Angela Merkel forced to clarify Germany was responsible for the Holocaust following Benjamin Netanyahu controversy

The Israeli prime minister claimed the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem convinced Hitler to exterminate the Jews

The German government has clarified it is responsible for the Holocaust following Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial comments in which he blamed the extermination of millions of Jews on a former Palestinian Arab nationalist and Muslim leader.

Addressing the 37th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu claimed the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini convinced Adolf Hitler that if he expelled the Jews they would settle in Palestine and exhorted him to "burn them".

 

Asked about Mr Netanyahu's comments, Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said there was "no reason to change our view of history".

"All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilisation that was the Holocaust," he said.

"This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten and I see no reason to change our view of history in any way.

"We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own."

 

The claim the Grand Mufti, who supported Hitler and met him in November 1941, instigated the Holocaust has been made before, but has been widely discredited.

There is no record of the conversation to which Mr Netanyahu referred, and Nazi efforts to exterminate European Jews were already under way by the time of Hitler's meeting with Al-Husseini.

נתניהו: "היטלר במקור לא רצה להשמיד את היהודים, הוא רצה לגרש את היהודים. חאג' אמין אל-חוסייני שכנע אותו לשנות את דעתו". #מהכן, הוא ברצינות טען כך. אל תשאלו אותי איך זה קרה בדיוק

Posted by ‎דדי שי‎ on Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Mr Netanyahu's comments sparked outrage, with Palestinian official Saeb Erekat accusing him of attempting to absolve Hitler.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called it a "dangerous historical distortion".

Israeli government officials also appeared to distance themselves from the comments with Moshe Yaalon, the defence minister, acknowledging on Israel's Army Radio that Hitler "initiated" the Holocaust.

The Israeli prime minister later defended his comments saying: "I didn't mean to absolve Hitler of responsibility, but to show that the father of the Palestinian nation wanted to destroy Jews even without occupation."

UK Jewish groups contacted by the Independent declined to comment on the issue, saying Mr Netanyahu had clarified his position.

Shortly after making the comments Mr Netanyahu flew to Germany where he was due to meet John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, to discuss the situation in Israel and the Middle East.

(Additional reporting by agencies)

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