Nazi Influence on the Middle East During WWII
By: David Storobin
Global Politician | Wednesday, January 05, 2005
“Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: 'The Jews are yours.'”* * * * *
- Former Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini in his post-WWII memoirs. 
"The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and adviser of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of this plan... He was one of Eichmann's best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures."
- Adolf Eichmann's deputy Dieter Wisliceny (subsequently executed as a war criminal) in his Nuremburg Trials testimony. 
The end of World War I brought an end to the Ottoman colonization of Palestine. Towards the end of the war, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration supporting the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people . . . .” The original reaction of the Arabs was mixed. While many Arabs opposed the Zionists, Emir Faisal – who was the son of former Mecca ruler Sherif Hussein and later King of Iraq – signed in 1919 a declaration in support of the Balfour Declaration, even supporting all necessary measures “...to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil.” 
But peace between Arab and Jew would not last.
On April 4, 1920, Haj Amin al-Husseini organized thousands of Arabs to attack Jews in Jerusalem. Arab police either stayed away or joined the rioters. The pogrom continued on April 5. By the time order was restored by a Ze’ev Jabotinsky-led Jewish militia, 5 Jews were killed and 211 injured. At least two Jewish girls were raped. Al-Husseini was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, but after a few months of hiding in Transjordan (now Jordan) was pardoned by Herbert Samuel, a British Jew who served as the High Commissioner of Palestine. 
A year later, on May 1, 1921, al-Husseini organized another round of pogroms. On that day, Zionists clashed with Communists during the May Day parade. Communists were quickly dispersed, but Haj Amin al-Husseini made sure not to miss the opportunity and quickly summoned his forces. When fighting ended on May 6, at least 13 Jews were murdered. While the British colonial powers admitted that Arabs instigated the violence, they decided not to press charges against al-Husseini because they felt he was provoked by Zionists who demanded establishment of the Jewish state. 
The 1921 riots came shortly after al-Husseini was appointed Mufti of Jerusalem by the British – in violation of election results. 
The two primary Arab families in Jerusalem were the Husseinis and the Nashashibis. When Great Britain conquered Jerusalem, a member of the al-Husseini clan was mayor of Jerusalem, but was subsequently removed by the colonial government with a member of the Nashashibi family appointed in his place. In March 1921, the Mufti of Jerusalem – a Husseini – died. The High Commissioner of the colony considered it desirable to balance the Nashashibi mayor with a Husseini mufti, with Haj Amin al-Husseini being his preferred candidate for the position. 
The electoral college nominated three candidates for the position of the Mufti. Under the long-established law, the colonial power was to choose among the top three vote-getters. However, the preferred candidate of the Brits, Haj Amin al-Husseini, placed fourth, receiving only about 7% of the vote. To the local Islamic leaders (outside the Husseini clan), the young man’s lack of religious preparation and knowledge made him an unacceptable candidate to be the top religious leader in Jerusalem. All of the top three candidates were Nashashibi-sponsored, while the Husseini clan focused its energies on promoting Haj Amin. The British intervened and forced the most popular candidate, Sheikh Husam al-Din, to withdraw, thus pushing al-Husseini into third place. The young man without any religious training suddenly became the most powerful Islamic cleric in Jerusalem. 
A few months later, in December of 1921, the British administration established a Supreme Muslim Council with full control over the Waqf (religious trusts) and the Shariah (Muslim religious courts). Haj Amin al-Husseini was appointed President of the body. Within a year, the man who organized multiple massacres, became the leader of all the most important bodies in the colony: religious (as a Mufti), legal (Shariah) and financial (Waqf). A 1937 Royal Commission report noted al-Husseini had “no legal limitation to his power.” 
Controlling a spectacular sum of money and the right to appoint Palestinian Islamic preachers, al-Husseini built a “political machine” that brought the religious and political establishment under his domination. Through them, he was able to arouse religious fanaticism against Jews and the West. His preachers urged their flock to “go out and murder the Jewish infidel in the name of the holy Koran,” constantly declaring that “he who kills a Jew is assured of a place in the next world.” 
