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FTR #414 Islam Under the Swastika & its Implications for Today

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Providing historical background to the operations of Islamofascism in contemporary times, this broadcast fleshes out some of the history of the collaboration between Nazi Germany (and—to a lesser extent—Fascist Italy) and key elements of the Islamic world.

(One should note in this context that the term Islamofascism applies to a considerable portion of the Islamist milieu, but that many Islamists are not fascists but religious extremists.)

The focal point of the program is Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the first leader of the Palestinian national movement. The subject of much discussion in past programs, “Der Grossmufti” was a pivotal Axis operative. In addition to mentoring Yasser Arafat, the Grand Mufti worked for the SS and collaborated closely with members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Much of this program focuses on his formation of Muslim fighting formations for the Waffen SS and Wehrmacht and the legacy that those units have perpetuated into contemporary times. After detailed, substantive discussion of the units and the ethnic and religious history that contributed to (and resulted from) their formation, the broadcast highlights contemporary manifestations of those conflicts. In particular, the program highlights the legacy of the Third Reich as it manifests itself in Islamofascist and Wahhabi activism in the Balkans and regions of the former Soviet Union such as Chechnya. A major element of the program concerns the pivotal role of Bush aide Karl Rove in forming the Al Taqwa/Muslim Brotherhood links with the Republican Party. In addition to Rove’s collaboration with Grover Norquist in bringing the Islamists into the GOP, the broadcast underscores the significant efforts of Bush associate Talat Othman in realizing the Islamist connection to the GOP. A director of Harken Energy (one of George W.’s failed oil companies) and an intimate of the BCCI milieu, Othman intereceded with former Treasury secretary Paul O’Neill on behalf of the targets of the 3/20/2002 Operation Green Quest raids.)

Program Highlights Include: the formation of the Bosnian Muslim 23rd Waffen SS (“Kama”) Division; review of the facts concerning the formation of the Bosnian Muslim 13th Waffen SS (“Handjar”) Division; review of the formation of the Albanian 21st Waffen SS (“Skanderbeg”) Division; comparison of the formation of the Skanderbeg Division to the contemporary creation of related elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army; review of the New “Handjar” Division in contemporary Bosnia-Herzogovina; discussion of the collaboration of Balkan Muslims with the Croatian Ustachi; the composition and combat operations of joint Croatian/Muslim Wehrmacht units; an overview of the many Muslim units that fought with the Axis powers; discussion the Waffengruppe-Der SS “Krim” (composed of Chechen Muslims and the forebearers of the Chechen rebels currently active in Russia); the combat role of the German Al Qaeda operative Christian Ganczarski in Bosnia-Herzegovina; the Muslim Brotherhood’s parental relationship with Hamas; Chechen fighters seeking refuge in Georgia.

1. The broadcast begins with a thumbnail synopsis of the career of the Grand Mufti.

“Haj Amin el Husseini arrived in Europe in 1941 following the unsuccessful pro-Nazi coup which he organized in Iraq. He met German foreign minister Joachcim von Ribbentrop and was officially received by Adolf Hitler on November 28, 1941 in Berlin. Nazi Germany established for der Grossmufti von Jerusalem a Bureau from which he organized the following: 1) radio propaganda on behalf of Nazi Germany; 2) espionage and fifth column activities in Muslim regions of Europe and the Middle East; 3) the formation of Muslim Waffen SS and Wehrmacht units in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo-Metohija, Western Macedonia, North Africa, and Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union; and, 4) the formation of schools and training centers for Muslim imams and mullahs who would accompany the Muslim SS and Wehrmacht units. As soon as he arrived in Europe, the Mufti established close contacts with Bosnian Muslim and Albanian Muslim leaders. He would spend the remainder of the war organizing and rallying Muslims in support of Nazi Germany . . .”

(“Islam Under the Swastika: The Grand Mufti and the Nazi Protectorate of Bosnia-Hercegovina, 1941-1945”; by Carl K. Savich.)

2. Next, the broadcast gives a brief summary of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, this part of the program reviews the Islamic Declaration of Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic.

” . . . Hassan el Banna formed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928. The Muslim Brotherhood had links to the Grand Mufti and worked with him in Palestine, sending volunteers in support of the Palestinian uprisings in 1936, 1939, and during the 1948 war. The Muslim Brotherhood sought to establish Muslim states based on the Sharia, Islamic law, and the Caliphate system of political rule, wherein each Islamic state would be ruled by a Caliph. Islam is ‘creed and state, book and sword, and a way of life.’ In Pakistan, Syed Abdul ala Maududi founded the Jamaat Islami movement with the goal of establishing Muslim theocratic states based on Koranic law. Egyptian Sayed Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood continued the movement after World War II. The Muslim Brotherhood had offshoots: the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Haj Amin el Husseini, the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamat Islami, Islamic Jihad, all form the roots and historical background for the emergence of the Al Qaeda network, the mujahedeen of Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden. Ayatollah Khomeini and Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic would be influenced by the anti-secular, anti-Western, radical Muslim nationalist movements. In his book The Islamic Declaration, (Islamska Deklaracija, 1970; republished, 1990), Izetbegovic rejected the secular conception of an Islamic state espoused by Kemal Ataturk. Izetbegovic sought to create an Islamic state based in the Sharia, a state where religion would not be separate from the state, i.e., an Islamic theocratic state. Izetbegovic established close links to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and invited mujahedeen forces to join the Bosnian Muslim Army. Izetbegovic later would give Osama Bin Laden a special Bosnian passport and the mujahedeen ‘freedom fighters’ would receive Bosnian citizenship and passports. One of the hijackers of the second attack on the World Trade Center on Septermber 11, 2001, possessed a Bosnian passport.”

(Ibid.; pp. 3-4.)

3. Detailing Nasser’s connections to the Grand mufti and the Muslim Brotherhood, the following passage reviews Yasser Arafat’s connections to the Mufti, as well.

“Yasser Arafat was introduced to the Mufti and the Mufti would subsequently become the role model and mentor for Arafat. In biographies of Arafat, whose real name is Mohammed el Husseini, the Mufti is stated to be a ‘distant relative’ of Arafat, although this claim has been denied as well. For two years, beginning at the age of 16, Arafat worked for the Mufti and his covert terrorist network and organization, helping to smuggle and buy weapons in the war against Jewish settlers of Palestine. Sheik Hassan Abu Saud, the mufti al-Shafaria, worked with the Mufti. The Grand Mufti was a precursor of both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and of the Palestinian national struggle and movement to maintain a Palestinian state. The terrorism, fanaticism, and ruthlessness of that movement reflect the enduring legacy and influence of the Grand Mufti . . .”

