By Emerson Vermaat.. It was a very hot day in June or July 1944 when I was at work in Monowitz, also known as Auschwitz III. And then I suddenly noticed a group of people who looked like actors. They were wearing long robes and strange headgear. Occasionally, internees did perform a play in the camp. I wanted to find out myself and as I walked towards that group I was stopped by a high ranking SS-officer whom I didn’t know. He was from the main camp (Auschwitz I) or Birkenau (Auschwitz II). The officer asked me, ‘What do you want?’ ‘I just wanted to know whether these people are actors or not. Is there going to be a stage performance tonight?’ ‘These people aren’t actors,’ the SS-officer told me. ‘They are the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and his retinue.’ I then asked him, ‘What is he doing here?’ ‘He is paying a visit to the camp,’ the SS-officer said. ‘He lives in Berlin where he enjoys Hitler’s personal protection. He is now paying a visit to Monowitz to see how the Jews are working themselves to death in factories. He is also in Auschwitz to see the gas chambers. When we have won the war he will return to Palestine to build gas chambers and kill the Jews who are living over there.’”
Ernst Verduin, a Dutch Jew from Amsterdam born in 1927, was deported to Auschwitz in September 1943. Upon arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau he was first selected for the gas chamber but then somehow managed to leave the “gas chamber group” and join the group selected for slave labor. “An SS- officer protested loudly, but I didn’t care,” Verduin told me at the end of February. ‘He didn’t use his machine gun and kill me, although he could have done so quite easily. I later learned that the SS wanted to avoid panic at all costs and that I wasn’t the only one who switched from one group to another. I already knew about the gas chambers of Auschwitz when I was still in Holland. An SS-officer named Ettlinger who was stationed at the concentration camp of Vught, told me about it. Ettlinger had previously been stationed at Auschwitz, so he knew exactly what was going on there.”
“The worst thing I saw after my arrival at Auschwitz was a group of prisoners who entered the gas chambers. These people were about to die. I later tried not to remember this terrible spectacle.” Verduin only spent a few hours in Auschwitz I and II and was then transferred to Monowitz where he stayed between September 1943 and mid-January 1945.
Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was an important Palestinian leader who sided with the Nazis during the Second World War. Not only did this hate cleric and jihadist meet Hitler in November 1941, also did he cultivate the personal friendship of Adolf Eichmann, the very man who was in charge of organizing the Holocaust. Eichmann told his friend Willem Sassen after the war that he was proud of having killed at least 5 million “enemies of the German Reich.” The Holocaust was codenamed “The Final Solution of the Jewish Problem” (“Die Endloesung der Judenfrage”). The Mufti used a similar term on at least one occasion.
“About four million Jews have been killed in the various death camps, and an additional two million have been killed in another manner, most of whom were executed by the SS-Einsatz commandos of the Security Police during the invasion of Russia,” Eichmann told Wilhelm Hoettl at the end of August 1944. Hoettl was an SS-Sturmbannführer (major) stationed at Budapest at the time. In Hungary alone, more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews were sent to the gas chambers between May 8, and July 8, 1944 – a very short period indeed. Eichmann personally oversaw the whole operation. So when Haj Amin Al-Husseini visited Auschwitz and Monowitz in the summer of 1944, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were being exterminated.
Verduin claims that few people believed him when he said that he saw how the Mufti of Jerusalem paid a visit to Auschwitz-Monowitz. Only Simon Wiesenthal wrote a book back in 1947 in which he claims that the Mufti and his staff “paid visits to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Majdanek to convince themselves of the capacity of the crematoria.” “Haj Amin was introduced to the SS-guards and expressed his appreciation for those SS-men who were very capable,” Wiesenthal writes. But Wiesenthal was confronted with scepticism, too. However, Verduin told me that he saw how the Mufti and his group “were accompanied by very high ranking SS-officers.” “They were not far from the camp’s sick barracks and the Mufti was clearly talking to these high-ranking SS-officers.”
The SS-officer who told Verduin about the Mufti’s visit threatened him that if he would not resume work immediately he would leave Monowitz entirely. Verduin, of course, had no intention of being killed in the gas chambers of Birkenau, so he did as he was told. But he informed some of his trusted camp mates of what he had seen.
The Grand Mufti and Eichmann
That the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Eichmann were very good friends was revealed by Dieter Wisliceny who knew Eichmann since the mid-1930s. It was about one year after the Second World War that Wisliceny wrote detailed notes in prison. Wisliceny’s notes were quoted by Gideon Hausner, the chief public prosecutor at the Trial against Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Wisliceny wrote: “After the Mufti Al-Husseini arrived in Germany, he paid a visit to Himmler. A short while thereafter the Grand Mufti visited the director of the Jewish Section at the Gestapo Department IV, Obersturmbannführer Eichmann, is his office in Berlin, 166 Kurfürstenstrasse. I no longer remember the exact date. Possibly it was at the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942. By chance I was with Eichmann a few days later, when he told me in detail about this visit. Eichmann lectured to the Grand Mufti in his map room, where he had collected statistical accounts of the Jewish population of various European countries – he lectured in detail about the solution of the Jewish Question in Europe. The Grand Mufti, according to him, was most impressed and said to Eichmann that he had already asked Himmler and had in fact secured Himmler’s consent on this point, that a representative of Eichmann should come to Jerusalem as his personal advisor when he, the Grand Mufti would go back after the victory of the Axis Powers (i.e. Nazi-Germany, Italy and Japan, EV). In that conversation Eichmann asked me whether I was not willing to accept the post. But I rejected in principle such Oriental adventures. Eichmann was greatly impressed by the personality of the Grand Mufti. He repeatedly said to me, both then and on a later occasion, that the Mufti had made a powerful impression on him, and also on Himmler, and that he had an acknowledged influence on Arab-Jewish affairs. To my knowledge, Eichmann saw the Mufti from time to time and spoke to him.”