Mufti hated Jews for the same reasons as Hasan al-Banna in Egypt. Jews, especially the arriving Zionist immigrants, brought a modern, Western/European way of life, a direct opposite of what the fundamentalists wanted. Just as Banna, Husseini felt personally threatened by Western culture. “The Jews have changed the life of Palestine in such a way that it must inevitably lead to the destruction of our race . . . . The Jewish girls who run around in shorts demoralize our youth by their mere presence.” 
The year 1922 brought the worst possible news to al-Husseini. The League of Nations recognized the land west of the Jordan river as the “Jewish National Home.” The British White Paper of 1922, divided Palestine with 77% to the east of the Jordan river given to Arabs, while the 23% to the west left for the Jewish people. Shortly thereafter, the League of Nations confirmed the division in its mandate system, urging Great Britain, as the Mandatory power, to “facilitate Jewish immigration,” as well as “close settlement of Jews on the land.” The League of Nations even mandated that no “territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power,” thus rejecting any Arab claims to what has since become known as Israel, West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, the Arab people are never even mentioned in the Mandate. 
Worse yet, al-Husseini did not even get the right to govern eastern Palestine, by then known as Transjordan. When the Hashemi clan lost control of Mecca and the rest of the Arabian peninsula, the colonial powers decided that the Hashemites deserved a “consolation prize.”
Sherif Hussein’s two sons were thus appointed Kings. Faisal became the King of Iraq, while Abdullah the ruler of Transjordan. The Hashemi clan originally fled from the Arabian peninsula to Cyprus, but then settled in Transjordan, leading the fight against the British. Making Abdullah the King of Transjordan satisfied the Hashemites after the embarrassing loss Mecca. 
But as far as al-Husseini was concerned, it wasn’t bad enough that he didn’t get a state, but his worst enemies in the Arab world – the Hashemites – were now ruling two countries (Transjordan and Iraq), while Zionists had their goal legitimized by the League of Nations. The Kings of Iraq and Transjordan – despite seeing their father backstabbed by the English – were moderates, friendly to the West and accepting of the Jewish state in the Middle East. As the world was split into fascist and democratic camps in the 1930’s and 1940’s, al-Husseini and Hassan al-Banna found themselves on the opposite side of the Hashemites.
The Mufti, who supported establishment of Greater Syria in what is now Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza, decided to focus his efforts on taking over Palestine and Transjordan, while undermining the British and the Hashemites in Iraq. Years later, UK’s Colonial Secretary Ormsby-Gore would report to the House of Lords: “The Mufti . . . is playing his own dynastic game, and that game undoubtedly is to become not merely the sovereign of Palestine, not merely to be crowned or uncrowned King of Palestine, but first head of Palestine, then Palestine and Transjordan combined, and then the whole of Syria, and, of course, in that position to be regarded as the leader of the Sunni world . . . . He is a man of quite unlimited political ambition. He was a Turkish Staff Officer (during World War I) – and incidentally a Turk who knew him thought he was the blackest-hearted man in the Middle East.” 
Within weeks of Adolf Hitler’s ascendance to power, Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini contacted the German counsel-general in Palestine. With exception of funding anti-Semitic riots, Germans rejected the Arab’s overtures until 1937, when Adolf Eichmann and Herbert Hagen were sent to Palestine to establish a framework to provide Husseini with military and financial aid by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. 
By then, the Mufti had already proven his anti-Jewish credentials to the Germans by organizing a three-year long riots and massacres.
On April 19, 1936, a crowd of Arabs stumbled upon Jews in the town of Jaffa. Having been incited by Mufti-spread rumors that Zionists were killing Muslims, the crowd decided to kill three of the Jews they met. Six days later, the Arab Higher Committee was created, with al-Husseini presiding over the new body. The committee openly endorsed past violence and began organizing future disobedience. On May 5, the British colonial authorities warned al-Husseini against committing illegal acts, but did not appear particularly decisive. Within weeks, massive violence broke out. By October 1936, nearly 300 people were killed and another 1,100 wounded. 
