Nazi Germany planned to expand the extermination of Jews beyond the borders of Europe and into British-controlled Palestine during World War Two, two German historians say.
In 1942, the Nazis created a special "Einsatzgruppe", a mobile SS death squad, which was to carry out the mass slaughter of Jews in Palestine similar to the way they operated in eastern Europe, the historians argue in a new study.
The director of the Nazi research centre in Ludwigsburg, Klaus-Michael Mallman, and Berlin historian Martin Cueppers say an Einsatzgruppe was all set to go to Palestine and begin killing the roughly half a million Jews that had fled Europe to escape Nazi death camps like Auschwitz and Birkenau.
In the study, published last month, they say "Einsatzgruppe Egypt" was standing by in Athens and was ready to disembark for Palestine in the summer of 1942, attached to the "Afrika Korps" led by the famed desert commander General Erwin Rommel.
The Middle East death squad, similar to those operating throughout eastern Europe during the war, was to be led by SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Walther Rauff, the historians say.
'Holocaust in Palestine planned'
"The central plan for the group was the realisation of the Holocaust in Palestine," the authors wrote in their study that appears in a book entitled "Germans, Jews, Genocide: The Holocaust as History and the Present."
But since Germany never conquered British-controlled Palestine, plans for bringing the Holocaust to what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories never came to fruition.
Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in Europe. According to their own records, the Einsatzgruppen killed over one million people, most of them civilians.
In the battle of El Alamein, Egypt, British General Bernard Montgomery turned the tide of the war in north Africa by routing Rommel's "Afrika Korps" and ending his African campaign.
As they did in eastern Europe, the plan was for the 24 members involved in the death squad to enlist Palestinian collaborators so that the "mass murder would continue under German leadership without interruption."
"Einsatzgruppe Egypt" never made it out of Greece.
"The history of the Middle East would have been completely different and a Jewish state could never have been established if the Germans and Arabs had joined forces," the historians conclude.
Regarding the question why this is emerging 61 years after the end of World War Two, Mallmann and Cueppers said they simply unearthed something other historians had not found yet.