In the wake of Sept. 11, new light is thrown on the international ties increasingly linking Muslim and neo-Nazi extremists
by Martin A. Lee
As Germany’s defeat loomed during the final months of World War II, Adolf Hitler increasingly lapsed into delusional fits of fantasy.
Albert Speer, in his prison writings, recounts an episode in which a maniacal Hitler “pictured for himself and for us the destruction of New York in a hurricane of fire.”
The Nazi fuehrer described skyscrapers turning into “gigantic burning torches, collapsing upon one another, the glow of the exploding city illuminating the dark sky.”
An approximation of Hitler’s hellish vision came true on Sept. 11, when terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers in New York, killing nearly 3,000 people. But it was not Nazis or even neo-Nazis who carried out the attack — the deadliest terror strike in history allegedly came at the hands of foreign Muslim extremists.
Still, in the aftermath of the slaughter, white supremacists in America and Europe applauded the suicide attacks and praised Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the massacre.
An official of America’s premier neo-Nazi group, the National Alliance, said he wished his own members had “half as much testicular fortitude.” The awestruck leader of another U.S. Nazi group called the terrorists “VERY BRAVE PEOPLE.”
Neofascist youth in France celebrated the event that evening with champagne at the headquarters of the extreme right Front National. German neo-Nazis, some wearing checkered Palestinian headscarves, rejoiced at street demonstrations while burning an American flag.
Jan Kopal, head of the Czech National Social Bloc, declared at a rally in Prague that bin Laden was “an example for our children.”
Horst Mahler, a former left-wing terrorist and prominent member of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) in Germany, proclaimed his solidarity with the terrorists and said America had gotten what it deserved.
What’s going on here?
For decades, American extremists have lumped Arabs in with dark-skinned “mud people.” In Europe, neo-Nazis have been implicated in countless xenophobic attacks on Arabs, Turks and other Muslims.
Extremist parties on both sides of the Atlantic hope to bar entrance to non-white immigrants.
The peculiar bond between white nationalist groups and certain Muslim extremists derives in part from a shared set of enemies — Jews, the United States, race-mixing, ethnic diversity.
It is also very much a function of the shared belief that they must shield their own peoples from the corrupting influence of foreign cultures and the homogenizing juggernaut of globalization.
Both sets of groups also have a penchant for far-flung conspiracy theories that caricature Jewish power.
But there is more. Even before World War II, Western fascists began to forge ideological and operational ties to Islamic extremists.
Over the years, these contacts between Nazis and Muslim nationalists developed into dangerous networks that have been implicated in a number of bloody terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East.
Wealthy Arab regimes have financed extremists in Europe and the United States, just as Western neo-Nazis have helped to build Holocaust denial machinery in the Arab world.
In the 1970s, Saudi Arabia hired an American neo-Nazi as a lobbyist in the United States. In the 1980s, U.S. neo-Nazi strategist Louis Beam openly called for a linkup of America’s far right with the “liberation movements” of Libya, Syria, Iran and Palestine.
In the 1990s, an American Black Muslim was convicted in a plot to bomb the United Nations and other New York landmarks that was masterminded by a blind Egyptian cleric.
Just last year, a meeting sponsored by a U.S. Holocaust denial group brought together Arab and Western extremists in Jordan. And after the Sept. 11 attacks, a spate of articles by American neo-Nazis and white supremacists appeared in Islamic publications and Web sites.
Although links like these illustrate the ties between Muslim extremists and Americans, such ties are far more developed in Europe.
But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, there are a number of signs — including a spate of articles by American neo-Nazis that have appeared in Islamic publications and websites — that an operational alliance may be taking shape in the United States as well.
Banking for Allah
Perhaps the best contemporary snapshot of this Nazi-Islamist extremist axis comes in the person of one Ahmed Huber, a neo-Nazi whose home in a suburb of Berne was raided by Swiss police on Nov. 8, after U.S. officials identified him as a linchpin in the financial machinations of Osama bin Laden.