(Ibid.; p. 4.)

4. The Grand Mufti and the Brotherhood pursued a central agenda, while working with the Third Reich. The broadcast reviews the Grand Mufti’s role in helping to instigate a pro-Axis coup in Iraq. (Note that Saddam’s maternal uncle and political mentor was a participant in this coup.)

” . . . In 1939, the Mufti established his headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, where he set up a ‘political department’ that maintained ties to Germany and Italy. Germany sought to create a Berlin-Baghdad Axis and instigated a pro-Nazi coup. Iraqi General Rashid Ali el Gailani, a militant Muslim nationalist, and the Golden Square, a group of pro-Nazi Iraqi officers, took over the Iraqi government. The Mufti sent representatives to Berlin and a letter to Adolf Hitler. In a reply by German State Secretary Freiherr von Weiszacker, the Mufti was told that ‘the Fuehrer received your letter dated January 20th . . . He took great interest in what you wrote him about the national struggle of the Arabs . . . Germany . . . is ready to cooperate with you and to give you all possible military and financial help . . . Germany is prepared to deliver to you immediately military material.’ Abwehr, German intelligence, established contacts with the Mufti at this time.”

(Ibid.; pp. 4-5.)

5.

“Nazi Germany sent arms and aircraft to the Mufti’s forces in Iraq but the British were able to reoccupy Iraq, forcing the Mufti and el Gailani to flee to Tehran. The Mufti then flew to either Afghanistan or Turkey ‘where he is known to have many friends’. From there he arrived in Albania and on October 24 he reached southern Italy. On October 27, 1941, the Mufti arrived in Rome. The Mufti would subsequently play a major role in organizing Muslim support for Nazism in Europe.”

(Ibid.; p. 5.)

6. Exemplifying the manner in which the anti-colonial sentiment of indigenous peoples was utilized by the Third Reich for its own geopolitical agenda, the Grand Mufti issued a fatwa against the British.

“On May 9, 1941, the Mufti broadcast a fatwa announcing a jihad, an Islamic holy war, against Britain and he urged every Muslim to join in the struggle against the ‘greatest foe of Islam’: ‘I invite all my Muslim brothers throughout the whole world to join in the holy war for Allah . . . to preserve Islam, your independence and your lands from English aggression.’ The Mufti envisioned a vast Arab-Muslim union which would unite Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Trans-Jordan, and Egypt with Germany and Italy creating a Pan-Muslim/Arab Bloc of countries . . .”

(Idem.)

7. Eventually, the Grand Mufti was incorporated into the SS. It is important to note that many of the areas that the Grand Mufti was able to exploit in recruiting Muslim fighting formations on behalf of the Third Reich were areas in which Islamist activism is a major factor to this day. Note that Chechen Muslims were recruited into the Waffengruppe der SS Krim.

“. . . After meeting Hitler and Ribbentrop in Berlin in 1941, the Mufti was approached by Gottlob Berger, head of the SS main Office in control of recruiting, and by Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who made him a part of the SS apparatus. In May, 1943, the Mufti was moved to the SS main office where he participated in the recruiting of Muslims in the Balkans, the USSR, the Middle East, and North Africa. The Grand Mufti was instrumental in the organization and formation of many Muslim units and formations in the Waffen SS and Wehrmacht. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims fought for Nazi Germany in the following formations and units: Two Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS Divisions, an Albanian Waffen SS Division in Kosovo-Metohija and Western Macedonia, the 21st Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS ‘Skanderbeg’, a Muslim SS self-defense regiment in the Rashka (Sandzak) region of Serbia, the Arab Legion (Arabisches Freiheitskorps), the Arab Brigade, the Ostmusselmanische SS-Regiment, the Ostturkischen Waffen Verband der SS made up of Turkistanis, the Waffengruppe der-SS Krim, formations consisting of consisting of Chechen Muslims from Chechnya, and a Tatar Regiment der-SS made up of Crimean Tatars, and other Muslim formations in the Waffen SS and Wehrmacht, in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the Balkans, North Africa, Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union, and the Middle East . . .”

(Ibid.; p. 6.)

8. For his tactical inspiration for the Muslim Waffen SS divisions recruited from the Balkans, Himmler relied on the successful recruitment of Muslims by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I. (In this context, one should note that the former Yugoslavia had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, before that, the Ottoman Empire. The smoldering ethnic resentments stemming from that period contributed to the conflagration that exploded in that region in the 1990’s.)

” . . . Unlike most SS officials, Himmler was convinced of the fighting ability of the Bosnian Muslims, partly from his understanding of the role of the Bosnian Muslims as soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army before and during World War I and his belief that Islam was an ideal religion for a soldier. Himmler stated to Joseph Goebbels that he had ‘nothing against Islam because it educates the men in this Division for me and promises them heaven if they fight and are killed in action; a very practical and attractive religion for soldiers!'”

(Ibid.; p. 20.)

9. Before the synthesis of the Muslim SS formations, Muslim recruits fought with the Ustachi formations in Croatia.

“In 1941, over 100,000 Bosnian Muslim conscripts were available to fight in the military formations of the Third Reich. Roman Catholic Croatian and Bosnian Muslim soldiers were in the Ustasha death squads, the Domobranci (Home Guards), and the Croatian Army. Bosnian Muslim soldiers were in the Nazi-Ustasha German Croatian ‘Legion’ units, the 369th, 373rd, and 392nd Infantry Divisions. The 369th German-Croatian Infantry Division, formed in 1942, was known as the Vrazja Divizija or Devil Division commanded by Generalleutenant Fritz Neidholt. The 373rd German-Croatian Infantry Division was known as the Tigar Divizija or Tiger Division. The 392nd German-Croatian Infantry Division was known as the Plava Divizija, or Blue Division. The 369th Reinforced Croat Infantry Regiment, made up of Croats and Bosnian Muslims, fought at Stalingrad where it was destroyed. The NDH also sent the Italian-Croat Legion, attached to the Italian 3rd Mobile Division, to the Russian front where it was destroyed during the Don retreat. The 369th Reinforced Infantry Regiment, formed at Varazdin, consisted of three battalions, two from Croatia, one from Sarajevo. The Regiment left Zagreb on July 15, 1941 for the Doellersheim Training Camp near Vienna, Austria. From here, the troops were transferred by railroad to the USSR. The Regiment was deployed on various points on the Russian Front: Krementchug, Jasy, Kirovograd, Permomaysk, Poltava, the Dnieper River, Kharkov, Stalino. On May 15, 1942, the Regiment was deployed on the Voronezh Front. On September 27, the Bosnian Muslim/Croat troops deployed to Stalingrad where they fought to take the city. By February, 1943, the Regiment was totally annihilated and obliterated by the Russian Red Army. The German/Axis forces were encircled and surrendered en masse in Stalingrad.”

