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History Today: The Nazis Failed To Make Muslim Allies In World War II

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History Today highlights the often futile and the failed attempts by Hitler’s Nazi state to turn Muslims into allies during World War II.

By David Motadel, History Today

The Nazis believed that Islamic forces would prove crucial wartime allies. But, as David Motadel shows, the Muslim world was unwilling to be swayed by the Third Reich’s advances.

Tunis, December 19th, 1942. It was the day of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic feast of sacrifice. The retreat of Rommel’s army had turned the city into a massive military camp. In the late afternoon, a German motorcade of four large cars drove at a slow, solemn pace along Tunis’ main road, the Avenue de Paris, leaving the capital in the direction of the coastal town of Hamman Lif. The convoy contained Colonel General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim, commander of the Wehrmacht in Tunisia, Rudolf Rahn, Hitler’s consul in Tunis and the Reich’s highest civil representative in North Africa, and some other high-ranking Germans. They were to visit the Bey of Tunis, Muhammad VII al-Munsif, who had remained the nominal ruler of Tunisia, to offer him their good wishes for the sacred holiday and to show their respect for Islam. In front of the Winter Palace of Hamman Lif, hundreds of cheering people saluted the convoy; the Tunisian guard extended them an honorary welcome. In the conversations with the monarch, the Germans promised that the next Eid al-Adha, or Eid al-Kabir as it is known in Tunisia, would take place in a time of peace and that the Wehrmacht was doing everything it could to keep the war away from the Muslim population. More important than the consultations, though, was the Germans’ public show of respect for Islam. Back in his Tunis headquarters, Rahn enthusiastically cabled Berlin, urging it to make full propagandistic use of the ‘solemn reception’ at the ‘Eid al-Kabir celebration’. In the following days, Nazi propaganda spread the news across North Africa, portraying the Third Reich as the protector of Islam.

At the height of the Second World War, in 1941-42, as Hitler’s troops marched into Muslim-populated territories in North Africa, the Balkans, Crimea and the Caucasus and approached the Middle East and Central Asia, officials in Berlin began to see Islam as politically significant. In the following years, they made significant attempts to promote an alliance with the ‘Muslim world’ against their alleged common enemies: the British Empire, the Soviet Union, America and Jews.

Yet the reason for the Third Reich’s engagement with Islam was not only that Muslim-populated regions had become part of the warzones but also, more importantly, because at the same time, Germany’s military situation had deteriorated. In the Soviet Union, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg strategy had failed. As the Wehrmacht came under pressure, Berlin began to seek broader war coalitions, thereby demonstrating remarkable pragmatism. The courtship of Muslims was to pacify the occupied Muslim-populated territories and to mobilise the faithful to fight on the side of Hitler’s armies.

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  • Alyeth

    How come it’s been a year since the last history tag? I really like these, and I’m sure everyone else does too.

  • Solafein

    It can’t indict an entire religion but it would be factual to say that there were Muslims (thousands of them) that were complicit in Nazi war crimes and that served in various Waffen SS divisions.

    Funny enough I recall reading somewhere that some of Hitler’s major regrets near the end of WW2 were that he did not assist the Muslims as much due to political complications with his Italian ally Mussolini, who wanted to rule over the Middle East in a colonial fashion similar to what the British and French had already been doing. He believed, whether or not it was true, that the Muslims would have been a powerful ally against the Western allies and against the international Jewry and they were essentially in need of liberation from their colonial masters.

    I say all of this purely for fun historical discussion purposes. No Muslim alive today, especially any Muslim who feels no ill will towards Jews, needs to feel responsible for or apologize for the holocaust as he/she would have had nothing to do with it. One could essentially carry that argument to anyone living today who is living in a country with a dark past–which is essentially every country on the planet.

  • Modern Jihadists consider Mufti Husayni to be an apostate for taking help from a disbeliever like Hitler.

  • Carlos Segovia

    The Muftí of Jerusalem trained SS Bosnian Muslim recruits. And he spent several years in Germany during the third Reich. In 1945, Yugoslavia sought to indict the Mufti as a war criminal for his role in recruiting 20,000 Muslim volunteers for the SS, who participated in the killing of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. He escaped from French detention in 1946, however, and continued his fight against the Jews from Cairo and later Beirut. He died in 1974.

