Hitler’s jihad failed to materialise

With thanks: Lily

Although David Motadel’s book has been out for two years now, it is not to late to highlight Islam and Nazi Germany’s War.Here is an excellent review in The Financial Times by Roger Moorhouse:   

David Motadel, a historian based at Cambridge university, shows in Islam and Nazi Germany’s War that the Nazi flirtation with Islam, though belated, was certainly not lacking in vigour. For instance, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, was welcomed in Berlin in 1941, where he would spend most of the rest of the war, and an Islamic Institute was founded in the German capital in 1942 to mastermind the propaganda campaign.

 Beyond Berlin, Nazi efforts were most evident in those areas where the support of local Muslim populations was deemed beneficial to German interests — north Africa, the Balkans and the Soviet Union’s fractious southern fringe. There, German policy was almost munificent; restoring Islamic religious practice and Arabic script where they had been forbidden, and posing as the protector of Islam, all in an attempt to buy Muslim loyalty and attract recruits.

 Such initiatives were rewarded by the raising of one Albanian and two Bosnian Waffen-SS divisions, as well as an assortment of “Eastern Legions” comprising variously of Kalmyks, Turkmen, Tatars, Azeris and others. In total, as many as 300,000 soldiers from the Islamic world are thought to have served in German ranks during the war.

Yet, in spite of these apparent successes, German wooing ultimately failed.

 Motadel explains that Nazi approaches were too heavy-handed, too blatantly opportunistic and too obviously disingenuous to elicit any more positive response. Moreover, the German inability to see beyond a single, unitary “Muslim world” prevented the development of a more nuanced, localised strategy. Consequently, the results were meagre. Those recruits that were raised were generally of poor quality, plagued by ill discipline and high rates of desertion. In addition, the expected jihad against the “imperial powers” failed to materialise.

Islam and Nazi Germany’s War is the first book to provide an in-depth study of this complex relationship, charting its twists and turns as Hitler’s paladins sought to bring Muslims onside.

 It is academically impeccable, drawing on a wealth of archival resources in a multitude of languages, yet it wears its erudition lightly. In the current climate, a subject such as this might be considered controversial. Motadel, however, is never less than resolutely serious and rigorous. The whiff of sensationalism never offends the nostrils.

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  • Indeed, there was an Arab Legion, recruited I believe among Arab soldiers in Allied armies who found themselves in prisoner of war camps, if I am not mistaken. So it was not only the Mufti of Jerusalem but many others, including the Mufti Husseini's entourage made up of Arabs from leading Palestinian Arab families, who accompanied and aided him while in Berlin. See partial record of his meeting with Hitler:

    This claim below made in the review is false. Many books preceded this new one, although not all dealt with German Nazi ties to the Islamic world as a whole. For more titles see the link above:
    "Islam and Nazi Germany’s War is the first book to provide an in-depth study of this complex relationship, charting its twists and turns as Hitler’s paladins sought to bring Muslims onside"

  • For the record, I haven't read the book so I'm just going by this review. Of all the Muslim groups listed here, no where is there mentioned the arab participation with Nazi Germany aside from the mentioning of husseini. Many of the arabs who attempted to slaughter the Jews in Palestine in 1948 made no secret of where they got their military training.


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