ArticlePDF Available

Historiographical Perspectives of the Third Reich: Nazi Policies towards the Arab World and European Muslims



This historiographical essay examines major works on the interaction of Nazi Germany and the Arab World in general and the European Muslims in particular. The essay argues that despite the claims of revisionist studies that emerged after 9/11 terrorists attacks, the Nazi influence among the Arab and European Muslims was not deep enough to produce sufficient Muslim and Arab support for the Nazi cause.
An Interdisciplinary Journal
Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.16-30, Fall 2017
Historiographical Perspectives of the Third Reich:
Nazi Policies towards the Arab World and European Muslims
Jesus Montemayor
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
This historiographical essay examines major works on the interaction of Nazi Germany and the Arab World
in general and the European Muslims in particular. The essay argues that despite the claims of revisionist
studies that emerged after 9/11 terrorists attacks, the Nazi influence among the Arab and European Muslims
was not deep enough to produce sufficient Muslim and Arab support for the Nazi cause.
Key Words: Third Reich, Nazi, Arab World, Islam, Middle East, Europe, Muslims, Historiography
When assessing the historiography of the Third Reich’s efforts to garner allies in the Arab World and
in southeastern Europe, readers may find minimal publications on the topic. In fact, since the end of World
War II (WWII), only a limited number of scholars paid attention to this subject. However, after the
September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, there was a resurgence in the historiography inquiring about what
influenced reactionary movements, such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Taliban and Hamas to commit such hostile
acts against the Western World. This reawakening within the historiography has led some historians to
reexamine Nazi Germanys Arab and Middle Eastern interactions and policies concerning the Islamic faith
during WWII. The contemporary scholarship, in particular, has generated an interest in how the Third Reich
appealed Islam to rally Muslims against Axis enemies and attempted to equate Nazism with the core
principles of Islam. Though the Third Reich “presented themselves as friends to Muslims and defenders of
the faith,” Nazi Germany ultimately failed to garner enough Arab and Muslim support to turn the tide of
the war.
This historiographical study examines the scholarship on the Third Reich’s foreign policies in the Arab
and Muslim world. The essay analyzes historical arguments, scholarly disagreements, and primary and
secondary sources, along with the development of the historiography on the subject from its conception in
the 1950s to the present. The selected texts provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the available
scholarship, while at the same time, providing insight on how historians perceived the Third Reich’s efforts
to obtain political and military support in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans and the Caucasus
regions. The authors covered generally agree that the Nazis were unable to garner Arab and Muslim support
during the later stages of the war; yet a common dilemma found within the historiography concerns the lack
of available resources to reinforce historical claims. The sources used in the appraisals are, without a doubt,
David Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), 1.
the focal point of the historiographical analysis. In addition to the issues discovered, some authors neglected
the social histories of Arabs and Muslims within the Nazi occupied regions. This neglect of social histories
was detrimental to the historiography since the earlier works did not present first-hand accounts on the
occupied population. Historians who adhere to the Annales school of thought, however, have analyzed the
historical memory of Arabs and Muslims under German occupation. As a result, the new historiographical
contributions by scholars after 9/11 has generated new insights and inquiries concerning Germany’s
interactions with Arabs and Muslims. The scholarship presented has argued that the Nazi efforts to diffuse
their influence in the Middle East was moderately successful before 1941 but several factors turned the
trend backward. Economic and military limitations of Germany, its racist ideology, and Adolf Hitler’s
negligence towards the Middle East and North Africa, and German ignorance of Islam, along with the
Haavara or the Transfer agreement, which strengthened the Zionist position over Palestine, and the
implementation of Operation Barbarossa ultimately deterred Arabs and Muslims from supporting the Third
The historical discussions based on the war in Southwestern Asia first developed in 1952. George Kirk,
a former Research Professor of International History at the University of London, provides a survey of
international affairs primarily focusing on the Middle East during the war years from 1939 to 1946. His
work not only focuses on the economic history and military campaigns of multiple countries, but also
discusses the political motives of Arab and Islamic movements in North Africa and the Middle East.
analysis of Zionism, Arab nationalism, and Western European imperialism, and economic stagnation,
provides readers with a foundation to understand Arab nationalist movements and Arabs opposition to
Western European powers. Additionally, he sheds light on how the Nazis diffused their influence within
the region; yet the dilemma with Kirk’s assessment is his lack of focus and oversimplification of Germany’s
influence within the Middle East. In other words, he does not thoroughly examine Nazi ideological
influence in the region, the effectiveness of propaganda, and how the Nazis attempted to use Islam to garner
Axis support. Kirk’s traditional top-down approach negates social histories of Arabs and Muslims affected
by the war. His attempt to shed light on Nazi influence is simply a survey of the region during the war, and
does not particularly concentrate on the Third Reich’s ideological investment. Furthermore, reviewers of
Kirks book criticized his lack of effort to examine the broader context of the Middle Eastern experience
during WWII. For example, Roderic Davison stated that Kirk “attempts no thorough examination of the
spiritual crisis of the Middle East peoples, nor does he pull together the total impact of the war on thought
and society, which suggests that the text provides a simplified summary of the Middle East and neglects
the social histories of Arabs and Muslims altogether.
The limited availability of primary resources at the
time created a fundamental problem with Kirk’s appraisal and, unfortunately, limited the scholarship about
the Nazis in the Middle East. Kirks book is significant to an extent since he not only produces further
inquiries about the wars impact on Southwestern Asia, but he at least provides a foundation for future
historians work.
Lukasz Hirszowicz, The Third Reich and the Arab East (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966), 309, 311, 315,
317. See also Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, 4-5, 321-322; Francis Nicosia, Nazi Germany and the Arab
World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 278.
George E. Kirk, The Middle East in the War 1939-1946: Survey of International Affairs (London: Oxford University
Press, 1953), 3-4.
Roderic H. Davison, “The Middle East in the War by George Kirk” The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 26, No. 4
(December 1954), 391.
Lukasz Hirszowicz was the first notable historian who pioneered a concentrated study based on Nazi
Germany’s policies towards the Middle East and North Africa.
In his appraisal, The Third Reich and the
Arab East, Hirszowicz focuses on why Nazi opportunism in Southwestern Asia and North Africa failed to
create a substantial collaboration with Arabs and Muslims. Hirszowicz clarifies why Germany was
unsuccessful in garnering support; Germany was reluctant to intervene in North Africa in the late 1930s
because they did not want to interfere in Italy’s sphere of influence. Although there was a rising influence
of Fascist organizations sympathized with Nazi ideals, especially the Misr el-Fatat (Green Shirts) in Egypt,
the Germans “did not pay much attention to Arab aspirations because Germany was focusing on gaining
territory in Europe.