The raid was part of a coordinated law enforcement dragnet that seized records from the offices of Al Taqwa, an international banking group.
Al Taqwa, which literally means “Fear of God,” had been channeling funds to Muslim extremist organizations around the world, including Hamas, a group active in the Israeli-occupied territories.
Huber, a former journalist who converted to Islam and changed his first name from Albert, served on the board of Nada Management, a component of Al Taqwa.
After Swiss authorities froze the firm’s assets and questioned Huber, the 74-year-old denounced Washington for doing the bidding of “Jew Zionists” who “rule America.” In January, Nada Management announced that it had gone into liquidation.
A well-known figure in European neofascist circles, Huber “sees himself as a mediator between Islam and right-wing groups,” according to Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
Portraits of Hitler and SS chief Heinrich Himmler adorn the walls of Huber’s office, alongside photos of Islamic political leaders and a picture of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the present-day boss of the French Front National.
In accordance with his self-proclaimed mission to unite Muslim fundamentalists and extreme right-wing forces in Europe and North America, Huber has traveled widely and proselytized at numerous gatherings.
In Germany, he speaks often at events hosted by the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, which publicly welcomed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Huber also befriended British author David Irving and other Holocaust deniers while frequenting “revisionist” conclaves.
A Bin Laden Fan in Chicago
At the same time, Huber made the rounds of the radical Islamic circuit in Western countries. In June 1994, he spoke about the “evils of the Jews” at a mosque in Potomac, Md. (just outside Washington, D.C.), where videotapes of Huber’s speeches are reportedly on sale.
During a subsequent visit to Chicago, he attended a private assembly that brought together, in Huber’s words, “the authentic Right and the fighters for Islam.” Huber told journalist Richard Labeviere that “major decisions were taken [in Chicago]. ... [T]he reunification is under way.”
Huber acknowledges meeting al-Qaeda operatives on several occasions at Muslim conferences in Beirut, Brussels and London. He has been quoted in the Swiss media as saying that bin Laden’s associates “are very discreet, well-educated and highly intelligent people.”
The U.S. government claims that Huber’s banking firm helped bin Laden shift financial assets around the world. But Huber denies any involvement in terrorist activities. He insists Al Taqwa was engaged in charitable work, providing aid for social services that benefited needy Muslims.
Described as “the financial heart of the Islamist
economic apparatus,” Al Taqwa is intertwined with the Muslim Brotherhood, a longstanding, far-right cult whose emblem is a Koran crossed by a sword.
The influence of the Brotherhood extends throughout the Muslim world, where it vigorously, and often violently, opposes secular Arab regimes.
In 1981, partisans of the Muslim Brotherhood were implicated in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Several members of Islamic Jihad, an extremist sect closely associated with the Brotherhood, were also involved in the Sadat assassination.
By the early 1990s, Islamic Jihad would closely ally itself with bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
Back to the Beginning
The roots of the Muslim Brotherhood — and, in many ways, the Nazi-Muslim axis — go back to the organization’s formation in Egypt in 1928.
Marking the start of modern political Islam, or what is often referred to as “Islamic fundamentalism,” the Brotherhood from the outset envisioned a time when an Islamic state would prevail in Egypt and other Arab countries, where the organization quickly established local branches.
The growth of the Muslim Brotherhood coincided with the rise of fascist movements in Europe — a parallel noted by Muhammad Sa’id al-‘Ashmawy, former chief justice of Egypt’s High Criminal Court.
Al-‘Ashmawy decried “the perversion of Islam” and “the fascistic ideology” that infuses the world view of the Brothers, “their total (if not totalitarian) way of life ... [and] their fantastical reading of the Koran.”
Youssef Nada, current board chairman of Al Taqwa, had joined the armed branch of the Muslim Brotherhood as a young man in Egypt during World War II. Nada and several of his cohorts in the Sunni Muslim fraternity were recruited by German military intelligence, which sought to undermine British colonial rule in the land of the sphinx.
