Netanyahu denies exonerating Hitler of Holocaust responsibility

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday backtracked on his claim that a Palestinian leader gave Hitler the idea to exterminate Jews after his comments sparked widespread controversy.

During a speech on Tuesday, the Israeli leader suggested Hitler was not planning to exterminate the Jews until he met Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, a Palestinian nationalist, in 1941.

“Hitler didn´t want to exterminate the Jews at the time. He wanted to expel the Jews,” Netanyahu told the World Zionist Congress.

“And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said: ´If you expel them, they´ll all come here.´ ´So what should I do with them?´ he asked. He said: ´Burn them.´”

The comments were widely criticised, with Palestinian leaders and the Israeli opposition accusing him of distorting history, while historians called them inaccurate.

On top of that, the controversy erupted just before Netanyahu left for a visit to Germany to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu said accusations that his comments exonerated Hitler were “absurd” but stood by his claim that the Muslim leader who sympathised with the Nazis had an influence.

“I had no intention of exonerating Hitler from his diabolical responsibility for the extermination of European Jews,” he said shortly before he boarded his flight to Germany.

“Hitler was responsible for the final solution of the extermination of six million. It was he who took the decision.”

“(But) it is equally absurd to ignore the role played by the mufti… who encouraged Hitler, Ribbentrop, Himmler and others to exterminate European Jewry.”