Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to calm the uproar stemming from his comments that a former Palestinian leader inspired Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to carry out the Holocaust.
Netanyahu said Wednesday he had no intention of absolving Hitler of responsibility for "his diabolical destruction of European Jewry," a day after suggesting the World War II-era grandi mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, convinced Hitler to destroy the Jews.
"Hitler was responsible for the Final Solution to exterminate six million Jews," Netanyahu said just before boarding a plane for Germany on Wednesday. "It is equally absurd to ignore the role played by the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a war criminal," Netanyahu said.
In a speech before the World Zionist Congress, Netanyahu suggested Hitler was not planning to exterminate the Jews until he met with Husseini, a Nazi sympathizer, in Berlin in 1941.
"Hitler did not want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews," the Israeli leader said. "And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, `If you expel them, they will all come here. So what should I do with them?' he asked. He said, `Burn them.' "
Palestinian leaders and the Israeli opposition blasted Netanyahu for his comments, saying they are not helpful during the ongoing wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Holocaust experts and survivors criticized his remarks as historically inaccurate.
Netanyahu made a similar claim during a speech before the Israeli parliament in 2012, when he described Husseini as "one of the leading architects" of the Final Solution, Hitler's plan to exterminate Jewish people.