Germany clarified Wednesday that responsibility for the Holocaust lay with the Germans and not a Palestinian leader who, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, convinced Adolf Hitler to exterminate Europe’s Jews.
Netanyahu set off a controversy earlier Wednesday when he said that Hitler only wanted to expel Jews, and that their extermination was the idea of World War II-era grand mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi sympathizer Haj Amin al-Husseini.
Netanyahu made the comments just ahead of a trip to Berlin. But at a joint press conference with Netanyahu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed that responsibility for the Holocaust lay with the Germans.
“We abide by our responsibility for the Shoah [Holocaust],” Merkel said, according to the Guardian. Prior to the conference, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the Holocaust was “very much” Germany’s fault.
“Speaking on behalf of the German government, I can say that all of us Germans know very precisely the history of the murderous racial fanaticism of the National Socialists that led to the break with civilization that was the Shoah,” Seibert said, according to Reuters.
“This is taught in German schools for good reason. It must never be forgotten. And I don’t see any reason that we should change our view of history in any way whatsoever. We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own,” he said.
While Netanyahu tried to tone down the controversy before Germany’s clarification, the 66-year-old stood by his comments.
"I had no intention of absolving Hitler of his diabolical responsibility for exterminating European Jews ... at the same time, it is absurd to ignore the role the mufti played," he said, according to the Associated Press. "The father of the Palestinian nation then ... was involved then in serial incitement to destroy the Jews," he said. "Unfortunately, Haj Amin al-Husseini is still an admired figure in Palestinian society."
Several historians reportedly said Netanyahu’s timeline distorted history. While Husseini met with Hitler in 1941, Hitler already had made clear his intention to exterminate Europe's Jews two years earlier.