Ibid.; p. 8.)

10. Note that Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic was a member of the Young Muslims, one of the pro-Axis formations in the Balkans. He helped to recruit for the 13th Waffen SS (Hanjar) Division.

“The Bosnian Muslims formed purely Muslim formations as well, the most important of which was the Muslim Volunteer Legion, led by Mohammed Hadzieffendic. Other Muslim formations were the Zeleni Kadar/Kader (Green Cadres), Nazi formations created by deserters from the Home Guards (Domobranci), led by Neshad Topcic, the Muslim nationalist group, the Young Muslims (Mladl Muslimani), Huska Miljkovic’s Muslim Army, and the Gorazde-Foca Milicijas (policing units). Alija Izetbegovic was a key member of the Young Muslims (Mladi Muslimani) group.”

(Idem.)

11.

“Himmler wanted to re-establish the continuity with the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire, which had formed Bosnian Muslim military formations. Himmler sent the Mufti to Zagreb and to Sarajevo to prepare for the formation of the Bosnian Muslim units. Himmler’s SS representative in the NDH, Konstantin Kammerhofer, was told to begin recruiting a Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS Division of 26,000 men, which if realized, would make it the largest of all the SS Divisions . . .”

(Ibid.; pp. 9-10.)

12. Recapitulating the history of the genesis of the 13th and 23rd Waffen SS Divisions, it is important to note the historical influence of the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans in the selection of the names of the Divisions.

” . . . In April, 1943, the Grand Mufti came to Sarajevo, where he was greeted by cheering crowds and where he was photographed on the balcony of the presidency building with Bosnian Muslim leaders, to organize the formation of the Muslim SS Division . . . The Bosnian Muslims formed two Nazi SS Divisions during World War II, the 13th Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS ‘Handzar’ (or Handschar’ in German) from the Turkish hancher, ‘dagger’, from the Arabic khangar, ‘dagger’, and 23rd Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS ‘Kama’, from Turkish kama, ‘dagger, dirk’. During the war, Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the ‘architect of the Holocaust’, reviewed the Handzar Division in a German newsreel in 1943 while the division was being formed and trained in Silesia, at the Neuhammer Waffen SS Training camp in Germany. The Bosnian Muslims had approximately 20,000-25,000 men in the Waffen SS and police, roughly 4% of their total population, one of the highest ratios of membership in the Nazi ranks as a percentage of total population during the war . . .”

(Ibid.; pp. 12-13.)

13. In addition to the 13th Waffen SS Division, the 23rd (Kama) Division was recruited from Bosnia as well.

” . . . The Muslim Handzar and Kama Divisions were organized on the model of the Bosnian Muslim regiments of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The divisional names are derived from the Turkish words ‘hancher’ and ‘kama’, which in Turkish mean ‘dagger’, were symbolic of Islam and Islamic military/political power and the Islamic state. The Turkish word ‘hancher’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘khangar’, ‘dagger’. The handzar and kama were usually curved Turkish daggers which the Muslim Ottoman Turkish Zaptiehs or police customarily carried as weapons when Bosnia was under Turkish Ottoman rule. Thus, the names of the divisions were meant to revive the Islamic historical traditions of the Bosnia Muslims as the rulers and masters (begs or aghas) of Bosnia-Hercegovina over the non-Muslim rayah or untermenschen or mistmenschen, the subhumans, Orthodox Serb Christians, Jews, and Roma. This was the meaning and symbolic significance of the names ‘handzar’ and ‘kama’. Usually, the Waffen SS Divisions were named after heroic local political or military leaders. The Bosnian Muslims lacked any historical figures in their history.”

(Ibid.; p. 14.)

14. The 21st Waffen SS Division (“Skanderbeg”) was something of a forerunner of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Many of the members of the latter were veterans of various Axis fighting formations, including the Skanderbeg division. Noting that the recreated Hanjar Division (see the programs noted above) was engaged in force projection in to the Kosovo/Macedonia area in the early 1990’s, Mr. Emory observed that the KLA might be viewed as “Skanderbeg II” or “Hanjar III.” The projection of elements of the original Hanjar Division into what became the Skanderbeg Division was evident during the Second World War, as well. (Recall, also, that the recreated Hanjar Division was led by Arab and Pakistani veterans of the Afghan war.

“The Division had at least nine Bosnian Muslim officers, the highest ranking of whom was SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Hussein Biscevic-Beg, who had been a Muslim officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army when Bosnia was under occupation. Initially, the Handzar Division was formed around the core of the Muslim Volunteer Legion, led by Mohammed Hadzieffendic, which was close to divisional strength itself. There were approximately 300 Albanian Muslim troops in the Handzar division primarily from Kosovo-Metohija in Regiment 28, I/28. These Albanian Muslims would in 1944 be transferred to the 21st Waffen Gebirgs Division ‘Skanderbeg’ to occupy Kosovo and Western Macedonia. Albanian Muslim squad leader Nazir Hodic was a prominent member of Handzar. Albanian Muslim Ajdin Mahmutovic was seventeen when he joined the Handzar SS Division: ‘I was only seventeen years old when I joined the SS. I found the physical training to be quite easy.'”

(Ibid.; pp. 14-15.)

15.

“In January, 1944, the Mufti made a second visit to and spent three days with the Handzar Division, which was departing from Germany for Bosnia by rail. In a speech to the Division, he made the following declaration of principles which was to guide not only Bosnian Muslims, but all Muslims throughout the world: ‘This division of Bosnian Muslims, established with the help of Greater Germany, is an example to Muslims in all countries. There is no other deliverance for them from imperialistic oppression than hard fighting to preserve their homes and faith. Many common interests exist between the Islamic world and Greater Germany, and those make cooperation a matter of course. The Reich is fighting against the same enemies who robbed the Muslims of their countries and suppressed their faith in Asia, Africa, and Europe.'”

(Ibid.; p. 16.)

16.