Hirszowicz stated the region was of “secondary importance” to the Nazis, which
demonstrates the region itself was of little importance to Hitler, until at least the Iraqi revolt on April 1,
1941, when Germany provided arms and funding to Arab nationalist Rashid Ali-al Kaylani’s coup against
a pro-British regime.
Still, according to Hirszowicz, the Third Reich had “no elaborate military or political
plans for Iraq” after the coup, which demonstrates Germany’s unwillingness to interfere in the region.
analysis Hirszowicz provides fills the gaps in the historiography up to 1963. In contrast with Hirszowicz,
Kirk did not thoroughly examine Nazi opportunism due to the limited availability of sources in 1952;
instead, he argued Germany intervened in North Africa and the Middle East for strategic military purposes.
Hirszowicz focuses on the causes of Nazi Germany’s failure establishing political alliances and
strategic military positions in North Africa and the Middle East. He stresses that the Nazis had political and
geographical barriers preventing Germany from taking advantage to obtain Arab support. Some examples
Hirszowicz includes are the Arabs’ “dislike for Fascist Italy’s hegemony” in the region, Germany’s failure
to influence Saudi Arabian King Ibn Saud to side with the Nazis, and the presence of Allied forces in the
region, and the geographical distance of Arab supporters from German assistance.
Clearly, the mounting
challenges and reluctance of intervention prevented Germany from gaining an upper hand in the war in
North Africa and the Middle East.
Hirszowicz used diverse sources, such as archival materials from the German Democratic Republic,
Nuremberg trial records, published collections, Arabian and European diaries, and existing secondary
scholarship to support his claims throughout his appraisal.
Because of the thorough use of primary and
secondary sources, Majid Khadduri classified Hirszowicz’s book as one of the first “serious studies of Nazi-
Arab relations.
Since Hirszowicz provides a “mine of information, future scholars could develop a
comprehensive understanding on the Third Reich’s policies towards the Arab World and the Middle East.
Though Khadduri praised Hirszowicz’s efforts, he criticized Hirszowicz for not “making an effort to
interview” individuals who established relations between the Nazis and Arabs.
Neglect of the Annales
school of thought, with the resulting lack of micro-historical study on ordinary Arabs and Muslims, was a
common problem found within the earlier works. Inquiries concerning how people reacted to relations with
the Nazis or reactions to propaganda could have helped readers to have a comprehensive outlook over
Majid Khadduri, “The Third Reich and the Arab East by Lukasz HirszowiczThe Middle East Journal, Vol. 21, No.
3 (Summer 1967), 413.
Hirszowicz, Third Reich and the Arab East, 13 and 33.
Ibid., 42, 146.
Ibid., 146.
Ibid., 58, 60.
Davidson, Middle East in the War,” 391; Hirszowicz, ix.
Hirszowicz, Third Reich and the Arab East, ix; Khadduri, Third Reich and the Arab East,” 413.
Hirszowicz, Third Reich and the Arab East, ix; Khadduri, Third Reich and the Arab East,” 413.
Khadduri, Third Reich and the Arab East,” 413.
Germany’s diplomatic relationships with Arab and Muslim states. Additionally, Hirszowicz disregards the
effectiveness of Nazi policies and propaganda on these regions, which presents a minor problem in his text.
In comparison to Hirszowicz’s claims, David Motadel and Jeffrey Herf both have similar arguments
concerning the Arabic and Muslim views towards Italian imperialism. Hirszowicz argues that the Nazis did
not want to intrude in North Africa and the Middle East since the region was under the auspices of Italian
Herf’s appraisal concurs with Hirszowicz’s argument since he argues the Nazis were careful
not to offend, neglect, or marginalize Italy’s influence in the region.
Herf stated that the propaganda
evolved towards gaining Arab and Muslim “hearts and minds” to join the Axis powers regardless of Italian
hegemony, and rise against the Allies during the war.
Moreover, Motadel raises similar arguments as
Hirszowicz and Herf; he argues how the Nazis were careful to incorporate Islam into their policies and use
the religion to garner Arab and Muslim support, while at the same time, respectively preserving and backing
Italian hegemony in the region.
Hirszowicz’s appraisal was a groundbreaking contribution to the historiography of Nazi Middle Eastern
and North African policies for using archival materials; yet, there was relatively little interest in the topic
since 1966.
Herf argued that the September 11, 2001 attacks renewed the relevance of Nazi policies
towards the Middle East and saw an increase in the scholarship from 2001 to 2015.
Additionally, Israel
Gershoni clarified that after the 9/11 attacks, historians who were obsessed with the characterization of
comparing global jihad to the concept of “Islamofascism, published appraisals in the early 2000s.
According to Gershoni, the books published in the early 2000s connecting Nazism with Islamism did a
disservice to the historiography.
Some of the books published in the early 2000s include: Jihad and Jew
Hatred: Nazism, Islamism and the Roots of 9/11 by Mathias Küntzel and Crescent and Swastika: The Third
Reich, The Arabs, and Palestine by German historians Klaus Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers.
Küntzel shifted his research to analyze anti-Semitism and National Socialism influences in modern day
Islam. Küntzel argues that, “In word and deed the Islamism of the first decade of the twenty-first century
remains marked to this day by the connections with Nazism that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s.”
addition, he attempts to exhibit how the same anti-Semitic ideology the Nazis embraced spread to the
Middle East, guided al-Qaeda and other reactionary movements.
Küntzel focuses on the Grand Mufti of
Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini and his influence over diffusing anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist ideology in
Palestine. According to Küntzel, the “successes” of the diffusion could be seen from not only the Mufti’s
collaboration with the Nazis, but also with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MBH) leader Hassan al-Banna.
Furthermore, al-Banna had great admiration for al-Husseini and was willing to support the anti-imperialist
paramilitary groups against the Allies in Egypt. The connections Küntzel makes with the Mufti and his
influence on al-Banna cannot be ignored simply because both men were seeing Nazism and Germany’s
Hirszowicz, Third Reich and the Arab East, 58-59.
Jeffrey Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 25-35.
Ibid., 13-14.
Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, 17-19.
Israel Gershoni, ed. Arab Responses to Fascism and Nazism: Attraction and Repulsion (Austin: University of
Texas Press, 2014), 5.
Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, 1.
Gershoni, Arab Responses to Fascism, 26.
Ibid., 28.
Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, 1-2.
Matthias Küntzel, Jihad and Jew-hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the roots of 9/11 (New York: Telos Press
Publication, 2007), xii.
Ibid., xxiii.
Ibid., 27-28 and 35.
policies as similar to theirs. The Jewish immigrations to Palestine and Britain’s Balfour Declaration ignited
a reason for the two men to seek an alliance with the Nazis. This commonality of “hatred of the Jews was
the most important shared bond,” which further fueled reactionary movements to oppose Western support
of the Jewish state.
