Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

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

MP3 Side 1 | Side 2

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.)


“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 . . .”


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.”



“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.)


“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.)


” ‘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.’ ”



“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.’ ”


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.”


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.)


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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