Colonial forces arrested a few pawns and one major leader, but took no action against the Mufti. The New York Times reported on June 14, 1936 that al-Husseini had succeeded “in convincing experienced high British civil servants that he is working for the government’s interests [and that] it was in the interest of the government that he should also be president of the new Arab High Committee,” so that “Haj Amin el-Husseini enjoys the government’s complete confidence as its unofficial adviser on the Arab side of the situation . . . . The government believes that he and only he is in a position to appease the Moslem masses; therefore it gives him every support while at the same time playing into his hands.” 
Continuing its policy of siding with the Mufti, in June the Brits arrested scores of members of the Defense Party sponsored by the rival Nashashibi clan, despite lack of any evidence that the Nashashibis were involved in the massacres. Ninety percent of Arabs in the Sinai concentration camp belonged to the Defense Party, with another 10% coming from smaller political movements. None of the Husseini-backed people were sent to the concentration camp. 
The UK was not the only power helping the Mufti in 1936. The USSR-sponsored Communist Party of Palestine also did its part. After the 1929 massacres (including the slaughter of 68 Jews in Hebron), the Communist Party issued a statement that “revolutionary movement without pogroms [anti-Semitic riots] is impossible.” The Communists even considered the Mufti “too moderate” in his fight against Jews. 
In the run-up to the 1936-39, the Palestinian leader began coordinating organization of anti-Jewish violence. In November 1935, Communists declared that Zionists were killing Arab fellaheen, as part of the Mufti’s propaganda campaign to spark Arab rage against the Jews. On the eve of the first riots, Communists met al-Husseini to work out the final terms of their roles in the upcoming violence. Communist Party member Nimr Uda became the Intelligence chief for Mufti’s military units. Another Communist representative, Fuad Nasir, was named deputy to Abdul Qadir Husseini, commander of Arab fighters in southern West Bank. 
By 1937, Britain realized that the Mufti was sponsoring the violence not just against Jews, but against the English as well. Al-Husseini fled Jerusalem and settled in Lebanon. So glad were the British to see the Mufti leave that they did not even bother to ask the French powers governing Lebanon to extradite al-Husseini. Meanwhile, in an attempt to please the Arabs, UK’s Peel Commission violated the League of Nations Mandate and offered a proposal to divide the land designated as the “Jewish National Home” by the League of Nations Mandate of 1922 despite a specific mandate prohibition against such division. Instead, under the Peel Commission proposal of 1937, only a small part of the land would become the Jewish state. A year later, the Peel Commission issued another proposal, with even less land offered to Jews. Some time later, the British issued the White Paper of 1939 rejecting the idea of a Jewish National Home and severely restricting Jewish immigration. It was hoped for in London that such concessions to Arab nationalists would appease al-Husseini and his supporters. Yet, only two years after the White Paper, the Mufti would come back to strike the British again. 
* * * * *
In 1940, it looked as if Hitler’s armada was unstoppable. Having already conquered France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, Hitler and his friends in Italy, Spain and occupied countries were clearly the rulers of continental Europe. Hitler had also allied himself with the USSR under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 which divided Eastern Europe by giving the Baltic States and parts of Poland and Romania (as well as Finland, which Joseph Stalin couldn’t occupy) to the USSR, while letting the Germans take over western Poland, Romania and other European nations. Meanwhile, the Japanese were the dominant force of Asia, seemingly set to impose their control on that continent. Britain’s Winston Churchill stood virtually alone against the Fascist onslaught, with the United States mired in radical isolationism, refusing to take part in what many Americans saw as a European war.
The one region where the British still had significant influence was the Middle East. Hitler set out to change that. Husseini wanted to get rid of the Hashemites. Both men wanted to get rid of the Jews and the Brits. It was a marriage made in heaven.