In response to Küntzel’s appraisal, Gershoni argues that Küntzel was lacking credible evidence and
seemed to compel scholars to believe the Nazis initially influenced global jihadism.
This is an accurate
statement by Gershoni because in his conclusion Küntzel goes on a tangent advocating Western political
correctness fails “to recognize the substance of Islamist ideology – the death cult, anti-Semitism and hatred
of freedom we will again and again end up discovering the sole root cause of terrorism” and violence in
the region.
Küntzel does not fall back on how the Nazis influenced the modern day reactionary
movements; the brief mention of Nazism’s commonality of hatred of the Jews to Islamism was not
conclusive enough to support his claims. An example of Küntzel’s generalization regards the creation of
the Syrian Baath Party. He quotes Sami al-Jundi, a leader of the Syrian Baathist Party, about how the party
was influenced by philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and H.S. Chamberlain, while
claiming “we were the first to think of translating Mein Kampf ” into Arabic.
Although Küntzel makes an
effort to inform his readers about the influence of Nazi ideology on reactionary movements, his analysis
lacks a detailed account of how Nazism inspired the creation of the Baath Party. Moreover, Küntzel’s book
seemed to read as a rant against Islam and did not provide enough thorough analysis over the connections
Nazism had with Islamism. “At best,” stated Gershoni, Küntzel’s book “was a stretch and at worst forced”
upon his readers to adhere to his unconvincing arguments that lacked credible evidence.
Küntzel’s biased
account does more harm than good for the historiography; he neglects that even before the rise of the Third
Reich, tensions among the Jews and Muslims were prevalent within the holy land of Jerusalem. How can
readers expect to adhere to Küntzel’s arguments when he chooses only topics, which lend credit to his
overall argument? The clear bias in his writing does not provide a balanced approach in how the Nazis
influenced modern day reactionary movements.
In response to the early 2000s publications, Francis R. Nicosia published Nazi Germany and the Arab
World, which analyzes Germany’s involvement with North African and Middle Eastern nationalists and
anti-imperialist movements. His thesis argues that the Nazis, Arabs, and Muslims were ideologically
incompatible from the start and destined not to generate mutual relations.
His argument is important
because Nicosia is straying away from the arguments linking Nazism with Arabism and political Islam.
Nicosia’s publication contributes to the historiography of Nazi relations in North Africa and the Middle
East and academically eases the damage caused by the appraisals published in the early 2000s. Nicosia
backs away from Motadel’s and Gershoni’s bottom-up methodologies but rather he reexamines Kirk’s and
Hirszowicz’s approach by basing his study from a top-down perspective.
A commonality found in Nicosia’s and Hirszowicz’s appraisals was their arguments concerning Nazi
negligence towards the Arab and Muslim world. Hirszowicz emphasized German ineffectiveness on waging
war in the Arab World and their inability to send supplies to pro-Axis supporters in the region after 1941.
Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union that began in June of that year, created a critical
dilemma and essentially marked the turning point for German-Arab relations. German forces, especially in
Ibid., 59-60.
Gershoni, Arab Responses to Fascism, 26-28.
Küntzel, Jihad and Jew-hatred, 159.
Ibid., 26.
Gershoni, Arab Responses to Fascism, 28.
Nicosia, Nazi Germany and the Arab World, 13.
Hirszowicz, 193.
North Africa, were deprived of arms and repairs to tanks because most of Germany’s supplies went to the
Eastern Front to attack the Soviets.
In other words, Germany’s war interests in Europe were more
significant than the Arab and Muslim world. Nicosia points out that Germany also had to worry about the
imperial ambitions of Italy.
A comparison of Hirszowicz’s and Nicosia’s work demonstrates the
importance of old scholarship from 1966 to the revisionists in the early 2000s; their top-down approaches
detailed how and why the Nazis neglected the region.
Nonetheless, the inclusion of Küntzel’s, Mallmann’s, and Cüppers, texts in Motadel’s, Nicosia’s,
Herf’s, and Gershoni’s bibliographies displays the evolving progress and importance of their contributions
to the historiography.
Though the revisionist 2000s publications were informative, and at times,
misrepresented information, the increasing interest in the historiography was keen to introduce the Annales
school of thought in the topic. Ultimately, one must ask how has the Annales methodology changed the
dynamics of the historiography today?
Motadel represents the Annales school of thought since his scholarship shifts away from stigmatizing
the Nazi regime and Arabs and Muslim collaborators. In Motadel’s text, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War,
he bases his research on available archival sources, contemporary books, articles, and memoirs. Unlike
Hirszowicz, Motadel uses the Nuremberg interrogation transcripts, military orders, and documents from
non-German archives to enhance the effectiveness of his research and thesis.
He pulls sources from a
variety of archives, including the British Naval Archives, United States National Archives, and Vienna City
and State Archive, Czech Central Military Archives, and Russian State Military Archives, Latvian State
Historical Archive, and the Archive of the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albanian Central
State Archives, and the Iranian National Archives.
Through the works of Hirszowicz and Motadel, readers
can observe a shift of focus from the political, ideological, and military perspective to social histories.
Motadel refrains from taking a top-down approach and instead, bases his works on a bottom-up perspective
by examining how Nazi Germany utilized Islam in its policies to garner support in the North Africa, the
Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus region.
Additionally, Motadel focuses on the effectiveness of Berlin’s religiously charged propaganda”
campaign against the Allies and the shared ideological resentment Arabs, Muslims, and Nazis had against
Slavs and Jews.
In particular, Motadel displays how easy the effort was to influence the Muslims to join
and fight against the Soviets. He provides numerous examples as to how Soviet repression towards Islamic
culture helped the Nazi cause to easily recruit Muslims and generate a favorable response to fight against
the Soviet Union.
In contrast to how the Soviets treated Muslims, the Nazis treated Islam and Muslims
with respect in an effort to legitimize Germany’s authority over the Middle East. Motadel stated, “Muslims
were not seen as threats or enemies but as powerful allies” in the war zones for the Nazi regime.
Although the Nazis used propaganda to fuel their campaign in the Middle East, there were many
obstacles, which ultimately deterred Muslims from supporting the Nazis, such as high illiteracy rates,
impoverished populations not owning radios, and inadequate infrastructure, and Allied censorship.
Ibid., 193, 203.
Nicosia, 265.
Nicosia, Nazi Germany and the Arab World, 288; Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, 343, 353; Gershoni,
Arab Responses to Fascism, 351-352.
Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, 325-326.
Ibid., 326.
Ibid., 73.
Ibid., 76-80.
Ibid., 315.