Hassan al-Banna, the Egyptian schoolteacher who founded the Muslim Brotherhood, also collaborated with spies of the Third Reich.
Advocating a pan-Islamic insurgency in British-controlled Palestine, the Brotherhood proclaimed their support for the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, in the late 1930s.
The Grand Mufti, the preeminent religious figure among Palestinian Muslims, was the most notable Arab leader to seek an alliance with Nazi Germany, which was eager to extend its influence in the Middle East.
Although he loathed Arabs (he once described them as “lacquered half-apes who ought to be whipped”), Hitler understood that he and the Mufti shared the same rivals — the British, the Jews and the Communists.
Indicative of the old Arab adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” they met in Berlin, where the Mufti lived in exile during the war.
The Mufti agreed to help organize a special Muslim division of the Waffen SS. Powerful radio transmitters were put at the Mufti’s disposal so that his pro-Axis propaganda could be heard throughout the Arab world.
A Mecca for Fascists
After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Grand Mufti fled to Egypt. His arrival in 1946 was a precursor to a steady stream of Third Reich veterans who chose Cairo as a postwar hideout.
The Egyptian capital became a safe haven for several thousand Nazi fugitives, including former SS Captain Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s chief deputy. Convicted in absentia for war crimes, Brunner would later reside in Damascus, where he served as a security advisor for the Syrian government.
Several American fascists visited the Middle East during this period, including Francis Parker Yockey, who made his way to Cairo in the summer of 1953, a year after the corrupt Egyptian monarchy was overthrown by a military coup.
The Brotherhood had played a major role in instigating the popular uprising that set the stage for the emergence of Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser as Egypt’s new leader. But Nasser, who had little interest in mixing politics and religion, would subsequently have a falling out with the Islamic fundamentalist sect.
When Nasser wanted to overhaul Egypt’s secret service, he asked the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency for assistance. But the U.S. government “found it highly impolitic to help him directly,” CIA agent Miles Copeland recalled in a memoir.
So, the CIA instead secretly bankrolled more than 100 German espionage and military experts who trained Egyptian police and army units in the mid-1950s.
An American Reaches Out
During this period, the Grand Mufti maintained close relations with the burgeoning Nazi exile community in Cairo, while cultivating ties to right-wing extremists in the United States and other countries.
H. Keith Thompson, a New York-based businessman and Nazi activist, was a confidant of the Mufti. “I did a couple of jobs for him, getting some documents from files that were otherwise unavailable,” Thompson acknowledged in an interview.
Thompson also carried on a lively correspondence with Johannes von Leers, one of the Third Reich’s most prolific Jew-baiters, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Omar Amin after he took up residence in Cairo in 1955.
“If there is any hope to free the world from Jewish tyranny,” Amin wrote Thompson, “it is with the Moslems, who stand steadfastly against Zionism, Colonialism and Imperialism.”
Formerly Goebbels’ right-hand man, Amin became a top official in the Egyptian Information Ministry, which employed several European fascists who churned out hate literature and anti-Jewish broadcasts.
Another German expatriate, Louis Heiden, alias Louis Al-Hadj, translated Hitler’s Mein Kampf into Arabic.
The Egyptian government also published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous anti-Semitic forgery that purports to reveal a Jewish master plan for taking over the world.
A staple of Nazi propaganda, the Protocols also are quoted in Article 32 of the charter of Hamas, the hard-line Palestinian fundamentalist group that is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood — even though Muslim scholars say such views are an anathema to mainstream Islam.
“There are no historic roots for anti-Semitism in Islam,” says Hasem Saghiyeh, a columnist at Al Hayat, a London-based Arab newspaper. “The process of translating books like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on a popular scale started in Nasser’s Egypt, but only the Islamic fundamentalist movement incorporated them into its literature.”
Mercenaries for Palestine
After Israel’s overwhelming victory in the Six Day War in June 1967, a mood of desperate militancy engulfed the Palestinian refugee camps.