So Eichmann, Himmler and the Mufti planned another Holocaust in Palestine, a British mandate at time. Their plan was about to succeed in the summer of 1942 when German troops were not far from the Suez Canal and were also on the offensive in southern Russia. (The Nazi flag was installed on Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus in August 1942.)
Gideon Hausner later wrote in his excellent book “Justice in Jerusalem”: “The ex-Mufti’s ties with Eichmann were of long standing. At the beginning of 1942 Eichmann received him and his retinue at the department’s headquarters and lectured to them on the Final Solution in Europe. The ex-Mufti was so strongly impressed that he immediately requested Himmler to designate someone on Eichmann’s team to be his ‘personal advisor’ on ‘finally solving’ the Jewish problem also in Palestine, once the ex-Mufti was reinstated in his office by the victorious Axis. Eichmann welcomed the offer. ‘A priceless jewel… The biggest friend of the Arabs,’ recorded the ex-Mufti on Eichmann in his personal diary.”
Hausner referred to Haj Amin Al-Husseini as the “ex-Mufti” as the British and their Arab allies no longer recognized him as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
When Rumania and Hungary, two allies of Nazi Germany, wanted to send 2700 Jewish children to Palestine, the Mufti decided to intervene. On June 28, 1943, he wrote two identical letters to the Rumanian and Hungarian Foreign Ministers. In those letters he stated that “this will not solve the Jewish question” (the Nazi term for mass extermination). “He argued,” Lukasz Hirszowicz writes, “that the Jews should be sent to Poland instead, ‘where they are under active supervision,’” “The Mufti worked closely with the Nazi machinery responsible for exterminating the Jews.” The Mufti knew exactly what “under active supervision in Poland” in the summer of 1943 meant. It was in Nazi occupied Poland that the death camps were located. Auschwitz, too, was located on territory that originally belonged to Poland.
Wisliceny claims that the Mufti also prevented 10,000 Jewish children from leaving Poland. “It was planned to exchange these children for German civilian prisoners, through the services of the International Red Cross. But suddenly Wisliceny was summoned to Berlin by Eichmann. “He disclosed to me to me that the idea of the planned operation had become known to the Grand Mufti, by means of his intelligence service in Palestine. As a result he protested vigorously to Himmler, using the argument that these Jewish children would, within a few years become adults and would strengthen the Jewish element in Palestine. Following this, Himmler (as he told me) forbade the whole operation.” After Eichmann had been abducted from Argentina to be sentenced in Israel for war crimes and genocide, Golda Meir, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, told the UN Security Council: “One million children – the future generation – were annihilated. Who can encompass this picture in all its horror and its consequences for the Jewish people for many generations to come and for Israel?” And she commented in her memoirs: “To my sorrow there are still people who do not understand that we are committed to live and act so that those Jews who were killed in the gas chambers will have been the last Jews ever to die without defending themselves.”
A recent and very thorough Dutch study points out that 17,964 Jewish, Sinti and Roma children from Holland were murdered by the Nazis between 1942 and 1945. Eichmann paid 4 to 5 visits to Holland, instructing his subordinates to deport more than 100,000 Jews: men, women, children and even lots of babies. One of those babies was Koentje Gezang. He died in the gas chambers of Sobibor on May 21, 1943.
Emerson Vermaat is an investigative reporter in The Netherlands. He is currently writing a book on Adolf Eichmann to be published this year by Aspekt Publishers, Soesterberg, The Netherlands. Website: emersonvermaat.com.
Author’s interview with Ernst Verduin, The Netherlands, February 29, 2012.
Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), vol. XXXI, p. 85, 86. Affidavit of Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl, 26 November 1945.
Simon Wiesenthal, Grossmufti – Grossagent der Achse (Salzburg/Vienna: Ried-Verlag, 1947), p. 37.
The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, vol. I, p. 243, 244 (Jerusalem: Ministry of Justice, 1992). Quotes from Wisliceny.
Gideon Hausner, Justice in Jerusalem. The Trial of Adolf Eichmann (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1967), p. 345.
Lukasz Hirszowicz, The Third Reich and the Arab East (London/Toronto: Routledge & Kegan Paul/University of Toronto Press, 1966), p. 312, 313; Gerhard Höpp (Ed.), Mufti Papiere: Briefe, Memoranden, Reden und Aufrufe Amin al Husainis aus dem Exil, 1940-1945 (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2004), p. 180, 181 (full text of both letters originally written in French).
Emerson Vermaat, Heinrich Himmler en de Cultus van de Dood (Soesterberg, Netherlands: Uitgeverij Aspekt, 2009), p. 169, 170.
Golda Meir, My Life (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1975), p. 180, 181. Guus Luijters (Ed.), In Memoriam. De gedeporteerde en vermoorde Joodse, Roma en Sinti kinderen 1942-1945. (All their names are mentioned in this book of 960 pages). On Koenraad Huib (“Koentje”) Gezang, see p. 472, 482 (photo) as well as “KRO Kruispunt” (Dutch Catholic TV program), February 12, 2012.
©2012 Emerson Vermaat. All rights reserved.