Ibid., 107-108, 136.
addition to the Third Reich’s failed attempts to garner support, the Germans, at times, did not fully
comprehend the Islamic religion. Motadel’s article “Islam and Germany’s War in the Soviet Borderlands,
1941-1945” gives an example of German ignorance of Islam: German SS soldiers in the early months of
the Barbarossa Campaign executed circumcised Muslim prisoners in the occupied areas assuming that they
were Jews.
Gestapo officer Heinrich Müller did not know “Muslims too were circumcised.”
micro-approach helps readers to have a “total history perspective of the circumstances about Nazi
Germany’s Islamic policies, especially in the Soviet Borderlands.
The available sources, especially from Motadel’s bibliography, allow readers to develop a
comprehensive understanding of how Nazi Germany attempted to rally Muslims against Allied powers.
Robert F. Baumann stated that, “Motadel’s study includes much original research and pulls together in a
coherent narrative the separate experiences of a variety of Muslim populations and is a valuable
contribution to scholarship of WWII.
Not only did Motadel excel in using diverse resources, but also he
dynamically shifted the focus of historiography from Arab and Muslim experiences with Nazi occupation
and policies, to the Nazis utilization of religion as a means to garner Axis support. Motadel’s shifting of
focus was possible because of available resources and contemporary publications. Especially the primary
sources accessible after the Cold War has allowed the historiography to evolve and develop into a
comprehensive topic, while at the same time, helping historians to engage further inquiry and research about
the Nazi influence on the Arab and Muslim world.
Motadel’s research and publications have had a profound impact on the methodological approaches
and scholarship of Nazi Germany’s war in the Arab World. He argues that the Nazis’ attempt to use Islam
for geopolitical and ideological means was keen to garner Arab and Muslim support for the Axis powers.
Unlike Hirszowicz and Kirk, in his work, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, Motadel emphasizes the
significance of religious values on Germany’s policy decisions. In other words, the Nazis used Islam and
were selective in choosing what Qur’anic interpretations would benefit Germany politically and
Motadel’s methodology, especially his analysis on Islamic mobilization, is unique; no other
work before Motadel had “attempted to put Islam on a political and strategic map of WWII,” which
demonstrates the significance of his work.
He claims the scholarship of “Nazi Germany’s policy toward
Islam is ideal for studying the politics of the religion as an instrument in world politics and military
Motadel’s claims assist historians to generate interest in whether Nazism’s influence was
profound or not. Motadel’s thesis argues that, [r]eligion is seen as a source of authority that can legitimize
involvement in a conflict and even justify violence” against the Allied powers.
The Nazis took the
opportunity to use Islam against the Allies for political, geographical, economic, and military gains;
however, the complexities of the Islamic culture, ineffectiveness of Nazi policies, along with Germany’s
ignorance of Islamic customs and beliefs, ultimately did not generate a successful campaign for Nazi
Germany in the Middle East.
Motadel separates his text into three units; the foundations of Islamic policies, the Muslims in war
zones, and the Muslims in the German military. Motadel’s method of examining the history of Germany’s
Islam policy is unique since not many authors have investigated Germany’s Islam and the Middle East
David Motadel, “Islam and Germany’s War in the Soviet Borderlands, 1941-1945Journal of Contemporary
History, Vol. 48, No. 4 (October 2013), 815.
Ibid., 815.
Robert F. Baumann, “Islam and Nazi Germany’s WarMilitary Review, Vol. 96, No. 4 (July 2016), 138.
Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, 68-70.
Ibid., 5.
Ibid., 10.
Ibid., 9 and 321-322.
policies in the nineteenth century, especially in Africa. His narrative helps readers grasp the German
policies toward Islam before the outset of WWII and exhibits that the Third Reich’s policies were not
necessarily unique, but reminiscent of policies imposed by Imperial Germany in the nineteenth century. In
particular, Motadel examines Imperial Germany’s territories in Sub-Sahara Africa and concentrates on how
the Germans maintained control over their colonial possessions; Germany tolerated Islamic customs and
left Islamic structures intact to preserve order and hegemony in Muslim territories.
Motadel emphasizes
his argument by claiming, “Islam seemed to offer a comprehensible religious code that non-Muslim
authorities could decode and exploit for political aims” and military purposes.
Motadel continuously reinstates his argument that Germany used Islam to bolster “authority” to
“guarantee stability” and influence Muslims to wage jihad against Germany’s enemies.
He provides
historical examples, such as the sympathetic treatment Muslim POW’s received during the Great War, an
anti-imperialist stance directed against France and Britain, at least in terms of propaganda. Motadel explains
that despite minor successes, the Germans were unsuccessful in utilizing Islam to further their agenda, such
as convincing Muslims to wage jihad against Britain and France, because Germans did not completely
grasped the principles of Islam.
Motadel avoids providing readers with a top-down analysis and delivers an Annales approach for
readers to comprehend Muslim point of view under Nazi occupation. In contrast to Hirszowicz’s and Kirk’s
arguments, Motadel deviates away from focusing primarily on the Nazi regimes policies and administrative
reactions; instead, he provides a thorough outlook on how the Nazis influenced the change in culture,
customs, and ideology in the German occupied regions. Hirszowicz and Kirk did not provide much detail
on the cultural reactions to Nazi policies, which had been missing in the historiography until Motadel’s and
Herf’s publications. Motadel relied on primary sources to narrate a “total history” of peoples affected by
the Third Reich’s Islamic policies. Arnold Krammer classified Motadel’s appraisal as an “important book
with a different view of the World War, superbly researched, and elegantly produced,” which proposes the
historiographical significance of the text itself.
Motadel’s analysis over the historical memory of Muslims is important because of the contribution
social histories made on the historiography of Nazi Germany’s interventions. He excels in adding a dynamic
and crucial part of the Second World War, while at the same time, inquiring how the major powers,
especially Germany, engaged Islam for political means.
Motadel’s article “Islam and Germany’s War in
the Soviet Borderlands, 1941-1945 focuses on how the Nazis saw the opportunity to use Islam as a political
and strategic advantage to counter Soviet influence in the Caucasus regions. This was not only a counter
measure, according to Motadel, but was a policy to persuade Muslims that the Nazis were the “liberators”
from the Soviet suppression in the region.
Herf’s work Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World reaches to
the same conclusion as Motadel. Both posited that the Nazis propaganda campaign exhibited Germans as
the “liberators” from the British and French colonialism and imperialism in the Middle East and North
Motadel’s article focuses on social histories where he informs how the enforcement of Nazi
policies changed Muslims perspectives of the Nazis, whereas Herf centers his argument on how the Nazis
changed their policies to adopt anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic values to garner Muslim support.
Ibid., 16-17.
Ibid., 8 and 322.
Ibid., 17-19.
Arnold Krammer, “Islam and Nazi Germany’s WarJournal of Military History, Vol. 79, No. 2 (April 2015),
Motadel, “Islam and Germany’s War in the Soviet Borderlands, 1941-1945, 784.