” ‘Germany is the only Great Power which has never attacked any Islamic country. Further, National-Socialist Germany is fighting against world Jewry. The Koran says: ‘You will find that the Jews are the worst enemies of the Muslims.'” There are also considerable similarities between Islamic principles and those of National-Socialism, namely in the affirmation of struggle and fellowship, in stressing leadership, in the idea of order, in the high valuation of work. All this brings our ideologies close together and facilitates cooperation. I am happy to see in this division a visible and practical expression of both ideologies.’ “

(Idem.)

17.

“Husseini referred to the Bosnian Muslims as the ‘cream of Islam’ and in a speech to the imams in the Handzar Division, explained why the Muslim/Arab world should support the Axis/Nazi Germany: ‘Friendship and collaboration between peoples must be built on a firm foundation. The necessary ingredients here are common spiritual and material interests as well as the same ideals. The relationship between the Muslims and the Germans is built on this foundation. Never in its history has Germany attacked a Muslim nation. Germany battles world Jewry, Islam’s principal enemy. Germany also battles England and its allies, who have persecuted millions of Muslims, as well as Bolshevism, which subjugates forty million Muslims and threatens the Islamic faith in other lands. Any one of these arguments would be enough of a foundation for a friendly relationship between two peoples . . . My enemy’s enemy is my friend.'”

(Ibid.; pp. 16-17.)

18. In addition to anti-British and anti-Semitic ideology, the Grand Mufti articulated (and anticipated) the anti-American rhetoric of today’s Islamists and Islamofascists.

“On March 1, 1944, the Mufti attacked American policy in the Middle East in a radio broadcast from Berlin: ‘No one ever that that 140,000 Americans would become tools in Jewish hands . . . How would the Americans dare to Judaize Palestine? . . . The wicked American intentions towards the Arabs are now clear, and there remain no doubts that they are endeavoring to establish a Jewish empire in the Arab world.'”

(Ibid.; p. 19.)

19. A major source of funding for Al Qaeda has been Islamic charities. Interestingly (and perhaps significantly), Islamic charities were also utilized by the SS to shore up the Muslim divisions.

“The Donauzeitung (The Danube Times) newspaper of December 31, 1942 reported that the Mufti had donated over 240,000 Kuna, the currency of the NDH regime, to the Muslim charity organization in Sarajevo from German government sources. Himmler donated 100,000 Reichsmarks. The SS bought clothing which was donated to the Merhamed Welfage organization, a Muslim charity.'”

(Idem.)

20. The concluding part of the broadcast examines some of the present manifestations of Islamism and Islamofascism. In many cases (such as the recreated Handjar Division of 1990’s in Bosnia-Herzegovina) the Islamist and Islamofascist activists are the ontogenetic successors of many of the formations that fought for the Axis.

” . . .These are the men of the Handzar division. ‘We do everything with the knife, and we always fight on the frontline.’ A Handzar told one U.N. officer. Up to 6,000 strong, the Handzar division glories in a fascist culture. They see themselves as their heirs of the SS Handzar division, formed by Bosnian Muslims in 1943 to fight for the Nazis. Their spiritual model was Mohammed Amin al-Husein, the grand Mufti of Jerusalem who sided with Hitler. According to U.N. officers, surprisingly few of those in charge of the Handzars in Fojnica seem to speak good Serbo Croation ‘Many of them are Albanian, whether from Kosovo (the Serb province where Albanians are the majority) or from Albania itself.”

(“Albanians and Afghans fight for the heirs to Bosnia’s SS Past” by Robert Fox; Daily Telegraph; 12/29/1993.)

21. As we reflect on the Balkans war and the events of 9/11, one of the scenarios to be seriously considered is the possibility that elements of US intelligence utilized the “Arab Afghans” (including Al Qaeda) in the Balkans, as they had against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Indeed the geopolitics first practiced by the Third Reich in the “Earth Island” appears to have served as something of a model for what took place in the latter part of the Cold War. America’s erstwhile Islamist and Islamofascist allies later turned against the United States with a vengeance.

“They are trained and led by veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, say U.N. sources strong presence of native Albanians is an ominous sign. It could mean the seeds of war are spreading south via Kosovo and into Albania. Thence to the Albanians of Macedonia. Pakistani fundamentalists are known to have had a strong hand in providing arms and a small weapons industry for the Bosnian Muslims.”

(Idem.)

22. Christian Ganczarski (suspected by the French of being a high-ranking Al Qaeda operative and released from both Germany and Saudi Arabia) had a combat background in Bosnia/Herzegovonia.

“The two suspects knew each other from Duisburg, Germany where both lived until recently. A computer expert who grew up in Poland, Ganczarski is a veteran of Al Qaeda’s Afghan training camps and saw combat Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to [French Justice Minister] Sarkozy. Ganczarski’s alleged contact with Bin Laden is not in itself extraordinary because European converts are prized by Al Qaeda for their ability to carry out covert operations and as symbols of the evangelical power of the so-called holy wars.”

(“Terror Suspect Called Key Al Qaeda Figure” by Sebastian Rotella; Los Angeles Times; 6/12/2003; p. A3.)

23. The broadcast reviews the Thyssen-Bornemisza operation, which helped spawn the Bush family’s economic largesse. (As discussed in FTR#370, the Thyssen-Bornemisza business is based in Lugano, Switzerland, as is Al Taqwa and the closely-related Banco del Gottardo.) “Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza runs his private Dutch-based investment group from Lugano, Switzerland, and his cousin Count Federico Zichy-Thyssen, grandson of old Fritz Thyssen, exercises control over Thyssen A.G. from his base in Buenos Aires.”

(Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile; Paul Manning; Copyright 1981 [HC]; Lyle Stuart Inc.; ISBN 0-8184-0309-8; P. 237.)

24. Interestingly (and perhaps significantly), the Hapsburg/Thyssen-Bornemisza wedding took place in Zagreb, the capitol of Croatia. (Information available at www.mzt.hr/projekti9095/6/99/128/rad_e.htm.) The significance of the Hapsburg/Thyssen union is not one to be underestimated, given the significance of the Hapsburg interests and that of the Thyssen-Bornemisza operation.

25. The Wahhabi fighters currently engaged in Chechnya are reminiscent of the Waffen Grupp-der Krim during World War II.

“For months, local residents say, the group of 15 Arab and Central Asian fighters lived quietly in a two-story house here, among the hundreds of guerillas who had turned this wooded vale near the Russian border into a burgeoning center of Islamic militancy. Like many of those who gathered here, the fighters had come over the snowy passes from Chechnya, where they had been helping their fellow Muslims in their struggle to break with the Russian republic. They exercised to stay in shape and went into the woods to practice shooting. Some of the militants departed, presumably for Russia, while new ones came to prepare for the fight.”

