Well, what was the world expecting to find? Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”? Or Dr. Seuss’ “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose”? What else would Hamas killers be reading for inspiration than that book “for antisemites of all ages,” Adolf Hitler’s riveting and raving tale, Mein Kampf?
Let’s not forget that Hitler and the Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians go way back. It was the leader of the Palestinian Arabs, Hajj Amin al Husseini, who met with Hitler in 1941 and told him how much he admired Nazi Germany for its war against the Jews, and offered to help the Nazi war effort. He, in fact, did so in two ways. First, he broadcast to Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East, urging them to rise up against their British and French colonial masters, and to support Germany in its titanic struggle with “the British, the Communists, and the Jews.” Second, Hajj Amin al Husseini was responsible for raising a division of Bosnian Muslims (with a few Croatians in the mix), known as the 13th Mountain Division of the S.S. Hajj Amin al Husseini spent the war years in Germany, where both Himmler and Eichmann befriended him. It is said that one of these friends took him to Auschwitz for a sightseeing tour; Amin al Husseini was delighted with what he saw, suitably impressed with German efficiency in carrying out the Final Solution.
After World War II, the Nazi-Arab connection continued. Many Nazi war criminals fled to Egypt and Syria. There was Johannes von Leer, a member of the Waffen SS, who, even in those circles, stood out as a fanatical antisemite. He was one of the most important ideologues of the Third Reich, serving as a high-ranking propaganda ministry official. After the war, he spent five years in Italy, then a few years in Argentina, before finally settling for good in Egypt, where he converted to Islam, changing his name to Omar Amin, and served for two decades in the Egyptian Information Department, in spreading anti-Israel propaganda. He was also an advisor to Gamal Abdel Nasser. And he became friendly with Hajj Amin al Husseini, who had managed to escape being tried by the Allies as a war criminal by fleeing to Egypt.
Another Nazi war criminal given refuge in Nasser’s Egypt was Aribert Heim, known as “Dr. Death” for the gruesome, deadly experiments he carried out on Jewish prisoners. Less well known than Dr. Mengele, he managed to flee from Germany after the war, and eventually, in the early 1960s, settled in Cairo, where he lived a quiet life. Many Nazis in Egypt ended up being involved in anti-Israel propaganda, or helped in the production of new weapons; it is not known what tasks Heim may have performed for the Egyptian government. Like so many Nazi war criminals living in Arab lands, he converted to Islam, trading one antisemitic fanaticism for another.
Heim bought sweets for friends from a famed confectionery, and he was known for playing ping-pong and taking long walks for exercise, said Egyptians who knew him. No doubt he was regarded as a “sweet old man.” After all, besides buying sweets for friends, he hated Jews, and he had converted to Islam. What more could any Egyptian ask of him?
The only hint of his past — besides a constant refusal to be photographed — was the personal “research” that he wrote, purporting to prove that the Jews of Israel are not true Semites, according to the son of Heim’s Egyptian dentist, who saw the paper. Heim argued, as other antisemites have subsequently done, that those people who claimed to be descendants of the Jews who once occupied what became the modern state of Israel were not Jews at all, but descendants of the tribe of Khazars from Central Asia, and thus had no legitimate claim to the land they now inhabited.
Another Nazi war criminal who ended up in Egypt after the war was Colonel Leopold Gleim, an SS Startenführer in Warsaw. He was for a time head of the Gestapo’s Department for Jewish Affairs in Poland. After the war, he went to Egypt, converted to Islam, taking the name of Ali al-Nahar, and served with the Egyptian state security services, teaching them the methods of interrogation and torture used by the Gestapo.
There were hundreds of other Nazi war criminals, not quite at the level of Johannes van Leer, Leopold Gleim, and Aribert Heim, who found refuge, and government employment, in Egypt after the war. More on those Nazis who ended up quite happily in Egypt, where they found employment in the propaganda ministry or in the security services, can be found here.
The notorious Doctor Hans Eisele of the concentration camp at Buchenwald fled to Cairo, where he lived openly under his real name. German courts asked for his extradition , but Cairo refused. Dr. Eisele, who had committed terrible crimes in Buchenwald, continued his work as a doctor in Cairo until his death.