Deprived of a homeland, the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) apparently felt that they couldn’t afford to turn down offers of help, no matter how unsavory the donors. Karl von Kyna, a West German neo-Nazi mercenary, died during a Palestinian commando raid in September 1967.
Eager to continue their vendetta against the Jews, several right-wing extremists subsequently joined the Hilfskorp Arabien (“Auxiliary Corps Arabia”), which was advertised in the Munich-based Deutsche National-Zeitung, a pro-Nazi newspaper, in 1968.
The following year, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked several commercial airplanes. When three PFLP members stood trial after blowing up an Israeli jet in Zurich, the legal costs for their defense were paid by Francois Genoud, an elusive Swiss banker described by the London Observer as “one of the world’s leading Nazis.”
Genoud had previously picked up the tab for Adolf Eichmann’s legal defense, and a number of other Nazi war criminals and Arab terrorists would also benefit from his largesse.
Where did the money come from? According to European press accounts, Genoud was managing the hidden Swiss treasure of the Third Reich, most of which had been stolen from Jews.
“Security services claim he trans
ferred the defeated Nazis’ gold into Swiss bank accounts,” reports Gitta Sereny, who called Genoud “the most mysterious man in Europe.”
After World War II, Genoud served as the financial advisor to the Grand Mufti.
In 1958, the Swiss Nazi set up the Arab Commercial Bank in Geneva to manage the war chest of the Algerian National Liberation Front, whose partisans were fighting to free their country from French colonial rule.
Several Third Reich veterans, including Maj. Gen. Otto Ernst Remer, who had served as Hitler’s bodyguard, smuggled weapons to the Algerian rebels, while other German advisors provided military instruction.
Under the guise of supporting the Arabs’ struggle against French colonialism, Genoud and his Nazi cohorts were following the same geopolitical strategy that Hitler had pursued in the Middle East.
Europeans and Pro-Palestinian Terror
In addition to brokering arms sales to Arab militants, Genoud helped subsidize terrorist networks in Europe and the Arab world.
This financier of fascism waited until the statue of limitations ran out before admitting that he had personally written and sent ransom notes demanding $5 million to the German airline Lufthansa and several news services after PFLP terrorists hijacked another jet in 1972.
That same year, the Black September organization murdered nine Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. When Black September leader Hassan Salameh needed medical attention, Genoud arranged for him to be treated at a private clinic in Lausanne.
In 1974, PLO chief Yasser Arafat publicly indicated a willingness to renounce international terrorism and declared his interest in a settlement that would finally establish a Palestinian homeland in the Israeli-occupied territories. These steps toward moderation angered Arab hardliners, who ruled out any compromise with Israel.
Not surprisingly, Genoud and other neofascists favored the most belligerent factions that kept calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state.
After bombing four U.S. Army bases in West Germany in 1982, Odfried Hepp, a young neo-Nazi renegade, went underground and joined the Tunis-based Palestine Liberation Front (PLF).
Hepp, one of West Germany’s most wanted terrorists, was arrested in June 1985 while entering the apartment of a PLF member in Paris. Four months later, PLF commandos seized the Achille Lauro cruise ship and murdered Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound Jewish American.
Included on the PLF’s list of prisoners to be exchanged for the Achille Lauro hostages was the name of Odfried Hepp.
Fundamentalism and the Iranian Revolution
Islamic fundamentalism got a tremendous boost when the Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the Shah during the 1979 Iranian revolution.
The Ayatollah’s description of the United States and the Soviet Union as “the twin Satans” dovetailed neatly with the “Third Position” politics of many European and American neofascists, an ideology that rejects both American capitalism and Soviet Communism.
Some white supremacists also shared Khomeini’s dream of launching a “holy war” against what was seen as decadent, Western-style democracy.
When Iran issued a call for the assassination of author Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, several neo-Nazi groups supported the Iranian fatwa.
Far-right fanatics also hailed the 1983 suicide car-bombing by Iranian-backed Shiite terrorists that killed 271 U.S. Marines in Beirut.