(“U.S. Entangled in Mystery of Georgia’s Islamic Fighters” by Dexter Filkins; The New York Times; 6/15/2003.)

26. Among the Islamist organizations active in Russia is the Hizb ut-Tahrir. “Russian security forces have detained at least 55 members of a banned Islamic group, a spokesman for the FSB security service said. Security officers also seized 500 grams of plastic explosive, several hand grenades and leaflets for the organization, Hizb-e Tahrir.” (“Russia Arrests Islamist Suspects” [BBC]; BBC News; 6/9/2003.)

27. Next, the broadcast reviews information from FTR#395. Among the organizations “fellow travelling” with the Hizb ut-Tahrir is the NPD, the top German “neo”-Nazi group. Al Taqwa director Ahmed Huber and Horst Mahler are among the associates of the NPD.

“Hizb ut-Tahrir became well known in Germany after staging a rally at Berlin’s Technical University in October at which the main speaker made anti-American comments, Schily said. Members of Germany’s extreme right-win NPD, a party the government is trying to ban, also attended the rally, he said.”

(“Germany Bans Islamic Group it Says is Anti-Semitic” [Reuters]; South Florida Sun-Sentinel; 1/15/2003.)

28. A major player in the Israeli Palestinian struggles of recent years is Hamas—the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

. . . Hamas, an acronym for Harakat Muqawama Islamiya, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, was born in 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, the group has grown in stature to become one of the leading militant groups in the region and a key player that now jeopardizes the success of the U.S.-backed road map for Mideast peace.”

(“Hamas committed to Armed Struggle Against Israel” by Danielle Haas; San Francisco Chronicle; 6/14/2003; p. A14.)

29. It should be noted that the Islamist, Al Qaeda and Al Taqwa elements that were raided on 3/20/2002 were linked directly to the Republican party’s ethnic outreach organization.

” . . . That brief conversation [between Norquist and Karl Rove] in Austin, Texas, helped start a new chapter in Mr. Norquist’s career—and in the political lives of Muslims in this country. The following year, Mr. Norquist started the nonprofit Islamic Free Market Institute. In collaboration with Mr. Rove, now Mr. Bush’s chief political adviser, he and other institute leaders courted Muslim voters for the Bush 2000 presidential campaign. Mr. Norquist even credits gains among Muslims with putting Mr. Bush in a position to win the critical Florida contest . . . To run the nonprofit’s day-to-day operations, Mr. Norquist turned to Khalid Saffuri, a Palestinian-American raised in Kuwait who had been an official of the American Muslim Council, a political group in Washington. The institute’s founding chairman was a Palestinian American, Talat Othman, who had served with Mr. Bush on the board of Harken Energy Corp. and later visited the president in the White House, according to records obtained by the National Security News Service.”

(“In Difficult Times, Muslims Count On Unlikely Advocate” by Tom Hamburger and Glenn R. Simpson; The Wall Street Journal; pp. A1-A8.)

Discussion

One comment for “FTR #414 Islam Under the Swastika & its Implications for Today”

  1. http://wilsonquarterly.com/stories/the-swastika-and-the-crescent/

    The Swastika and the Crescent
    By David Motadel
    How Nazi Germany’s leaders tried to recruit Muslims to their war against Jews, Britain, and Bolshevism.

    ON JULY 25, 1940, JUST AFTER THE FALL OF FRANCE and at the outset of the Battle of Britain, retired German diplomat Max von Oppenheim sent Berlin’s Foreign Office a seven-page memorandum. It was time, he argued, for a comprehensive strategy to mobilize the Islamic world against the British Empire.

    Oppenheim knew the concept well; few had shaped Germany’s policy towards Islam in late imperial period and during the First World War as much as he had. Yet, the memo created few ripples at the Foreign Office. German officials showed little interest in the Middle East, and even less in the wider Muslim world. Hitler’s plans were focused on eastern Europe. In the non-European world, Berlin acknowledged the imperial interests of Italy and Spain, which Hitler sought as allies. A policy of Muslim mobilization was deemed unnecessary.

    As Germany’s war expanded into Muslim-populated lands, that outlook changed.

    In 1941, with German troops fighting in North Africa and advancing toward the Middle East, policymakers in Berlin began considering the strategic role of Islam more systematically. In November, German diplomat Eberhard von Stohrer wrote a memo asserting that the Muslim world would soon become important to the overall war. After the defeat of France, he wrote, Germany had gained an “outstanding position” and won sympathy “in the eyes of the Muslims” by fighting Britain, “the suppressor of wide-reaching Islamic areas.” Convinced that Nazi ideology was aligned with “many Islamic principles,” Stohrer claimed that in the Muslim world, Hitler already held a “a pre-eminent position because of his fight against Judaism.” He suggested that there should be “an extensive Islam program,” including a statement about the “general attitude of the Third Reich toward Islam.”

    In the following months, as more and more officials in Berlin became convinced of such a scheme, Nazi Germany made significant attempts to promote an alliance with the ‘Muslim world’ against their alleged common enemies: the British Empire, the Soviet Union, America, and the Jews. This policy was first targeted at the populations in North Africa and the Middle East, but was soon expanded toward Muslims in the Balkans and the Soviet Union. In the end, almost all parts of the regime, from the Foreign Office and the Propaganda Ministry to the Wehrmacht and the SS, became involved in the efforts to promote Germany’s as a patron and liberator of Islam.

    THE ATTEMPTS TO COURT MUSLIMS AROUND THE WORLD were first and foremost motivated by material interests and strategic concerns, not ideology. The willingness to deal pragmatically with questions of race, as well as the lack of anti-Islamic attitudes among the Nazi leadership, made the promotion of such an alliance possible.

    Indeed, the most obvious obstacle to an inclusive policy towards Muslims was, of course, Nazi racism. In Mein Kampf, Hitler had postulated the racial inferiority of non-European peoples. Praising the idea of European imperial hegemony, he had ridiculed anti-imperial movements as a “coalition of cripples,” which because of “racial inferiority” could never be an ally of the German people. Soon after the seizure of power, however, German officials showed themselves to be more pragmatic.