  • Pingback: German NPD nazis support anti-refugee professors Münkler and Baberowski | Dear Kitty. Some blog()

  • Hassan Nasrallah

    Her head wouldn’t explode, she would just deny and ignore like most bigots do. Bigots don’t need no stinkin’ facts, they just prefer to hate and kill. Thinking is not allowed.

  • The greenmantle

    Anyone who knows anything about WWII knows the Nazi secret Service where useless and completely Foxed by the Brits so the idea of their agents being credible whitnessess to anything in reality is frankly bizarre.

    Sir David

  • The greenmantle

    Meanwhile in France on the subject of Hitler
    http://news.yahoo.com/marine-le-pen-face-trial-inciting-racial-hatred-143014002.html
    Marine LePen ( who claims not be be a fascist unlike her dad ) , the leader of France’s far-right National Front, has been
    ordered to stand trial in October on charges of inciting racial hatred
    after comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation.

    Happy days

    Sir David

  • Garibaldi can’t debate me.
    He deletes my posts.
    HE is the “loon” that enables this Dishonest apologist website.

  • -Muftism and Nazism: World War II
    http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/nazis.html
    Collaboration Documents
    (examples of original correspondence)

    1) U.S. Confirms Role of Mufti as Nazi Middle East Leader
    OFFICE OF U.S. CHIEF OF COUNSEL
    FOR PROSECUTION OF AXIS CRIMINALITY

    No. 792-PS
    17 September 1945
    Source of Original OKW Files, Flensburg
    [Excerpt]
    LEADS: CANARIS, IBN SAUD, GRAND MUFTI.
    SUMMARY OF RELEVANT POINTS (with page references):

    1. Only through the funds made available by Germany to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was it possible to carry out the revolt in Palestine. (Page 1).

    2. Germany will keep up the connection with the Grand Mufti. Weapons will be stored for the Mufti with Ibn Saud in Arabia. (Page 2).

    3. Ibn Saud himself has close connections with the Grand Mufti and the revolting circles in TransJordan. (Page 2).

    4. To be able to carry out our work one of Germany’s agents will be placed in Cairo (Page 3).

    5. The document is undated but obviously written before the outbreak of the war in 1939. It is not signed.

    Analyst Landmann Doc. No. 792-PS
    Source:The Arab Higher Committee, Its Origins, Personnel and Purposes, The Documentary Record Submitted to The United Nations, May 1947, by Nations Associates

    Muftism and Nazism: World War II Collaboration Documents
    Furher Excerpts Include:

    2) Summons to a Intifada Against Britain

    A “Fatwa ” Issued by Haj Amin al-Husseini10, May, 1941*
    ….
    3) The Mufti’s Diary on His Meeting with Hitler
    [PHOTO]
    ….
    4) Ribbentrop Promises Mufti to Destroy Jewish National Home
    ….
    5) The Mufti Asks Arab Americans Not to Support FDR
    ….
    6) Himmler to The Mufti
    ….
    7) The Mufti Communicates Anger to Ribbentropfor the Germans’ Release of Jews in 1944

  • Cowabunga Creeper

    Funny how history repeats itself; the Nazis murdered European Muslims mistaking them for Jews, similar to how modern day Nazis murder Sikhs, Hindus and even Asian Christians mistaking them for Muslims.

  • JS

    I always thought the Mufti of Jerusalem was just the… mufti of Jerusalem? Not the emperor of the Galactic Muslim Empire. Funny enough, but the mufti was actually installed by the British too!

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Exactly. There are many instances where Muslim Bosniaks and Albanians helped Jews escape the Holocaust – at great risk to their own lives – in WWII and hid the Sarajevo Haggadah in the libraray of a mosque so it didn’t fall into Nazi hands.

  • Yausari

    Knowing her, she will deny it.

  • mindy1

    Funny, to hear geller and her ilk talk you’d think that the Muslim world was goosestepping with the Nazi’s into hell. Her head would blow up if she read the articles on Muslims helping Jews 😛

  • Reynardine

    I know about the Mufti of Jerusalem , have a vague recollection of some guy in Iraq, the Traitor Batallions on the Subcontinent…and Seyss-Inquart, Quisling, Petain, Laval, King Leopold, Father Tiso, the Swiss “gnomes”, Prescott Bush, Henry Ford…

  • JD

    But the mufti of Jerusalem (you know they bring it up) the leader of the Islamic world

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