Despite a powerful Navy, the United Kingdom its army was modest in size and spread thin throughout the Empire. Middle East and especially Iraq seemed like the next pawn to fall to the Third Reich.
In 1940, King Ghazi (son of King Faisal I) died, leaving only his four-year-old son to govern. Emir Abdul-Illah, the regent for the young Iraqi King, felt the need to bring Rashid Ali al-Kaylani into the government as the Prime Minister, despite the latter’s support for Nazi Germany and links with al-Husseini. The new head of state immediately shifted the policies of Iraq in favor of Nazi Germany, guaranteeing supply of natural resources to Hitler, as well as refusing to cut its tied with Italy. The former Mufti of Jerusalem and his surrogates frequently acted as the government’s representatives with foreigners. Kaylani also asked from Hitler the right to “deal with Jews” in Arab states – a request that was granted. 
Britain responded with severe economic sanctions which, coupled with UK’s defeat of German forces in North Africa and pressure from the Iraqi royal family, brought down the pro-German government on January 31, 1941. Kaylani and other pro-Axis Iraqi, under the influence from al-Husseini, conspired to murder the Abdul-Illah. Two months after the Kaylani left government, the regent of Iraq fled the country and the old Prime Minister was back in power. 
As one of its first acts, the new administration sent its artillery to attack UK’s Royal Air Force in Habaniyya, causing the Brits to respond by invading Basra. The hoped-for support from Nazi Germany never came and Kaylani fled to Saudi Arabia. 
Haj Amin al-Husseini, who issued a fatwa (Islamic religious ruling) calling on all Muslims to help pro-Axis government in Iraq, became one of England’s most wanted men. In May 1941, a group of Jewish fighters, including David Raziel, the leader of right-wing Irgun (predecessor of today’s Likud Party in Israel), set out for Iraq to assassinate the former Mufti on a mission sponsored by the Churchill administration. The mission, however, ended prematurely when Raziel was killed by a German plane. Realizing the threat to his life, al-Husseini fled to Europe dressed as a woman. 
He was officially received by Adolf Hitler on November 28, 1941, who agreed to establish a bureau for al-Husseini which was used to spread propaganda on behalf of Nazi Germany, organize spy rings in Europe and the Middle East, and most importantly, establish Muslim Nazi SS divisions and Wehrmacht units in Bosnia, the Balkans, North Africa and Nazi-occupied parts of the Soviet Union. After the meeting, the Mufti was also named SS Gruppenfuehrer by Heinrich Himmler and referred to as the “Fuhrer of the Arab World” by Adolf Hitler himself. 
The largest Muslim Nazi SS unit was the 13th division known as “Hanjar.” Husseini also organized smaller, less efficient units, including the 21st Waffen SS division known Skanderbeg (made up predominantly of Croatians) and the 23rd Waffen SS division known as Kama and made up mostly of Albanian Muslims. Thus, the Hitler’s Mufti organized or helped to organize three out of 27 Waffen SS divisions formed before 1945 (eleven other SS divisions were formed in 1945, but most of these were of questionable caliber and accepted soldiers of questionable skill). According to the Encyclopedia of Holocaust, Husseini “organized in record time” Croatian units that went on to massacre hundreds of thousands of Serbian Orthodox Christians. Jacenovac, the third largest death camp where over 200,000 people met their death, was run by Croatian Ante Pavelic with the aid of al-Husseini. In all, at least 800,000 Yugoslavian civilians were murdered by pro-Axis regimes of Utasche and Pavelic, with significant aid from the units established by the “Fuhrer of the Arab World.”  Tens of thousands of Jewish people outside Yugoslavia also perished when the Mufti persuaded not to trade them for German POW’s held by the Allies.
Al-Husseini opened a North African Bureau in Germany, whose goal was to recruit 500,000 Arab soldiers from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. The plan failed when the German forces were forced to withdraw from much of North Africa after a successful British operation. 