    For diplomatic reasons, Berlin had tried to avoid any explicit racial discrimination against non-Jewish Middle Easterners. That line was substantially complicated by the introduction of the Nuremberg laws in 1935. In codifying racism, the laws referred to “Jews” and persons of “German or kindred blood;” in practice, these categories were refined to “persons of German and kindred blood” and “Jews and other aliens,” with the peoples of Europe and their descendants in the non-European world considered “kindred.”

    After inquiries from the Turkish embassy, which was concerned about legal discrimination against Turks and German citizens of Turkish descent, German authorities issued an internal decree: Turkey was part of Europe; other Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt and Iran, could not claim to be European. This statement soon leaked to the foreign press, and on June 14, 1936, Le Temps reported that Berlin had decided to exempt Turks from the Nuremberg laws, while Iranians, Egyptians, and Iraqis were considered “non-Aryan.” In the coming days, similar articles caused an uproar among Iranian and Egyptian officials.

    At once, the German Foreign Office issued a press release stating that the reports were unfounded. The Egyptian and Iranian ambassadors were assured that the Nuremberg laws targeted only Jews. Whereas the Egyptian ambassador had merely requested clarification that Egyptians were not targeted by German racial laws, Tehran’s ambassador demanded a clear statement that Iranians were considered racially related to the Germans. A year earlier, Riza Shah had ordered that his country be called “Iran” instead of “Persia” in international affairs — the name “Iran” is a cognate of “Aryan” and refers to the “Land of the Aryans” — and Iranian officials made no secret that they believed this term useful given that “some countries pride themselves on being Aryan.”

    To discuss the issue, representatives of all major ministries assembled at the Foreign Office on July 1, 1936. Walter Groß, head of the Nazi Office of Racial Politics, made it clear that any formal declaration was out of the question. Yet, it was agreed upon that ambassadors should be informed that the racial laws did not target (non-Jewish) foreign citizens, and that Iranian and Egyptian citizens would be treated the same as other non-Jewish foreign nationals; marriages between non-German men and German women were accepted, while marriages between non-German women and German men were possible, pending a ‘racial examination’ of the woman. Officials in Egypt and Iran were conciliated.

    While race theory could justify excluding Persians and Turks from racial discrimination, the case of the Arabs was more complicated: they were seen by most racial ideologues as “Semites.” Regime officials were well aware that the term “anti-Semite” was problematic, as it targeted groups they did not wish to offend. As early as 1935, Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry therefore instructed the press to avoid the terms “anti-Semitic” or “anti-Semitism,” and to instead use words like “anti-Jewish.” During the war years, German officials became more concerned about offending Arab sensibilities, and efforts to prohibit the use of these terms intensified. In early 1942, the Propaganda Ministry’s Office of “Anti-Semitic Action” became the Office of “Anti-Jewish Action.” Even the Nazi Office of Racial Politics would support the abolition of the terms, with Walter Groß writing an open letter to Iraqi nationalist and Axis collaborator Rashid Ali al-Kilani, insisting that Jews had to be “strictly distinguished” from the peoples of the Middle East, and writing that the Nazi government “recognizes Arabs as members of a high-grade race, which looks back on a glorious and heroic history.” The fight was against Jews, not Semites in general.

    With the German involvement with the Muslims of Southeastern Europe and the Turkic minorities of the Soviet Union, here too, racial guidelines were relaxed. In 1943, when the Germans moved into Bosnia and Herzegovina, the SS even declared the Muslims of the Balkans part of the ‘racially valuable peoples of Europe’.

    TO THE NAZI ELITE, any undesirable racial classification of Muslim populations was a wholly different question from the desirability of Islam as a faith. In fact, many of them, including Hitler, distinguished between race and religion when speaking about Islam.

    A number of high-ranking Nazis expressed their sympathy for Islam. Perhaps most fascinated with the faith — and enthusiastic about what he believed to be an affinity between Nazism and Islam — was Heinrich Himmler. Recounting a meeting between Himmler and Hitler in Berlin in February 1943, Edmund Glaise von Horstenau, a Wehrmacht general, noted that Himmler had expressed his disdain for Christianity, while finding Islam “very admirable.” A few months later, Himmler would again “speak about the heroic character of the Mohammedan religion, while expressing his disdain for Christianity, and especially Catholicism,” wrote Horstenau.

    The most intimate insights into Himmler’s attitude toward Islam are given by his doctor, Felix Kersten, whose notorious memoirs devote an entire chapter to Himmler’s “Enthusiasm for Islam.” To be sure, the Kersten memoirs are a problematic historical source. While some of the parts, especially those about his role in the rescue of Jews and other victims of the regime, were manipulated and fabricated by the author, others have proven to be accurate; the passages about Islam match other accounts of Himmler’s views about Muslims, and can be considered credible.

    According to Kersten, Himmler saw Islam as a masculine, soldierly religion, telling him in late 1942:

    Mohammed knew that most people are terribly cowardly and stupid. That is why he promised every warrior who fights courageously and falls in battle two [sic] beautiful women. … This is the kind of language a soldier understands. When he believes that he will be welcomed in this manner in the afterlife, he will be willing to give his life; he will be enthusiastic about going to battle and not fear death. You may call this primitive and laugh about it … but it is based on deeper wisdom. A religion must speak a man’s language.

    Himmler, who had left the Catholic Church in 1936, bemoaned that Christianity made no promises to soldiers who died in battle, no reward for bravery. Islam, by contrast, was “a religion of people’s soldiers,” a practical faith that provided believers with guidance for everyday life. Himmler, convinced that Muhammad was one of the greatest men in history, had apparently collected biographies of the Prophet, and hoped to visit Muslim countries and continue his studies after the war was won. In discussions with Haj Amin al-Husayni, the legendary Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who sided with the Axis and moved to Berlin in 1941, from where he called for holy war against the Allies, Himmler lamented the failed invasions by Islamic forces in centuries past which, he said, “depriv[ed] Europe of the flourishing spiritual light and civilization of Islam.”

    HITLER SHOWED HIMSELF EQUALLY FASCINATED WITH ISLAM. After the war, Eva Braun’s sister, Ilse, remembered his frequent discussions on the topic, repeatedly comparing Islam with Christianity in order to devalue the latter. In contrast to Islam, which he saw as a strong and practical faith, he described Christianity as a soft, artificial, weak religion of suffering. Islam was a religion of the here and now, Hitler told his entourage, while Christianity was a religion of a kingdom yet to come — one that was deeply unattractive, compared to the paradise promised by Islam.

