were executed by the Germans. The division later completed training in Germany.

It was responsible for a number of atrocities against civilians mostly committed during its anti partisan operations, of which it was specifically raised for. Towards the end of the war however, many of its members deserted the division sometimes with their weapons, as many of the Muslims decided to return to Bosnia to protect their homes and families or defected to titos partisans. The division was essentially disbanded by november 1944, although some sources allege a small number continued to fight until being captured or killed by 1945.

The 21st "Kama" division (3,793 men) did not reach divisional operations strength and was disbanded after five months; its personnel being transferred to other units. Additional units included a Muslim SS self-defense regiment in the Rashka (Sandzak) region of Serbia, the Ostmusselmanische SS-Regiment.

On 1 March 1944 the Mufti added in a broadcast from Berlin: "Arabs! Rise as one and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor."

In June 1944, Dieter Wisliceny, Eichmann's deputy for Slovakia and Hungary, told Dr. Rudolf Kasztner in Budapest that he was convinced that the Mufti had

played a role in the decision to exterminate the European Jews... The importance of this role must not be disregarded ...The Mufti had repeatedly suggested to the various authorities with whom he was maintaining contact, above all to Hitler, Ribbentrop and Himmler, the extermination of European Jewry. He considered this as a comfortable solution of the Palestinian problem.

In his conversation with Endre Steiner in Bratislava, Wisliceny said:

The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and advisor of Eichmann and Himmler in execution of this plan...He was one of Eichmann's best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures. I heard him say, accompanied by Eichmann, he had visited incognito the gas chamber of Auschwitz.

Wisliceny, who himself was a major war criminal and finally executed in 1948, repeated the Mufti's participation in the Holocaust at the Nuremberg trials in July 1946.

He testified that after the Mufti's arrival in Germany he had paid visit to Himmler and shortly afterwards (late in 1941 or early in 1942) had visited Eichmann in his Berlin office at Kürfurstrasse 116. According to Wisliceny, Eichmann told him that he had brought the Mufti to a special room where he showed him maps illustrating the distribution of the Jewish population in various European countries and delivered a detailed report on the solution of the Jewish problem in Europe. The Mufti seemed to have been much impressed.

The Mufti knew exactly what was going on in Poland. In a broadcast from Berlin on 21 September 1944 he said: "Is it not in your power, O Arabs, to repulse the Jews who number not more than eleven million?". It was a common knowledge that before 1939 the world's Jewish population numbered 17 million.

In 1944 al-Husayni launched a chemical warfare assault on the Jewish community in Palestine. Five parachutists were sent with a toxin to dump into the water system of Tel Aviv, a predominantly Jewish city. The police caught the infiltrators in a cave near Jericho, and according to Jericho district police commander Fayiz Bey Idrissi, "The laboratory report stated that each container held enough poison to kill 25,000 people, and there were at least ten containers." (Source: The Quest for the Red Prince by Michael Bar-Zohar and Eitan Haber, 1983)

Post-war activities

After the war, al-Husayni was briefly arrested in France but escaped and was given asylum in Egypt. Zionist groups petitioned the British to have him indicted as a war criminal. The British declined, partly because they considered the evidence indecisive but also because such a move would have added to their growing problems in Egypt and Palestine, where al-Husayni was still popular. Yugoslavia also unsuccessfully sought his extradition.

In 1948 al-Husayni declared the president of the All-Palestine government in the Gaza Strip. On October 1, an independent Palestinian state in all of Palestine was declared, with Jerusalem as its capital. This government was recognised by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, but not by Jordan or any non-Arab country. His government was totally dependent on Egypt. Egypt annulled the All-Palestine government by decree in 1959. The failure of this venture and al-Husayni's lack of credibility because of his collaboration with the Axis powers during World War II did much to weaken Palestinian Arab Nationalism in the 1950s.

Al-Husayni died in Beirut, Lebanon in 1974. He wished to be buried in Jerusalem, but the Israeli government refused this request.