One of the chief aides of Adolf Eichmann was Alois Brunner. Eichmann had sent him to Czechoslovakia and Greece to help impose the Final Solution in those countries. For years he lived in Syria and Egypt. He was wanted by Austria, the USSR and Hungary. He first found refuge in Cairo, working for its security services, and then moved to Syria, where he worked with the secret police. Franz Abromeit, another aide of Adolf Eichmann in Hungary and Theresienstadt, accused of murder, lived contentedly in Cairo for many years. The Arabs understandably regarded him as their friend. Hans Appier worked in the Goebbels Ministry. After the war he fled to Spain. From 1956 on he lived in Cairo. He became a Moslem, assumed the name of Salah Chaffer, and worked in Egypt’s Propaganda Ministry. The former Gestapo man, Franz Bartel, once wanted by Poland, worked from 1954 until his death for the Jewish Section in Egypt’s Propaganda Ministry. He is believed to have converted to Islam. He was known as El Hussein. Former SS-Standartenführer Baumann, who took part in the liquidation of the Ghetto in Warsaw, lived for decades in Egypt. He worked first for the Egyptian War Ministry. Later he became an instructor for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Hans Becher worked in the Jewish Section of the Gestapo in Vienna. In 1950 he moved to Alexandria and worked in the Egyptian police until his death.
Former Sturmbannführer Bernhard Bender was a member of the Gestapo in Warsaw. After the war he became an adviser to the political section of the police in Cairo where he went by the name of Ben Salem. Bender helped Dr. Hans Eisele to open his practice in Egypt. Former SS-Officer Werner Birgel came from East Germany to Egypt. He became known as El Gamin — a possible convert to Islam — and worked in the Egyptian Propaganda Ministry. SS -Untersturmführer Wilhelm Bockler participated in the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. He lived in Egypt from 1949 on and worked in the Israel Department of the Egyptian Information Service. He, like most of the others who fled to Egypt, was on the Nazi-criminal wanted list of many East European countries. Cairo Propaganda Aide SS-Sturmbannfüuhrer Bollmann was sought by the Prague government as a war criminal. In 1948 he moved to Cairo and worked as an adviser to Egypt s Propaganda Ministry. Former SS-Untersturmführer Wilhelm Borner became a Moslem and called himself Ben Kashir. He worked in the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior and then transferred his skills to the Palestinian Liberation Army. Franz Buensche learned his job with Goebbels and Streicher. He moved to Alexandria in1949 where he wrote anti-Israel propaganda booklets for the Egyptian government. Former SS-Obersturmführer Erich Bunzel, who worked in Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry, after the war moved to Cairo, where he worked in the Israel section of Egypt’s Propaganda Ministry. Former SS Standartenführer Erwin Fleiss, responsible for many crimes against Jews in Austria, lived in Port Said as an advisor to Egypt’s police and called himself Ahmed Sadat. He is believed to have converted to Islam. SS-General Leopold Gleim, wanted for crimes he committed in Poland, lived in Cairo and worked for the Egyptian Secret Service. He too converted to Islam and took the name Ali el Macher. Another Nazi resident of Egypt was El Hadj, alias Louis Heiden, who translated Hitler’s Mein Kampf into Arabic. The Israel army found copies of this translation in the Sinai Desert during the Six-Day War, just as it found a copy in a Hamas outpost in Gaza. The former Hitler-Youth leader, Karl Luder, participated in crimes against the Jews in Poland. For years he worked for Egypt’s War Ministry. The former Gestapo-chief of Katowice, SS-General Dr. Rudolf Mildner, lived for years in Egypt, working for the security services.
These are just a handful of the many Nazi war criminals who lived in Egypt, many of them working for the security services. Syria also provided a haven for Nazis. The most famous was Alois Brunner, who was Adolf Eichmann’s right-hand man in implementing the Final Solution. He arrived In Syria in the 1950s, was granted asylum, a generous salary, and protection by the ruling Ba’ath Party in exchange for his advice on effective torture and interrogation techniques used by the Germans in the World War II. He died in 2001.
Fritz Stangl, who ran the Treblinka death camp, after the war fled to Syria, where he lived for a few years, quite comfortably, before moving to Brazil, where there was also a thriving community of Nazi war criminals, including Dr. Mengele. The former Nazi minister to East European countries during the war, Franz Rademacher, responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews, lived in Syria under his real name. Those are just three of the Nazi war criminals who after the war found refuge in Syria; there are so many more. And many of them, both in Egypt and Syria, converted to Islam, another fanatical faith.
Many Arabs, beginning with Hajj Amin el Husseini, looked sympathetically on the Nazi war criminals who were, after all, engaged in the same fight as they against “international Jewry.” And that is why so many of those war criminals found refuge, employment, and respect, in Egypt and Syria. No one should be surprised that Hamas operatives in Gaza have been reading Mein Kampf. It would be surprising if they were not.