Did Muslims work with the Nazis

The Nazis and the Islamic World: Hitler greeted me warmly

Was there an affinity between Nazi ideology and Islam? David Motadel has presented a comprehensive account of the Nazi regime's Islamic policy.

Mufti and supporters of the Nazis: Haj Amin al-Husseini Photo: dpa

One of the sharpest weapons used by defenders of Israeli settlement policy is the reference to the extremely close ties between the Mufti of Jerusalem, the Palestinian Arab Haj Amin al-Husseini - he blessed Muslim SS divisions - and Adolf Hitler. In addition, well-read critics like to point out that the Islamic world gave massive support to National Socialist Germany during World War II.

The panoramic and differentiated study “For Prophet and Guide. The Islamic World and the Third Reich ”by the historian David Motadel is the new standard work on the subject. It shows that things are not that simple.

In 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini was received by Hitler in Berlin, which he described in his memoirs: "Hitler greeted me warmly with a friendly expression, expressive eyes and clear joy." Of course, the connections between the Arab world and Germany extended back into time of the First World War, when a German diplomat, Max von Oppenheim - a German Lawrence of Arabia, as it were - did everything possible to draw the Muslims to the side of the Central Powers.

The archaeologist and orientalist planned a jihad for the Islamic world on Germany's side; decades later, during the Second World War, his thoughts inspired both the Wehrmacht and the SS to make Muslims on all fronts - from North Africa in the southwest to the Caucasus and Crimea in the east - Germany's allies close.

In addition, both Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler considered Islam, in contrast to the Catholic Church, to be a heroic religion, which they sharply differentiated from belonging to an allegedly Semitic race. In Zeesen, near Berlin, the National Socialists established a station that continuously, until the end of the war, called on the Muslim world in an anti-Semitic way to wage a holy war against the Anglo-Saxons and the Soviet Union.

Mobilization of Muslims by the SS

However, contrary to what is sometimes claimed, the founder of the Islamic Republic, who was hostile to Jews in every respect - he lived in Qom during the war - did not become an enemy of Jews through Radio Zeesen; no, of all people Khomeini castigated the "Hitler ideology as the most poisonous, most nefarious product of the human mind".

In addition, and this is also often overlooked, many Muslims from North Africa and the wider Middle East contributed to the Allied war success as soldiers in the Allied armies. Even more: The then ruler of Morocco, Sultan Mohammed V, saved the country's Jews from the persecution planned by the Vichy government.

Often overlooked: many Muslims contributed to the Allied war success

The same was true for the Balkans: Jews and Roma were in some cases enabled there to convert to Islam, but this in no way prevented other Muslim authorities from establishing that the change of faith did not lead to a change in race.

A decisive role in the mobilization of Muslims by the SS was played by a man named Wilhelm Hint Ersatz, an officer from Brandenburg who had already converted to Islam during the First World War, since then has called himself Harun-el-Raschid Bey and has been the commander of Himmler's East Turkish SS Corps was appointed.

Friend of the Germans

It seems like a joke that the Wehrmacht here and the SS there competed for Muslim soldiers. Ernst Jünger made a mocking and racist note in his diary in 1944: “In the metro, Parisians are now marveling at Mongols in German uniforms. Yellow ant trunks are absorbed. "

It was also unknown until now how strongly the early Federal Republic was still shaped by politicians who promoted or later boasted the alliance of National Socialism and Islam. In 1956, for example, the Turkologist Gerhard von Mende praised the division imam of the East Muslim SS division, Namangani, as a “friend of the Germans”; It is only now through Motadel's study that it becomes known that the former National Socialist and “East researcher” Theodor Oberländer - Federal Minister of Expellees from 1953 to 1960 - was the commander of a Muslim section of the armed forces during the last years of the war.

David Motadel: “For prophets and leaders. The Islamic World and the Third Reich ”. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2017, 568 pages, 30 euros.

According to a protocol from his ministry from the spring of 1957, the former SS Imam Namangani was given the task of “gathering Muslim homeless foreigners [...] around, in order to then eliminate the initially unpleasant American influence that can be harmful to the Federal Republic”.

Motadel's study is an indispensable tool for anyone who is interested in relations with the Islamic world and does not want to be fooled by superficial historical continuities. He has viewed sources that are difficult to access and in different languages.

It might, however, make sense to incorporate the research results of the Lebanese scientist Gilbert Achcar into the next edition, who was able to show in his study “The Arabs and the Holocaust”, published in German in 2012, that quite a few Arab-Islamic journalists and intellectuals are in Early on, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon clearly criticized the anti-Semitism of the National Socialists and their Arab allies.