Ibid., 784,-788.
Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, 3, 45-46.
Motadel’s article concerning Germany’s Islam policies in the Soviet borderlands helps readers to
compare Muslim reactions to Nazi occupation versus Soviet occupation. Motadel sets the tone of the article
by examining how the Bolsheviks treated Muslims in the region and emphasizes how the Soviet authorities
saw Islamic areas as subversive and enforced “unprecedented religious persecution.
Persecutions, such
as the “destruction of mosques, abolition of Shari’a, the persecution of the ‘ulama,” and the ridiculing of
Islamic customs and architecture, demonstrates how discriminatory and violently repressive the Soviet
regime was.
Clearly, the Nazis saw an opportunity to diffuse their influence and mold their ideology to
coincide with Islamic ideals. The only downside with the historiography is the limited number of works on
the Soviet repression of Muslim communities in the Caucasus region. Yet, Motadel provides a glimpse of
how Muslims viewed the Soviet suppression of religion. Motadel’s micro-historical perspective details why
Muslims saw the Nazis as liberators from the Soviet oppression.
In addition to Motadel’s historiographical contributions, his article The Muslim Question in Hitler’s
Balkans further broadens the historiography of WWII in Southeastern Europe. In particular, Motadel’s
recurring method of using social histories to emphasize his thesis is visible throughout the article. His
central thesis posits that, [r]eligion could be crucial and at time even more important than ethnic and
racial categories for German political and military officials when drafting policies towards them.”
Nazis’ efforts to instrumentalize Islam in the Balkans, especially in Yugoslavia, had a far more drastic
effect in comparison to Germany’s occupation of the Caucasus region. Motadel evaluated the history of
ethnic and religious tensions among the Yugoslavs and other Balkan countries. The diversity of the region
created a quagmire for the Nazis since Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians all had different national identities and
were more concerned for consolidating power to create their own nation-state.
Though the conflict in the
Balkans was extensive and dynamic, the Nazis inevitably used Islam for political purposes to influence the
population of the region and to present Germany as a collaborator rather than an enemy. Germany’s exertion
of influence created a sense of national identity among Muslims, which resulted in insurgencies to counter
Josip Broz Tito’s Communist surge in the region.
Motadel summarizes that in propaganda the Nazis’
appealed not only to a religious rhetoric, but also religious dignitaries to garner German support from the
Muslims and to accentuate the Third Reich’s role as the patron of Islam.
Several historians have disagreements on whether or not the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-
Husseini had any role on the decision-making of Final Solution. In Barry Rubin’s and Wolfgang
Schwanitz’s appraisal Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of The Modern Middle East, they describe al-
Husseini as The single most important foreign collaborator with the Nazis and certainly the most prized
The Grand Mufti was an Arab nationalist and an admirer of Hitler; he claimed, “Germany
was a natural friend” since Britain and the Jews were common enemies.
The collaboration al-Husseini
had with the Third Reich was unique since he was a Muslim, who attempted to garner and advocate for
political and militant support for the Nazis in North Africa and the Middle East. Rubin and Schwanitz
suggest al-Husseini’s influence on Nazi Germany was more significant than historians realize. For instance,
they suggest the Mufti’s meeting with Hitler on November 28, 1941, influenced Hitler to send out
Motadel, “Islam and Germany’s War in the Soviet Borderlands, 1941-1945, 786.
Ibid., 786-787.
David Motadel, “The Muslim Question in Hitler’s Balkans” The Historical Journal, Vol. 56, No.4 (2013), 1039.
Ibid., 1017.
Ibid., 1016-1017.
Ibid., 1017.
Barry M. Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (New
Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), 176.
Ibid., 7.
invitations to high-ranking Nazi officials for the Wannsee Conference, which is widely known by historians
as the meeting where German officials orchestrated the Final Solution of the European Jews. Historians
Jeffrey Herf and Christopher Browning challenged the claim that the Mufti influenced the Nazis Final
Solution since both argued Hitler was already fixated on the idea of exterminating the Jews. Herf, in
particular, downplays al-Husseini’s role in the Final Solution decision-making stating the Mufti’s
“collaboration was both a matter of shared political interests as well as ideological commonalities, nothing
This indicates al-Husseini did not have a keen role in the decision-making process. Herf emphasizes
his point by stating, The name Haj Amin al-Husseini does not come up at all in his [Hitler’s] account
simply because the Mufti was not in the chain of decision-making of the German government.”
cautions readers not to fall for the sensationalism of the Mufti’s role in the Third Reich. He states that,
“They [Rubin and Schwanitz] turn a series of coincidental correlations in time into causal chains.”
Mufti may have had a key role in diffusing anti-Jewish propaganda in North Africa and the Middle East,
but at best, al-Husseini’s role in the Final Decision planning was relatively non-existent. Rubin’s and
Schwanitz’s text provides an insightful account of the Mufti, yet, their text overall provides vague
conclusions and attempts to connect his influence to the rise of reactionary movements in the Middle East
Not many scholars have had keen interest in analyzing the historiography of Fascist and Nazi
ideological reactions in the Middle East and North Africa. Israel Gershoni has given insight on how Arabic
populations interacted with these particular ideologies. Gershoni’s efforts to compile essays broadened the
field, while providing a new understanding of how complex and critical the analysis of ideological reactions
is to the historiography.
In its analysis of the historiography of Nazi relations with the Arab and Muslim
world, the compiled book covers how Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian, Iraqi, and Egyptian, and Ethiopian
people reacted to Fascist and Nazi ideology. The essays are extensive and contribute to the historiography
of the subject since this is one of the first appraisals to present an overview of how the changing dynamics
of ideology during the war affected Arabs and Muslims. Gershoni’s contribution has given insight to readers
who are seeking to learn more about how Nazism and Fascism affected the North Africa and the Middle
East. Written under the guidance of Annales school of thought, Herf’s book Nazi Propaganda for the Arab
World stresses different strategies implemented by Germany to gain political allies through propaganda.
The campaigns in North Africa and the Middle East presented the opportunity for the Nazis to gain allies
and diffuse their hegemony in the region. Herf presents a chronological timeframe from the evolution of
Nazi propaganda to ultimately the desperate attempts to seek Arab and Muslim support towards the end of
WWII. He argues that the “Nazi leadership equated National Socialism to extreme anti-Semitism and anti-
Zionism” in an effort to win over the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims.
Herf centralizes key parts
of his book on the Palestinian issue and he thoroughly gives readers insight on how Germany attempted to
exploit the Palestinian conflict with propaganda to garner support for the Nazi regime. He explains that
acquiring Arab trust was not easy for Germany, especially after the Haavara or the Transfer Agreement.