  • P. Mattar, Al-Husayni and Iraq's quest for independence, 1939-1941, Arab Studies Quarterly 6,4 (1984), 267-281.
  • R. Khalidi, The Formation of Palestinian Identity: The Critical Years, 1917-1923, Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East, Israel Gershoni and James Jankowski, editors

Amin al-Husseini

In 1941 Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had been appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem by the British and was the leading Arab in Palestine during the British Mandate, fled to Germany. He was installed as Prime Minister-in-exile of a pro-Nazi, Arab government and given $10,000 per month to fund Islamic Nazi activities in the Arab world. The Arab-Islamic community in Germany hailed him as "The Führer of the Arabic world."

Once in Germany, he presented Hitler with 15 drafts of declarations that he wanted the Axis to adopt. These declarations sought Nazi support for the wiping out of Jews in Palestine by Palestinian Arabs. When Hitler and al-Husseini met in November of 1941, Hitler refused to issue an official proclamation in support of the Palestinians but gave the Mufti his word that Germany shared the Palestinian desire of wiping out the Jews from the Middle East and promised that when Germany conquered the Caucasus they would wipe out Palestinian Jewry.

In exchange, the Mufti was very active during World War II in fighting for the Nazi cause.

  1. He issued radio propaganda on behalf of Nazi Germany - After the Allied victory at El Alamein, Egypt, Husseini responded by broadcasting in Arabic "Arise, O sons of Arabia! Fight for your sacred rights. Slaughter Jews wherever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion. That will save our honor." Throughout the war Husseini made similar broadcasts regularly in support of the Nazis.
  2. Espionage for the Nazi cause in Muslim regions of Europe and the Middle East.
  3. Assisting the death camps. In the later periods of the war, Husseini was deeply involved with the upper echelons of Nazi power. Thus, when the Red Cross offered to mediate with Eichmann in a trade prisoner-of-war exchange involving the freeing of German citizens in exchange for 5,000 Jewish children being sent from Poland to the Theresienstadt death camp, Husseini directly intervened with Himmler. The exchange was cancelled. At the Nuremberg Trials, Adolf Eichmann's deputy Dieter Wisliceny (subsequently executed as a war criminal), testified that "The Mufti 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. I heard him say, accompanied by Eichmann, he had visited incognito the gas chamber of Auschwitz." In fact, Husseini had plans of his own to build a death camp, modeled after Auschwitz, near Nablus.
  4. The formation of Muslim Waffen SS and Wehrmacht units in Bosnia-Hercegovina, North Africa, and Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union. He helped to recruit 20,000 Muslim volunteers for the SS alone, who participated in the killing of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. His Hanjar troopers, a special Waffen SS company, participated in the murder of Bosnia's Jews.
  5. The formation of schools and training centers for Muslim imams and mullahs who would accompany the Muslim SS and Wehrmacht units.

As a young man Al-Husaini once said to a Jew named "Abbady" who was born in Jerusalem: "Remember, Abbady, this was and will remain an Arab land. We do not mind you natives of the country, but those alien invaders, the Zionists, will be massacred to the last man. We want no progress, no prosperity. Nothing but the sword will decide the fate of this country."

"The dominant figure in Palestine during the Mandate years was neither an Englishman nor a Jew, but an Arab — Haj Amin Muhammed Effendi al Husaini... Able, ambitious, ruthless, humourless, and incorruptible, he was of the authentic stuff of which dictators are made."

John Marlowe

In his memoirs, Husseini wrote as leader of the Arabs in Palestine: Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: 'The Jews are yours.'

In 1947 the United Nations revealed a documentary of captured records of the activities of the Arab Higher Committee, which the Mufti presided over. They stated that the "Arab riots of 1936 in Palestine were carried out by the Mufti with funds supplied by the Nazis". The documents of the German High Command, captured after the War, reveal that "only through funds made available by Germany to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was it possible to carry out the revolt in Palestine".

External links

  • Mufti's Biography
  • Arab Chemical Warfare Against Jews in Palestine in 1944

Last updated: 03-18-2005 11:16:12