However, an Arab Legion was founded and fought under the German flag. The Arab soldiers had hoped to fight in the Middle East, but were instead sent to the Russian front, where they were completely wiped out while fighting in the Caucasus region. Some time later, in response to the British decision to create a Jewish Brigade made up of some of the 26,000 Palestinian Jews who had fought under the United Kingdom’s flag, the Mufti convinced the Germans to create an Arab Brigade. The unit, however, either did not fight or was not very efficient because very little is known about it. 
The Mufti also made a particularly strong effort to recruit Soviet Muslims. “It was largely due to Haj Amin’s propaganda that on the arrival of German armies in the northern Caucasus in 1942, five indigene tribes – the Chechens, the Ingushes, the Balkars, the Karachais, and the Kabardines – welcomed them with bread and salt,” wrote Joseph Schechtman in “The Mufti and the Fuhrer.”  Stalin’s response was deadly. Caucasian Muslims, including nearly all Chechens and Ingush, were exiled from their land, with up to a third dying as a result of inhumane treatment by Soviet authorities.
The Mufti was similarly instrumental in the recruitment of the Azerbaijani battalion, which “proved their valor, were included in German Storm Troops and decorated by the German Army,” according to a November 1943 broadcast by DNB. The Mufti’s representatives in Central Asia recruited some Muslim fighters for Nazi Germany there as well, despite the widespread support of the majority of Central Asian Muslims for the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust. 
The Mufti’s hatred of the West was matched only by his hate of the Jews. It is not a coincidence that Germany suddenly abandoned the policy of expelling Jews and adopted far harsher methods a short time after the Mufti arrived in Germany. When Haj Amin came to Germany again, the Nazis decided to execute the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem – the Holocaust. “The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry,” reported Eichmann’s deputy, Dieter Wisliceny. “[He had] played a role in the decision to exterminate the European Jews. The importance of this role must not be disregarded . . . . The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry.”  We do not know if al-Husseini played a major role in shaping the Final Solution. “There is, however, abundant first-hand evidnece of the part the Mufti played in making foolproof the ban on emigration (of Jews out of Germany),” wrote Joseph Schechtman. 
When the war ended, al-Husseini returned to the Middle East as a hero. On October 1, 1948, he was proclaimed the President of the government of All-Palestine. The government was, however, fictional because it did not control any land and was recognized by only a handful of Arab nations. In 1959, the “government” was disbanded by its sponsor, Egypt. 
Support for Nazism was not limited to the former Mufti. "We admired the Nazis. We were immersed in reading Nazi literature and books . . . . We were the first who thought of a translation of Mein Kampf. Anyone who lived in Damascus at that time was witness to the Arab inclination toward Nazism," recalled Sami al-Joundi, one of the founders of Syria’s ruling Ba'ath Party.  Indeed, a popular WWII song was heard in the Middle East featuring words: Bissama Allah, oria alard Hitler – in heaven Allah, on earth Hitler. Picking up the theme of the book, posters were put up in Arab markets and elsewhere proclaiming, “In heaven Allah is thy ruler; on earth Adolph Hitler.” John Gunther of Inside Asia reported: “The greatest contemporary Arab hero is probably Hitler.” 
In October 1933, pro-Axis Young Egypt Party was founded. Styling itself of its German ideal, the new party built a storm-trooper unit, marching with torches under the slogan “One folk, One party, One Leader.” Among the members of the violently anti-Semitic party was the young Gamal Abdel Nasser.  Nasser’s brother, Nassiri, was the translator of Hitler’s Mein Kampf into Arabic, describing the Fascist despot in glowing terms. After the “Free Officers” came to power in the 1950’s, President Nasser used Joachim Daumling, the former Gestapo chief in Dusseldorf, to build the Egyptian secret service. Gestapo chief of Warsaw organized the Egyptian security police. 
