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Nazi Germany and Islam in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East

  • Jeffrey Herf (a1)

In his global bestseller, Inside the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler's former architect and armaments minister, Albert Speer, cited the German dictator's view that if the Arabs had won the Battle of Tours in the eighth century, “the world would be Mohammedan today.” That was the case, he continued, because “theirs was a religion that believed in spreading the faith by the sword and subjugating all nations to their faith. The Germanic people would have become heirs to that religion. Such a creed was perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament.” Yet, because of what Hitler called Arabs' “racial inferiority” and inability to handle the harsher climate, “they could not have kept down the more vigorous natives, so that ultimately not Arabs but Islamized Germans could have stood at the head of this Mohammedan Empire.” Hitler concluded, “It's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?”

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1 Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Avon, 1971), 96.

2 Paul Berman, Terror and Liberalism (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004); Matthias Küntzel, Djihad und Judenhaß. Über den neuen antijüdischen Krieg (Freiburg: ca ira, 2003); the latter appeared in translation as Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, trans. Colin Meade (New York: Telos Press, 2007).

3 Joseph B. Schechtman, The Mufti and the Führer: The Rise and Fall of Haj Amin el-Husseini (New York: T. Yoseloff, 1965); Lukasz Hirszowicz, The Third Reich and the Arab East (London: Routledge, 1966).

4 Donald McKale, The Swastika Outside Germany (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1977); idem, Curt Prüfer: German Diplomat from Kaiser to Hitler (Kent, OH: Kent University Press, 1987); Bernard Lewis, Semites and Antisemites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999); Zvi Elpeleg, The Grand Mufti: Haj Amin al-Husseini, Founder of the Palestinian National Movement (London: Routledge, 1993). Also see Zvi Elpeleg, Through the Eyes of the Mufti: The Essays of Haj Amin (London: Vallentine, 2009).

5 Klaus Gensicke, Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten. Eine politische Biografie Amin el-Husseinis (Darmstadt: WBG, 2007). This appeared in translation as The Mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis: The Berlin Years, trans. Alexander Fraser Gunn (London: Vallentine Books, 2015).

6 Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers, Halbmond und Hakenkreuz. Das Dritte Reich, die Araber und Palästina (Darmstadt : WBG, 2006). This appeared in English translation as Nazi Palestine: The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews of Palestine, trans. Krista Smith (New York: Enigma Books, 2010).

7 Jeffrey Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009).

8 Bassam Tibi, Islamism and Islam (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012).

9 Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014).

10 See notes 2, 4, 5.

11 Motadel's examination of Nazi propaganda and policy toward North Africa and the Middle East will be familiar to those who have read the present author's Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World. The sources from the American and German archives are largely the same. The German officials Werner Otto von Hentig, Ernst Woerman, Fritz Grobba, Konstantin Alexander von Neurath, Hans Alexander Winkler, Rudolf Rahn, Erwin Ettel and Kurt Munzel, and many of the printed materials and radio broadcasts, both the weekly religious texts and the more numerous daily political messages transcribed by American officials in the Cairo Embassy, will be familiar. The conspiracy theories and attacks on Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the Jews are largely discussed in that work as well.

12 “No. 515, Memorandum by an Official of the Foreign Minister's Secretariat, Record of the Conversation between the Führer and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on November 28, 1941, in the Presence of Reich Foreign Minister and Minister Grobba in Berlin (November 30, 1941),” in Documents on German Foreign Policy (DGFP) Series D (1937–1945), vol. 13 (London: H.M. Stationery Off., 1983), 881–85. Also cited in Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, 77–78.

13 On more recent discussions of this issue, see Jeffrey Herf, “Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Nazis and the Holocaust: The Origins, Nature and Aftereffects of Collaboration,” Jewish Political Studies Review (Jan. 5, 2016):

14 Rubin and Schwanitz, Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 123.

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Central European History
  • ISSN: 0008-9389
  • EISSN: 1569-1616
  • URL: /core/journals/central-european-history
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