The British National Front had nothing but praise for Khomeini’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards:
Their belief in their cause is so strong that they will run through mine fields unarmed to attack enemy positions; their ideals are so all-consuming that they will drive truck bombs into enemy camps knowing full well their [own] death is inevitable. ... This power, this contempt for death, is the stuff of which victories are made.
In 1987, French police cordoned off the Iranian embassy in Paris and demanded that a magistrate be allowed to interrogate Wahid Gordji, an Iranian official suspected of orchestrating a series of bombings that rocked the French capital during the previous a year.
French investigators got on to Gordji’s trail after they discovered a check for 120,000 francs (about $20,000) that he had written to Ogmios, a neo-Nazi publisher and bookstore in Paris. The money was used to underwrite a slick catalogue promoting The Myth of the Jewish Holocaust and similar titles.
But the Iranian government rebuffed the French authorities who wanted to question Gordji, causing a rupture in diplomatic relations between Paris and Tehran.
The six-month embassy stand-off was finally resolved after French officials met with representatives of a group called “The Friends of Wahid Gordji” — a group which included the redoubtable Nazi banker Francois Genoud.
Nazis in Baghdad
Links between white supremacists and the Iranian government continued after Khomeini’s death in 1989.
On several occasions in recent years, American neo-Nazi chieftain William Pierce has been interviewed by Radio Tehran. U.S. white supremacists have also snuggled up to Iran’s archenemy, Saddam Hussein.
In 1990, Gene Schroder, an ideologue of the far-right “common-law court” movement, joined a delegation of Midwest farmers to Washington for a meeting in the Iraqi embassy, where Iraqi officials were trying to drum up opposition to the impending Persian Gulf War.
During that 1991 war, Oklahoma Klan leader Dennis Mahon organized a small rally in Tulsa in support of Saddam. Mahon says he later received a couple of hundred dollars in an unmarked envelope from the Iraqi government.
In addition, shortly before the war, German neo-Nazis solicited support from Iraq for an anti-Zionist legion composed of far-right mercenaries from several European countries. The members of this so-called international “Freedom Corps” pretentiously strutted around Baghdad in SS uniforms.
As soon as bombs started to fall on the Iraqi capital, however, the neo-Nazi volunteers scurried back to Europe.
A number of prominent neofascists have expressed support for Saddam, including Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Russian demagogue, who visited Iraq after the Gulf War.
Jean-Marie Le Pen of the French Front National also got the red-carpet treatment when he met Saddam in Baghdad.
Although he built his political career by disparaging Arab immigrants, Le Pen now claims that he is deeply concerned about the plight of Iraqi children who have suffered under sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
His wife, Jany, who heads a group called SOS Children of Iraq, has joined Le Pen on several trips to Baghdad. Thus far, however, Arab children in France have yet to benefit from the supposed good Samaritan act of the Le Pens.
The Libyan Connection
On June 28, 2000, the Times of London reported that Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi had ordered the deposit of $25 million into a bank in Carinthia, the Austrian province governed by Jorg Haider, de facto leader of the far-right Freedom Party.
(The Freedom Party is an immigrant-bashing organization that is home to many neo-Nazis and former Nazis and has downplayed German war atrocities.)
Col. Ghaddafi’s cash gift — which Haider described as “Christmas for Austria” — was meant to ease the strain of sanctions imposed on Austria by the European Union after the Freedom Party joined Austria’s national governing coalition.
This was the second rabbit Haider pulled from his hat as a result of two private forays to Tripoli, where he met Ghaddafi.
After his first Libyan excursion, Haider announced he was tackling Austria’s high gas prices by arranging for Libyan gasoline to be sold in Carinthia at a discount. News photos showed Haider, the Porsche-driving populist, beaming as he pumped gas for motorists.
Over the years, Ghaddafi has been wooed by several neofascist leaders, including Italian fugitive Stefano delle Chiaie, who was accused of masterminding a series of bomb attacks in Rome and Milan.