Palestinian Arabs were less sympathetic towards Germany’s cause since the Haavara Agreement allowed
for the emigration of German Jews to Palestine. This was the first instance when Nazi officials and German
Jews collaborated; a minimum payment of a thousand pounds was required to allow Jewish migration and
Jeffrey Herf, “Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Nazis and the Holocaust: The Origins, Nature and After Effects of
Collaboration,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Fall 2014), 18.
Ibid., 23.
Ibid., 24.
Gershoni, Arab Responses to Fascism, xi.
Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, 13-14.
the transfer of Jewish capital to Palestine between 1934 and 1937.
In turn, the agreement presented an
opportunity for the Jews to arrive in Palestine “not as have-nots, but as owners of their capital.”
Jewish colonization and economic control of Palestine became possible because of the Haavara Agreement,
thus setting the stage for conflict against Palestinian Arabs and Muslims between 1936 and 1939. The
Haavara Agreement, according to Herf, “hastened the formation of a Jewish state, and could contribute to
the view that Germany supported the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Herf states that German
interests during WWII changed; the Haavara agreement ceased to exist and strategic military interests
became priority. As a result, “strengthening of Arabs as a counterweight to any such expansion of Jewry
power” was imperative to win the war.
Küntzel did not even mention the Haavara Agreement. Herf, Nicosia, and Motadel argue that the
collaboration between the Nazis and German Jews essentially set the stage for the creation of a Jewish state.
Küntzel’s arguments concerning Nazi influence is not as cohesive as one may think since Nazi and Jewish
collaboration demonstrated Germany’s ability to modify its policy in an effort to improve German interests;
Arab interests, especially Palestinian Arabs, were not important. German policy to make Palestine a
destination for German Jews was in place until 1937; yet the Arab outrage in the Middle East and North
Africa, along with the shifting European politics in 1938-1939 forced Germany to refocus and change its
The initial chapters of Herf’s appraisal center on the Nazi definition of anti-Semitism and inquire as
to what classifies a master “Aryan race.” The publication of Mein Kampf, nonetheless, provided Adolf
Hitler’s entailment of the “Aryan race” and emphasized the inferiority of all non-Aryan individuals.
According to Herf, the citizenship decrees in the mid-1930s not only deprived Jews off their basic civil
liberties, but also emphasized a “Eurocentric” perspective on race, which antagonized all non-German
The Nazis “Eurocentric” anti-Semitism was hostile and offensive against all Arabs and Muslims,
and it created a quagmire concerning Nazi relations with the Arab World. This stands out in Herf’s text
because in his work Motadel posited that Nazis modified their Eurocentric policies to fit the mold of the
Arab race. Herf, in particular, provides vivid details as to how the Nazis attempted to curtail their definition
of anti-Semitism and refocus the target of the word specifically to antagonize the Jewish race.
examples include a revised publication of Mein Kampf, which removed offensive passages towards Arabs
and Muslims; the modification of Hitler’s speeches to be less offensive towards the Arab World, and the
use of propaganda to promote not only unity among Germany and the Arab World, but to showcase Nazi
support for anti-Zionism.
Herf’s analysis helps readers understand that Germans were willing to do
anything, even contradict their own ideology to gain the “hearts and minds” of the Arab World.
Herf gives more details about the evolution of Nazi propaganda during WWII. In particular, he
focuses on how the Nazis constantly compared National Socialism with Islam. The Nazi propaganda
attempted to align Nazism and Islam on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism against the Jews and Allies.
According to Herf, the Nazis over emphasized their anti-Zionist stance and propagated pamphlets to depict
Klaus Polkehn, “The Secret Contacts: Zionism and Nazi Germany, 1933-1941Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol.
5, No. 3/4, (Spring-Summer, 1976), 66.
Ibid., 66.
Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, 29.
Ibid., 28.
Ibid., 21-23.
Ibid., 21.
Ibid., 23, 35.
Ibid., 25-26, 30-35.
the Allies as supporters of Zionism.
Although Herf explains the Allies did not directly support Zionism,
in their propaganda the Nazis fore fronted the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the British mandate of
Palestine to display the Allies support for Zionism.
Some of the propaganda statement examples Herf
provides are quite obscene and surreal to contemplate since the phrasing used in radio transmissions, for
example, “urged Arab and Muslim listeners to take matters into their own hands and kill every Jew in North
Africa and the Middle East themselves.”
The Nazi propaganda efforts were partially effective, especially
in Egypt, Iraq, and among the exiled Arabs in Germany. Herf stresses that the propaganda had a tremendous
influence on diffusing Nazism and Islam collaboration throughout North Africa and the Middle East. In
addition, leaders such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hassan al-Banna, al-Husseini, and the leader of the
1941 Iraqi coup d'état Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani were anti-Jewish collaborators and fully supported the Nazi
stance of anti-Zionism.
The efficiency of propaganda, especially when the Nazis used selective excerpts
from the Qur’an, generated support and displayed how German and Muslim cultures influenced and altered
the ideological frameworks.
The historiography of Nazi relations with the Arab World and European Muslims has become an
interestingly growing topic within the spectrum of WWII. Historians of the 1950s did not adequately cover
the relationship between Germany and the Arab World and European Muslims or the policies implemented
by the Third Reich on the Middle East and Islam.The majority of the literature primarily concentrated on
the administrative, political, and economic outlook Germany had in North Africa, the Middle East, and the
Balkans in general. There was limited scholarly attention on Germany’s Middle East and North Africa
policies during the war until Hirszowicz published his work in 1966. Hirszowicz analyzed Germany’s
relations from a top-down, military, and political perspective; he assessed administrative decisions and the
impact of these decisions on the regions. He presented that Germany did not see the Arab World as a
primary objective; rather the region was of secondary importance. Additionally, he stresses that the Nazis
were more interested in preserving Europe and they viewed other regions as colonial possessions. Nazis
had little to no interest in backing up Arab nationalist movements to form nation-states or to preserve
Palestine for Arabs. Although Germany failed to generate a coherent alliance with Arabs and Muslims, the
Nazis, indeed, had a significant influence over the region. These early works provided a foundation for the
historiography of the topic. Though the works had minor flaws and were limited in using resources, the
analysis and scholarship paved the way for the Annales historians to generate a comprehensive overview
of Nazi interactions with the Arab World and European Muslims.
The Annales historians reevaluated and reshaped the way scholars conduct research on the Third
Reich’s policies in North Africa and the Middle East. Appraisals from the early 2000s, such as Küntzel’s
text invoked Islamophobic rhetoric, which does not lend credibility to his appraisal whatsoever. To counter
Küntzel’s revisionist argument of equating Islam and Nazism, the Annales historians, who include Rubin,
Schwanitz, and Motadel, Herf, and Nicosia, and Gershoni, contributed to the creation of a micro-history
covering individuals under German occupation. The Annales approach gave scholars an opportunity to
examine how the Nazi interpretation of Islam influenced the occupied regions, and how Nazis utilized
propaganda, ideology, and social interactions to gain allies. In the past, historians neglected micro-history;
Ibid., 87.