    For Hitler, religion was a means of supporting human life on earth practically and not an end in itself. “The precepts ordering people to wash, to avoid certain drinks, to fast at appointed dates, to take exercise, to rise with the sun, to climb to the top of the minaret — all these were obligations invented by intelligent people,” he remarked in October 1941 in the presence of Himmler. “The exhortation to fight courageously is also self-explanatory. Observe, by the way, that, as a corollary, the Mussulman [sic] was promised a paradise peopled with houris, where wine flowed in streams — a real earthly paradise,” he enthused. “The Christians, on the other hand, declare themselves satisfied if after their death they are allowed to sing Hallelujahs!” Two months later he commented in a similar vein: “I can imagine people being enthusiastic about the paradise of Mahomet [sic], but as for the insipid paradise of the Christians!” Hitler would also compare Islam with other Asian religions that he admired. “Just as in Islam, there is no kind of terrorism in the Japanese State religion, but, on the contrary, a promise of happiness,” he said on April 4, 1942.

    By contrast, Christianity had “universalized” the “terrorism of religion,” which in Hitler’s eyes was a result of “Jewish dogma.” Once, while engaging in his usual agitation against the Catholic Church — which was, he told his audience, foisted on the Germans by “Jewish filth and priestly twaddle” — he expressed anger that the Germans had been haunted by Christianity, “while in other parts of the globe religious teaching like that of Confucius, Buddha and Mohammed offers an undeniably broad basis for the religious-minded.”

    Raging against the Christian Church’s adherence to “proven untruth,” he came again to speak of Islam: “It adds little to our knowledge of the Creator when some person presents to us an indifferent copy of a man as his conception of the Deity. In this respect, at least, the Mohammedan is more enlightened.” Reflecting on history, he described the Islamic reign on the Iberian peninsula as the “most cultured, the most intellectual and in every way best and happiest epoch in Spanish history,” one that was “followed by the period of the persecutions with its unceasing atrocities.”

    Hitler expressed this view repeatedly. After the war, Albert Speer remembered that Hitler had been much impressed by a historical interpretation he had learned from some distinguished Muslims:

    When the Mohammedans attempted to penetrate beyond France into Central Europe during the eighth century, his visitors had told him [Hitler], they had been driven back at the Battle of Tours. Had the Arabs won this battle, the world would be Mohammedan today. For theirs was a religion that believed in spreading the faith by the sword and subjugating all nations to that faith. The Germanic peoples would have become heirs to that religion. Such a creed was perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament. Hitler said that the conquering Arabs, because of their racial inferiority, would in the long run have been unable to contend with the harsher climate and conditions of the country. They could not have kept down the more vigorous native, so that ultimately not Arabs but Islamized Germans could have stood at the head of this Mohammedan Empire.

    Whereas he perceived Islam to be a superior religion, Hitler described its Arab adherents as an inferior race. While Hitler did not perceive Islam as a “Semitic” religion, the race of its followers remained a silent but persistent problem.

    Hermann Neubacher, special representative of Germany’s Foreign Office in the Balkans, noted in his autobiography that Hitler was convinced that “if the Germans had become Muslims, they would have achieved more in history.” According to Neubacher, Hitler had conversationally described Islam as a “religion of men” (Männerreligion). Gendered notions of Islam — the idea that the religion was a strong, masculine, martial faith — were expressed repeatedly by both Himmler and Hitler.

    To be sure, our knowledge of the ideas about Islam that circulated within the Nazi elite mostly comes from memoirs and postwar testimonies, which must be read with caution. Nonetheless, these accounts draw a remarkably coherent picture of the ideological notions prevalent among the higher echelons of the regime.

    Throughout the war years, the Propaganda Ministry repeatedly instructed the press to promote a positive image of Islam. Urging journalists to give credit to the “Islamic world as a cultural factor,” Goebbels in autumn 1942 instructed magazines to discard negative images of Islam, which had been spread by church polemicists for centuries, and instead to promote an alliance with the Islamic world, which was described as both anti-Bolshevik and anti-Jewish. References to similarities between Jews and Muslims, as manifested in the ban of pork and the ritual circumcision, were to be avoided. In the coming months, the Propaganda Ministry decreed that magazines should depict the U.S. as “the enemies of Islam” and stress American and British hostility toward the Muslim religion.

    In September 1943, the Nazi Party explicitly stated that it accepted members who were “followers of Islam,” emphasizing that as the party accepted Christians as members, there was no reason to exclude Muslims.
    (Photo via Bundesarchiv, Bild 101III-Mielke-036-23/Mielke/CC-BY-SA)(Photo via Bundesarchiv, Bild 101III-Mielke-036-23/Mielke/CC-BY-SA)

    AS GERMAN TROOPS MARCHED into Muslim-populated warzones in North Africa, the Balkans, and the borderlands of the Soviet Union, German authorities on the ground frequently considered Islam to be of political importance. As early as 1941, the Wehrmacht distributed the military handbook Der Islam to train the troops to behave correctly towards Muslim populations. On the Eastern front, in the Caucasus and in the Crimea, the Germans ordered the rebuilding of mosques and madrasas previously dismantled by Moscow, and the re-establishment of religious rituals and celebrations, with the intention of undermining Soviet rule. German military officials also made extensive efforts to co-opt religious dignitaries in the Eastern territories, the Balkans, and North Africa. Nazi propagandists in these areas tried to use religious rhetoric, vocabulary, and iconography to mobilize Muslims against Germany’s enemies. Perhaps the most important part of this policy was the recruitment of Muslims into the German armies.

    In the autumn of 1941, after the failure of Operation Barbarossa and Hitler’s blitzkrieg strategy in the East, Hitler’s military command was confronted with a drastic shortage of manpower. By the end of November 1941, Berlin had registered 743,112 men as dead, wounded, or missing in action — almost a quarter of their entire eastern army. German soldiers, it became clear, could not win the war alone.