Another future Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, was imprisoned during World War II for cooperating with Adolf Hitler’s regime. Towards the end of World War II, Sadat wrote to the Fuhrer: “My dear Hitler, I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. Even if you appear to have been defeated, in reality you are the victor. You succeeded in creating dissensions between Churchill, the old man, and his allies, the Sons of Satan. Germany will win because her existence is necessary to preserve the world balance. Germany will be reborn in spite of the Western and Eastern powers. There will be no peace unless Germany once again becomes what she was.” 
A few years prior to writing this letter, Anwar Sadat contacted Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Hassan al-Banna, an ardent supporter of Nazi Germany. The meeting put Sadat in contact with Abd al-Munim Adb al-Rauf, who went on to become a leading member of the Free Officers and a chief propagandist and protagonist of the Brotherhood.  Both men tried to join the pro-Axis fighters in Iraq, but failed. Sadat also met with Dr. Ibrahim Hasan, the second deputy of Ikhwan. The two gentlemen agreed that “salvation of the country could be assured only by a coup at the hands of the military” because of the King’s support for the Allies.  On February 24, 1945, the Prime Minister of Egypt was assassinated by a member of the National Party as he was reading the declaration of war against Germany.  The Brotherhood and the military were not involved in the murder, but clearly did not object to the act. The assassination would become a sign of the things to come in the decades after the World War.
1. Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Cited online on June 22, 2004 at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haj_Amin_Al-Husseini
3. EretzYisroel Web Site. Cited on June 29, 2004 at http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~samuel/feisal2.html
4. Joseph Schechtman, "The Mufti and the Fuehrer". p. 19-20
5. Ibid., 28-29
6. Ibid., 21-23
9. Ibid., 24
10. Ibid., 26
11. Ibid. 41
12. United Nations Web Site. League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. Cited online on July 14, 2004 at: http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html
13. Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Cited online on July 2, 2004 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherif_Hussein_bin_Ali
14. Schechtman, 70
15. Schechtman, 44-46
18. Ibid., 46
19. Ibid., 38-39
20. Ibid., 46
22. Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Cited online on June 22, 2004 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashid_Ali_al-Kaylani
25. Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Cited online on June 22, 2004 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haj_Amin_Al-Husseini
27. Sean Mac Mathuna, Flame Magazine, "The Role of the SS Handschar division in Yugoslavia's Holocaust". Cited online on June 24, 2004 at: http://www.fantompowa.net/Flame/yugoslavia_collaboration.htm
28. Schechtman, 131
29. Schechtman, 135-137
30. Schechtman, 141
31. Schechtman, 141-42
32. Schechtman, 159-60
33. Schechtman, 153
34. Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Cited online on June 22, 2004 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haj_Amin_Al-Husseini
35. Christian Action for Israel Web Site. "The Arab/Muslim Nazi Connection". Cited online on June 25, 2004 at http://www.cdn-friends-icej.ca/antiholo/arabnazi.html
36. Schechtman, 84-85
37. Christian Action for Israel Web Site. "The Arab/Muslim Nazi Connection". Cited online on June 25, 2004 at http://www.cdn-friends-icej.ca/antiholo/arabnazi.html
38. Sean Mac Mathuna, Flame Magazine, "Postwar Arab links to the ODESSA network". Cited online on June 24, 2004 at: http://www.fantompowa.net/Flame/nazis_postwar_egypt.htm
39. Sadat's letter, Al Musawwar, No. 1510, September 18,1953, cited in D.F. Green, ed., Arab Theologians on Jews and Israel (Geneva, 1976 ed.), p. 87. Cited on August 3, 2004 on the Eretz Yisroel Web site at: http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/missed.html 28. Mitchell, 96-97
40. Mitchell, 25
41. Mitchell, 33
David Storobin, Esq. is a New York lawyer who received Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Rutgers University School of Law. His Master's Thesis (M.A. - Comparative Politics) deals with Extremist Movements in the Middle East and the historical causes for the rise of fundamentalism. Mr. Storobin's book "The Root Cause: The Rise of Fundamentalist Islam and its Threat to the World" will be published in 2005.
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