Heinrich Himmler’s official diary was deemed to be lost – until 1990. A special archive near Moscow became known in this year due to its collection of war records seized by the Red Army. Among them was Himmler’s official diary, from 1941 to 1942, which is filled with the daily activities of the Reichsführer-SS (commander of the Nazi special forces) and police chief. In 1999, academics edited this first part of the diary . A team with Matthias Uhl, from the German Historical Institute in Moscow, completed it by editing the second part of Himmler’s official diary, which covers the years from 1943 to 1945.
The first part of the diary shows Himmler as the driving force behind the start of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”, a code name for the planned murder of Jews, which was not restricted to Europe. This genocide, starting in German-occupied areas, culminated in the Shoah (or the Holocaust): the killing of 90 per cent of Polish Jews and two-thirds of Europe’s Jews. The Nazis also planned implementing it in the Middle East and included Jews from there, as well as from the Tunisian island of Djerba and metropolitan France, in the transport to labour and death camps. Here I will compare both parts of the diary to offer some related insights.
After the invasion of Soviet Russia, Himmler initiated the mass shootings of Jewish civilians and got Adolf Hitler’s consent to begin increasing deportations in late 1941 from “Greater Germany” to six main death camps in occupied Poland and freight trains to camps such as Auschwitz, as well as begin mass gassing in March 1942 (Himmler gave the order to destroy gas chambers in late 1944, II, p. 946). Jews and other civilians perished, while those who did not were used for forced labour, along with prisoners of war, often Russians.
The second part of the diary exposes the evil crimes in the execution of the “Final Solution”, led by Himmler’s SS, police, and German and foreign auxiliary forces. It proves that Hitler directed the Shoah in connected war areas: in Europe, in the Middle East, and globally. In late 1941, he told this to Amin al-Husaini, being his top non-European aide. Hitler needed the support of locals from the Middle East via Iran (II, p. 513) to India. However, the Allies were successful in the North African front when a quarter of a million Axis troops gave up in May 1943 in Tunis (I, p. 617, II, p. 958, Hitler forbade any capitulation). Now, I will focus on the Middle East.
At the turn of 1942, with Hitler’s offensive coming to a halt in Russia, Himmler established units of the Waffen-SS (SS-controlled field armies) under the Austrian politician Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reichskommissar (commissar) of occupied Netherlands; the Indian nationalist Subhas Shandra Bose; the Croat leader Mile Budak; and the Iraqi ex-premier Ali al-Kailani and Jerusalem’s grand mufti al-Husaini. Most lived in Berlin, traveling also to Italy and occupied areas. Most “natural allies” wanted to liberate their lands from colonial powers with the help of the Axis. Beginning in 1941, al-Husaini and al-Kailani asked the Axis powers for a public declaration on Arabia. Al-Husaini proposed his own draft declaration in late February, which stated in clause 7 that Berlin and Rome would declare a Jewish home in Palestine illegal, recognize the Arab right to solve the question of their Jewish populations in the same manner as it has been resolved in the Axis states, and end Jewish immigration to Arab lands. In April 1942, al-Husaini and al-Kailani used that draft in the “fight against the joint enemy until victory” for national independence and the destruction of the Jewish home as agreed upon by the Axis in May. It was a quadrilateral, Palestine and Iraq oriented pact of genocide with Nazi and fascist leaders for the creation of “Jew-free” Arab lands or empires.
In June 1941, as al-Husaini and al-Kailani fled from Iraq to Berlin after murdering Jews by instigating the al-Farhud pogrom, the foreign office’s head of the Germany section, Martin Luther, wanted to let 2,000 Spanish Jews leave France for Morocco. In October, as the Arabs were proposing their 11-point draft, the SS disallowed Jews leave for Morocco and ordered an emigration ban for them (I, p. 228). A year later, Himmler said that the “Jewish Question” is no longer an issue for it is now “solved” by deportation: “to preserve the own kind, the extermination of the other is needed” (I, p. 621, II, pp. 953, 715).
On 30 November 1943, Himmler thanked the SS leader Odilo Globocnik for Action Reinhardt – named after the assassinated Reich Security Main Office’s chief Heydrich (1904-1942) – and the killing of 1.5 million Jews in occupied Poland (II, p. 553). They were also gassed in Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. In the entry for that day, Jobst Gösling of the SS asked to be the contact man for Bose, who had established his own Indian Legion (II, p. 954). Meeting some 7 times a month, with Hitler most often in 1943, Himmler reveals that Hitler steered all the major Shoah escalations (300 times in the compiled diary index compared to Luftwaffe [air force] chief Hermann Göring, with just 65). While the first part of the diary barely mentions non-European Nazi aides, the second part offers a transregional picture, as reflected in the index: Bose’s 2 times, Adolf Eichmann’s 6 times, Seyss-Inquart’s 15 times, and al-Husaini’s 17 times, compared to Gottlob Berger’s 300 times. The latter headed the SS Main Office in Berlin and recruited foreign volunteers for the Waffen-SS. He was a partner of al-Husaini, who mobilized a SS division in Croatia, his Arab Legion, and other Muslim units (II, pp. 249, 344).
How did the mufti make himself so important? Muslims served in four Eastern Legions; two SS divisions, for instance Khanjar; and in the Ostuerkische Waffenverband (East Turkic Armed Unit) (II, 920). In 1944, more such armed forces were planned (II, 718). He advised an imam training as well as Islamic rules and to mediate with Josef Stalin (II, p. 374, 908). In 1944, he sent paratroopers to Palestine and Iraq (II, p. 908), believing in a Nazi atomic bomb and spreading Islamism in Germany, Croatia, Italy, Russia, and the Middle East. He asked the Axis to recognize lands of “Greater Syria” and the Arab wish for a (Jew-free) Union of States. In 1943, he suggested raising up millions of Muslim soldiers in France (II, p. 354) and North Africa.
Al-Husaini worked with a dozen key Nazis and invested via Göring half a million US dollars in shares of eight German companies. On 4 July 1943, Himmler told him of having killed about 3 million Jews, as noted by al-Husaini in his memoirs. In March of the same year, Himmler had received a number of 2.5 million “dead Jews” and found it “too low” (II, p. 62). A few months later, Himmler told the mufti the higher number (II, p. 223). Both met yearly, for instance in May 1944 (II, p. 718), when the mufti met Berger to discuss SS troops and imams.
Secondary literature on the Middle East could have been more up to date. The mufti was born in 1897 (II, p. 197), and his mid-1943 meeting with Himmler needs context, which could be offered by current works on this era (II, p. 344). Himmler’s “anti-Balfour Cable” to al-Husaini was more broadly discussed (II, p. 522).
Uhl’s research group offers a detailed account on how Nazi totalitarians committed the Shoah and also worked with like-minded men under a fanatical dictator with racism and merciless warfare (II, pp. 714–715). They found similar ideologies in faraway regions. The book opens many avenues to study this interaction between Islamist domination and Nazi racist anti-Semitism. In using this very well-presented diary, scholars surely will find the work of Uhl’s team a most indispensable, deepgoing, and highly professional research tool to one of the darkest human eras – to escape evil and do better.
 "Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42," eds. Peter Witte, Michael Wildt, Martina Voigt, Dieter Pohl, Peter Klein, Christian Gerlach, Christoph Dieckmann and Andrej Angrick, Hamburg: Hans Christians Verlag, 1999