    In late 1941, the Wehrmacht began recruiting among prisoners of war and the civilian populations in its eastern occupied territories. Azerbaijanis, Turkestanis, Kalmyks, Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians, and various others fought as part of the Wehrmacht’s so-called Eastern Troops. In mid-1943, the Eastern Troops numbered more than 300,000; a year later, that number had doubled, the vast majority were non-Slavic minorities from the southern fringes of the Soviet empire, and many thousands of them were Muslims from the Caucasus, the Crimea, the Volga-Ural region, and Central Asia. At the same time, Himmler began enlisting non-Germans into the Waffen-SS, first West and North Europeans and later non-Germanic peoples, among them Muslims from Bosnia, Herzegovina, Albania, and from the Soviet Union. It became one of the greatest mobilization campaigns of Muslims led by a non-Muslim power in history.
    (Photo of SS recruits from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1943, via German Federal Archives, Koblenz, Mielke)(Photo of SS recruits from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1943, via German Federal Archives, Koblenz, Mielke)

    This recruitment campaign was not the result of long-term strategy, but a consequence of the shift toward short-term planning after the failure of the Barbarossa plan. Most of the recruits were driven by material interests. For many of the Muslim volunteers from the Soviet Union who were recruited in prisoner of war camps, a significant incentive was the prospect of pay and better provisions — fighting for the Germans was an attractive prospect compared to the appalling conditions of the camps. Others, most notably Muslim recruits from the civilian population in the Balkans and the Crimea, hoped to protect their families and villages from partisans. Some were driven into the German ranks by ideology, nationalism, religious hatred, and anti-Bolshevism. Under the banner of the swastika, the volunteers believed that they would be supporting the fight against Bolshevism or British imperialism and for the liberation of their countries from foreign rule. The Germans, for their part, did everything they could to play up the potential ideological motives of their foreign helpers.

    In January 1944, Himmler greeted a group of Bosnian Muslim military commanders in Silesia. “What is there to separate the Muslims in Europe and around the world from us Germans? We have common aims. There is no more solid basis for cooperation than common aims and common ideals. For 200 years, Germany has not had the slightest conflict with Islam.” Germany had been friends with Islam, Himmler declared, not just for pragmatic reasons but out of conviction. God — “you say Allah, it is the same” — had sent the Führer, who would first free Europe and then the entire world of the Jews. The head of the SS then evoked alleged common enemies — “the Bolsheviks, England, America, all constantly driven by the Jew.”

    Himmler told the assembled Muslim military leaders that God — “you say ‘Allah,’ it is the same” — had sent Hitler, who would rid the entire world of Jews.

    German army officials granted their Muslim recruits a wide range of concessions, taking into account the Islamic calendar and religious laws such as ritual slaughter. A prominent role in the units was played by military imams, who were responsible not only for spiritual care but also for political indoctrination. They were educated at special imam courses, which the Wehrmacht and the SS established in Potsdam, Göttingen, Guben, and Dresden.

    Initiated primarily to save German blood and balance the drastic shortage of manpower, the commands of the Wehrmacht and the SS also saw a propagandistic value of non-German units, which they hoped would damage the morale in the enemy’s armies and hinterland. German officials insisted that once these units were deployed, they would win over broader Islamic support — showing, in the words of one internal SS report, the “entire Mohammedan world” that the Third Reich was ready to confront the “common enemies of National Socialism and Islam.” This misconception — this notion that Islam was a monolith that need only be activated — dominated the views of the Nazi leadership.

    In the end, Muslim units were employed in Stalingrad, Warsaw, and Milan, and in the defense of Berlin. On all fronts, Muslim soldiers kept fighting until the end. Only in the chaos of the last months of the war, when all hopes for a German victory were shattered, did it become difficult to maintain morale and discipline in the units. The number of desertions rose. Soldiers left individually and in groups, or simply did not return from furlough. Others engaged in acts of self-mutilation to enforce discharge.

    AFTER THE WAR WAS LOST, the fate of Germany’s Muslim soldiers was grim. In the Balkans, they faced Tito’s retribution, where the imams of the SS units were the first to be punished with executions, imprisonment, or forced labor. In the East, Moscow saw the collaboration of all those who had fought in German units as high treason.

    At the Yalta Conference, the Big Three had agreed to repatriate all former Soviet citizens. Accordingly, the British and Americans disarmed all soldiers of Hitler’s non-German units and detained them in special camps. Eventually, they turned the legionnaires over to the Red Army.

    The extradition began in the summer of 1945 and was accompanied by dramatic scenes. Dozens jumped from moving trains. As they docked in Odessa, many leaped from the deportation ships into the Black Sea; some committed suicide. One of the imams died in an act of self-immolation. Once in the USSR, most were massacred by Soviet cadres or deported to gulags. “All during 1945 and 1946 a big wave of genuine, at-long-last, enemies of the Soviet government flowed into the Archipelago,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn later recalled in The Gulag Archipelago.

    Protests by the Red Cross made no impression on British and U.S. authorities, and the international press showed little interest.

    Protests by the Red Cross made no impression on British and U.S. authorities. The international press showed little interest. One of the few to publicly criticize these deportations was, in fact, George Orwell, who was working as a war correspondent on the continent. “These facts, known to many journalists on the spot, went almost unmentioned in the British Press,” he noted in 1946, condemning the apparent public disinterest. Only when it became indisputable that the extraditions ended with executions and slave labor did the Allies abandon their repatriation policy. Those Muslims who had remained in the camps or had escaped were granted the status of “displaced persons,” and several thousand stayed in the West.

    IN THE LAST MONTHS OF THE WAR, IN THE BERLIN BUNKER, Hitler lamented that the Third Reich’s efforts to mobilize the Muslim world had not been strong enough. “All Islam vibrated at the news of our victories,” and Muslims had been “ready to rise in revolt,” he told Bormann. “Just think what we could have done to help them, even to incite them, as would have been both our duty and our interest!” Instead, Germany had too long respected Italian interests in the Muslim world, which had hindered, as Hitler put it, a “splendid policy with regard to Islam.” “For the Italians in these parts of the world are more bitterly hated, of course, than either the British or the French.” The German-Italian alliance had “created a feeling of malaise among our Islamic friends, who inevitably saw us as accomplices, willing or unwilling, of their oppressors,” he bemoaned.

    Unbound from its allies, Germany could have liberated the Muslims from Vichy and Italian rule in North Africa, which would then have found strong repercussions in Muslim lands under British rule. A movement could have been incited in North Africa that would have spilled over to the rest of the Muslim world. “Such a policy would have aroused the enthusiasm of the whole of Islam,” Hitler said. “It is a characteristic of the Moslem world, from the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific, that what affects one, for good or for evil, affects all.”

    Reflecting on his visions of a European New Order, Hitler insisted that his New Europe would have engaged in “a bold policy of friendship toward Islam.” In Hitler’s view, Germany’s Islam policy had not gone far enough.

    * * *

    David Motadel is a Research Fellow in History at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge. This piece is adapted from his book, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, available from Harvard University Press.

    Cover image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101III-Mielke-036-23/Mielke/CC-BY-SA.

    Posted by Vanfield | December 18, 2014, 12:04 pm

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