WATCH: Ken Livingstone says German Jews 'collaborated' with the Nazis before WW2
Ken Livingstone has accused German Jews of "collaboration" with the Nazis before the outbreak of the Second World War.
The former London mayor spoke out as he arrived at a Labour party disciplinary hearing over previous claims he made about Adolf Hitler being a Zionist.
Mr Livingstone has been suspended by the party since last April after he said the Nazi leader had supported the creation of a Jewish state "before he went mad and murdered six million Jews".
The two-day hearing at Church House in Westminster will decide whether or not he should be expelled.
But speaking to journalists outside the venue, the former Labour MP went even further in his claims, and insisted that his views were backed by leading historians.
He said: "(Hitler) didn’t just sign the deal, the SS set up training camps so that German Jews who were going to go there could be trained to cope with a very different sort of country when they got there.
"When the Zionist movement asked would the Nazi government stop a Jewish rabbi doing their sermons in Yiddish and make them do it in Hebrew they agreed to that. They passed a law saying only the Zionist flag and the Swastika were the only flags that could be flown in Germany. And then of course they started selling Mauser pistols to the underground Jewish army.
"So you had right up until the start of the Second World War real collaboration. And when in July 1937 many senior Nazis gathered at their foreign office saying we should stop sending Jews to Palestine because it could create a Jewish state, in the middle of that meeting a directive comes specifically from Hitler saying ‘no we will continue with this policy’. And everyone who studies history knows this."
Watch Mr Livingstone's full statement here:
Writing in the Morning Star today, Mr Livingstone said Labour members should be free to criticise Israel.
He said: "I have been charged with breaking the rules of the Labour party, because I stand up and defend supporters of Palestinian human rights when they are smeared by their opponents.
"Supporters of Israel’s policies, in particular, are calling on the Labour party to expel me. They want to silence my, and others’, criticisms of the Israeli government’s violence against the Palestinians."
Mr Livingstone added: "If this week’s hearing of Labour’s National Constitutional Committee is fair-minded, and not rigged, it will simply dismiss the charge against me. A witch-hunt of supporters of Palestine is a damaging diversion, which sabotages Labour building up its electoral support.
"The party needs to face outwards and promote its policy agenda that will make people better off. That, not expelling party members, is how to win the election of a Labour government."
Meanwhile, a ComRes poll for the Jewish News found that 29% of voters believe Mr Livingstone should be expelled by Labour, compared to 20% who do not 51% who do not know.