Ibid., 86-87, 100.
Ibid., 89.
Ibid., 121-122, 168-169,
Ibid., 266.
yet, the Annales historians have now provided more insight and narrowed a historiographical gap within
the topic itself.
The Annales works have contributed to improving the historiography of WWII. They not only strayed
away from the literature producing sensationalism and Islamophobic rhetoric in the early 2000s, but they
create quality works for readers and scholars alike. Because of their efforts, the historiography has provided
a foundation for more research and scholarship. The Annales methodology has prevailed in providing a
total history narrative of the Third Reich’s policies towards the Arab World and European Muslims.
Although historiographic gaps remain, there is no doubt Germany’s collapse left behind a legacy of
influence in ideology, racism, anti-Jewish sentiment, and anti-Zionism. By reading the appraisals selected
for this historiographical paper, one may conclude the Nazis had far more complex plans for the Middle
East and North Africa than expected.
Gershoni, Israel. ed. Arab Responses to Fascism and Nazism: Attraction and Repulsion. Austin:
University of Texas Press, 2014.
Herf, Jeffrey. Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,
Hirszowicz, Lukasz. The Third Reich and the Arab East. London: Routledge & K. Paul,
Kirk, George E. The Middle East in the War (Survey of International Affairs, 1939-1946).
London: Oxford University Press, Issued under the Auspices of the Royal Institute of
International Affairs, 1954.
Küntzel, Matthias. Jihad and Jew-hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11. New York:
Telos Press Pub., 2007.
Motadel, David. Islam and Nazi Germany's War. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press, 2014.
Nicosia, Francis R. Nazi Germany and the Arab World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Rubin, Barry M., and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz. Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern
Middle East. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014.
Sayegh, Sharlene and Altice, Eric. History and Theory. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2014.
Academic Journals
Herf, Jeffrey. “Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Nazis and the Holocaust: The Origins, Nature and
After Effects of Collaboration.” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 26/3 (2014):
---------Nazi Germany's Propaganda Aimed at Arabs and Muslims During World War II
and the Holocaust: Old Themes, New Archival Findings. Central European History, Vol. 42/4,
(2009): 709-736.
Motadel, David. “Islam and Germany’s War in Soviet Borderlands, 1941-1945.” Journal of
Contemporary History, Vol 48/4 (October 2013): 784-820.
---------“The Muslim Question in Hitler’s Balkans.” The Historical Journal, Vol. 56/4 (2013): 1007
--------- “Muslims in Hitler’s War.” History Today, (September 2015): 19-25.
Polkehn, Klaus, “The Secret Contacts: Zionism and Nazi Germany, 1933-1941.” Journal of
Palestine Studies, Vol.5/3-4, (1976): 55-82.
Book Reviews
Baumann, Robert F. “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War.” Military Review, Vol. 96/4 (July/August,
2016), 138.
Davidson, Roderic H. “The Middle East in the War by George Kirk” The Journal of Modern
History, Vol. 26/4 (December 1954): 390-391.
Khadduri, Majid. The Third Reich and the Arab East by Lukasz Hirszowicz. The Middle East
Journal, Vol. 21/3 (Summer 1967): 413-414.
Krammer, Arnold. “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War.” Journal of Military History, Vol. 79/2
(April 2015): 520-521.
Stein, Leon. “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World by Jeffrey Herf.Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal
of Jewish Studies, Vol. 30/2 (Winter 2012): 153-155.
... Тем не менее тот факт, что «братья» первоначально предпочли страны с населением, в основном говорящим на немецком языке (ФРГ, Швейцария, Австрия), становится вполне убедительным, на наш взгляд, доказательством тесных связей активистов БМ с нацистами в годы Второй мировой войны. На самом деле в этом нет ничего удивительного, поскольку многие политические и политико-религиозные активисты, в частности, в Египте и подмандатной Британии Палестине взаимодействовали с гитлеровцами с известной целью -изгнать англичан (Montemayor 2017). ...
Full-text available
The article examines the reasons that prompted the governments and expert circles of many EU countries to pay increased attention in the past two years to the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood (BM) religious and political association within the EU. According to the author, this is due not only to the terrorist attacks of Islamists in France and Austria in 2020, but also to the manifestations of the growing influence of this category of Muslim organizations and groups on the social and political life of the countries of the Old World. The article focuses on the analysis of the means, methods and mechanisms characteristic of the groupings associated with the structures of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, on their differences from similar organizations in the Middle East. The author turns to the history of the emergence and growth of the influence of the «brothers» in Europe in order to more thoroughly examine the phenomenon of today: while the authority and influence of the BM are noticeably falling in the Arab countries, in the Old World the situation is different for the «brothers» – in many cases they manage to hide their Islamist essence under the cover of left, «progressive» rhetoric, which allows them to fit into the current political and ideological discourse in the host countries. However, with the aggravation of intercivilizational relations in Europe, BM groups are increasingly forced to leave their traditional «hiding places», publicly claiming the status of «defenders of discredited Muslims», but in fact trying to legalize their radical views and positions. The resulting scale of their presence and influence in European societies noticeably frightens the establishment and the population of these countries. The author comes to the conclusion that at the current stage, an aggravation of the confrontation between the political elites in the EU countries and the BM structures is inevitable
In the most crucial phase of the Second World War, German troops, fighting in regions as far apart as the Sahara and the Caucasus, confronted the Allies across lands largely populated by Muslims. Nazi officials saw Islam as a powerful force with the same enemies as Germany: the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the Jews. Islam and Nazi Germany’s War is the first comprehensive account of Berlin’s remarkably ambitious attempts to build an alliance with the Islamic world. Drawing on archival research in three continents, David Motadel explains how German officials tried to promote the Third Reich as a patron of Islam. He explores Berlin’s policies and propaganda in the Muslim war zones, and the extensive work that authorities undertook for the recruitment, spiritual care, and ideological indoctrination of tens of thousands of Muslim volunteers who fought in the Wehrmacht and the SS. Islam and Nazi Germany’s War reveals how German troops on the ground in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Eastern front engaged with diverse Muslim populations, including Muslim Roma and Jewish converts to Islam. Combining measured argument with a masterly handling of detail, it illuminates the profound impact of the Second World War on Muslims around the world and provides a new understanding of the politics of religion in the bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century.