Described in a 1982 CIA report as “the most prominent rightist terrorist ... still at large,” delle Chiaie wrote a letter to Ghadaffi, inviting him to join in a common struggle against “atheistic Soviet Marxism and American capitalist materialism,” both of which were supposedly controlled by “international Zionism.”
Delle Chiaie added: “Libya can, if it wants, be the active focus, the center of national socialist renovation [that will] break the chains which enslave people and nations.”
Ghaddafi, the Green Book and Western Extremism
Links between Libya and the European far right have been scrutinized in several parliamentary and judicial probes in Italy.
One Italian judicial inquiry found that the Libyan embassy in Rome had provided money to aid the escape of Italian terrorist suspect Mario Tuti shortly after the bombing of an express train near Florence in 1974. Tuti was later captured and sentenced to a lengthy prison term for orchestrating the attack, which killed 12 people and injured 44 others.
Ghadaffi’s financial largesse and his militant anti-Zionism has generated support for the Libyan regime among right-wing extremists around the world, including in Great Britain, where the Green Book, Ghaddafi’s political manifesto, was promoted by the neo-Nazi National Front.
In 1984, according to former British Nazi leader Ray Hill (who later renounced racism and worked with antiracists), the Libyan People’s Bureau put up money for a special anti-Semitic supplement to the National Front’s monthly magazine.
In addition, Ghadaffi’s government picked up the tab for several junkets so that neofascists from England, France, Canada, the Netherlands and several other countries could visit the Libyan capital.
Col. Ghaddafi is also widely admired by white supremacists in the United States.
The Green Book has been featured as the top online book on the Web site of the American Front, whose professed aim is “to secure National Freedom and Social Justice for the White people of North America.”
Asserting that he is “against race mixing,” American Front leader James Porazzo praises Libya and says that his group has much in common ideologically with Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, which has its own links to Ghaddafi.
Porazzo also says he has “great respect for the actions of Hamas and Hezbollah,” two radical Islamist groups involved in suicide bombings, as long as they “see that their home is in the Mideast and that their religion is great for their people but not intended for all mankind.”
‘Working for Their Races’
The Philadelphia-based American Front thinks highly of Osama bin Laden, too, describing him as “one of ZOG [Zionist Occupation Government, the name many extremists give to the federal government, which they believe is run by Jews] and the New World Order’s biggest enemies.”
And it is not alone. Wolfgang Droege, one of 17 Canadian racists who traveled on a “fact-finding mission” to Libya in 1989, is similarly enamored of bin Laden, seeing parallels between bin Laden’s struggle and others supporting “racial nationalism” in North America.
“I’ve had dealings with Black Muslims, I’ve had dealings with Arabs, I’ve had dealings with people of various races, and I realize that some of these people are as motivated as I am in working for the interest of their race,” Droege told MacLean’s magazine.
While they wouldn’t want bin Laden, or anyone of non-European descent, living next door, leaders of the hard-core racist movement in the United States have seized upon the Sept. 11 attacks as an opportunity to expand their strategic alliance with Islamic radicals under the pretext of supporting Palestinian rights.
After hijacked airplanes demolished the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, a number of Muslim newspapers published a flurry of articles by American white supremacists ranting against Israel and the Jews.
Anti-Zionist commentary by neo-Nazi David Duke appeared on the front page of the Oman Times, for instance, and on an extremist website based in Pakistan.
Another opinion piece by Duke ran in Muslims, a New York-based English-language weekly, which also featured a lengthy critique of U.S. foreign policy by William Pierce, head of the rabidly racist National Alliance.
In the wake of Sept. 11, several American neo-Nazi websites also started to offer links to Islamic websites.
The psychological dynamics that propel the actions of Islamic terrorists have much in common with the mental outlook of neo-Nazis.
Both glorify violence as a regenerative force and both are willing to slaughter innocents in the name of creating a new social order.
The potential for an alliance between American neo-Nazis and Islamic terrorists — an alliance that could develop into strong operational ties — cannot be ruled out given the long and sordid history of fascist links to the Muslim world.