Jeffrey Herf, a leading scholar in the field, offers the most extensive examination to date of Nazi propaganda activities targeting Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East during World War II and the Holocaust. He draws extensively on previously unused and little-known archival resources, including the shocking transcriptions of the "Axis Broadcasts in Arabic" radio programs, which convey a strongly anti-Semitic message. Herf explores the intellectual, political, and cultural context in which German and European radical anti-Semitism was found to resonate with similar views rooted in a selective appropriation of the traditions of Islam. Pro-Nazi Arab exiles in wartime Berlin, including Haj el-Husseini and Rashid el-Kilani, collaborated with the Nazis in constructing their Middle East propaganda campaign. By integrating the political and military history of the war in the Middle East with the intellectual and cultural dimensions of the propagandistic diffusion of Nazi ideology, Herf offers the most thorough examination to date of this important chapter in the history of World War II. Importantly, he also shows how the anti-Semitism promoted by the Nazi propaganda effort contributed to the anti-Semitism exhibited by adherents of radical forms of Islam in the Middle East today.
During the 1930s and 1940s, a unique and lasting political alliance was forged among Third Reich leaders, Arab nationalists, and Muslim religious authorities. From this relationship sprang a series of dramatic events that, despite their profound impact on the course of World War II, remained secret until now. In this groundbreaking book, esteemed Middle East scholars Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz uncover for the first time the complete story of this dangerous alliance and explore its continuing impact on Arab politics in the twenty-first century. Rubin and Schwanitz reveal, for example, the full scope of Palestinian leader Amin al-Husaini's support of Hitler's genocidal plans against European and Middle Eastern Jews. In addition, they expose the extent of Germany's long-term promotion of Islamism and jihad. Drawing on unprecedented research in European, American, and Middle East archives, many recently opened and never before written about, the authors offer new insight on the intertwined development of Nazism and Islamism and its impact on the modern Middle East. © 2014 by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz. All rights reserved.
This book considers the evolving strategic interests and foreign policy intent of the Third Reich toward the Arabic-speaking world, from Hitler’s assumption of power in January 1933 to 1944, a year following the final Axis defeat in and expulsion from North Africa in May 1943. It does so within the context of two central, interconnected issues in the larger history of National Socialism and the Third Reich, namely Nazi geopolitical interests and ambitions and the regime’s racial ideology and policy. This book defines the relatively limited geopolitical interests of Nazi Germany in the Middle East and North Africa within the context of its relationships with the other European great powers and its policies with regard to the Arabs and Jews who lived in those areas.
The article examines Germany's policy towards Islam in the Soviet Union during the Second World War. At the height of the war, when German troops entered Muslim territories in the Crimea and the Caucasus, officials in Berlin began to see Islam as politically and strategically significant. In both areas, Nazi Germany started to promote a military alliance with the Muslim population against the Soviet Union. The article enquires into the ways in which German authorities, most notably in the Wehrmacht and the SS but also in the Ministry of the East and the Foreign Office instrumentalized religious practice, custom and iconography, as well as religious rhetoric and terminology, for political and strategic ends. It adds a crucial dimension not only to the history of the Second World War, but also to the history of the engagement of the great powers with Islam in the modern age. © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions:
This illuminating and path-breaking study is a vital addition to the growing body of scholarship on the relations between Nazi Germany and the Islamic world of the Middle East and North Africa during the Second World War and beyond. The author drew on a large body of archival resources, including Nazi broadcasts of Arabic radio programs, the reception of this propaganda in the Arab world, and allied responses to the Nazi attempt to win the countries of the Middle East and North Africa to its cause. Herf illustrates in great detail and with telling quotes of this propaganda material how the Nazis spared no efforts to incite the Islamic world against the Jews and the allied countries of America, England, and the Soviet Union. The Nazis hired Arab exiles in Germany, such as the Palestinian Grand Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini and the Iraqi collaborator Rashid Ali Kilani with the assistance of top Nazi officials, to produce millions of leaflets and thousands of hours of shortwave radio programs. At the same time, the Nazis tried to extend their genocidal program for the Jews of Europe to the 700,000 Jews in the Middle East and North Africa. The basic thesis of the book is that Nazi Germany, with the assistance of its Arab collaborators, attempted to equate Nazi ideology, and especially extreme antisemitism, with some selected radical traditions of Islam such as a holy war to crush the Jews who were portrayed as out to conquer the Arab world and to destroy Islam. The major core was the idea of the Jewish conspiracy to control both Germany and the Islamic world. The Nazis and their helpers also altered their ideas of racial hierarchy by flattering the Arabs and Iranians to include them in their circle of favored races. This also extended to the Bosnian Moslems of Yugoslavia. What is striking is that while the Nazis were flexible in this regard, their fanatical hatred of the Jews was rigid, based on the assertion that the Jews were an anti-race, not human at all. The Nazis and their Arab helpers even portrayed Hitler as a savior of Islam and claimed Nazi values were similar to Islam. In so doing, Nazism became less "Eurocentric" and more global in its appeal. As early as the nineteen twenties the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was translated into Arabic and by 1939 Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was translated as well. The Nazis attempted to emphasize that their antisemitism equated with anti-Zionism to appeal to the Moslems of Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and North Africa. The Nazis posed as anti-imperialists who were out to liberate the Arabs from Jewish and allied domination. What was bitterly ironic is that Hitlerite Germany aimed to impose its own imperialist genocidal program on Europe. Ironic too is that Nazi propaganda towards the Arab world intensified during the course of the war and portrayed the Jews as the powerful ultimate menace while the Jews were murdered by the millions in the death camps. A central Arab figure in this effort was Haj Amin el-Husseini, the former Grand Mufti of Palestine and Jerusalem, who was in Berlin during the war. He met with Hitler and with such top Nazi officials as Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann, exhorting them to continue with their murder of the Jews in Europe and to exterminate the hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Moslem World. This hateful antisemitic propaganda was diffused throughout the Arab world. The Moslem Brotherhood that had been founded in Egypt in 1928 supported the Nazi effort. Herf provides valuable insights into how the Americans and the British responded to the Nazi propaganda barrage. While the Allied victories in Stalingrad and North Africa prevented the Nazis from extending the Holocaust to the Middle East, the allies were cautious in their response to the Arabs. They did not mention the Holocaust and promised the Arab countries independence after the war. Still, the Nazi-Arab propaganda asserted that the Jews controlled the Allies and that even Anglo-Saxon Puritanism was antithetical to Germany and Islam. By the end of the war a synthesis had been achieved...
This article examines Germany's efforts to instrumentalize Islam in the Balkans during the Second World War. As German troops became more involved in the region from early 1943 onwards, German officials began to engage with the Muslim population, promoting Germany as the protector of Islam in south-eastern Europe. Focusing on Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the Sandžak of Novi Pazar, the article explores the relations between German authorities and religious leaders on the ground and enquires into the ways in which German propagandists sought to employ religious rhetoric, terminology, and iconography for political and military ends. Interweaving religious history with the history of military conflict, the article contributes more generally to our understanding of the politics of religion in the Second World War.