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  • Peter Wien

The books that are the subject of this review essay comprise three new contributions and one revised edition about a topic that has become paradigmatic in defining scholarly and political approaches to key areas of Middle Eastern history. It has shaped studies of the historical and ideological roots of Arab nationalism, the Arab–Israeli conflict, and the emergence and perseverance of authoritarian regimes in the modern Middle East. The ways that politicians, intellectuals, political movements, and the Arab public related to Nazism and Nazi anti-Semitism have been used to contest the legitimacy of 20th-century Arab political movements across the ideological spectrum. Historians have theorized about the involvement of individuals such as Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini in the crimes of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Adolf Eichmann; the roots of Arab nationalist doctrine in German Volk ideas; the mimicry of Nazism in organizations such as the Iraqi al-Futuwwa and Antun Saadeh's Syrian Social Nationalist Party; and Arab public sympathies for Nazi anti-Semitism dating from the 1930s or even earlier. Until recently, European and Anglo-American research on these topics—often based on a history of ideas approach—tended to take a natural affinity of Arabs toward Nazism for granted. More recent works have contextualized authoritarian and totalitarian trends in the Arab world within a broad political spectrum, choosing subaltern perspectives and privileging the analysis of local voices in the press over colonial archives and the voices of grand theoreticians. The works of Israel Gershoni have taken the lead in this emerging scholarship of Arab nationalism. This approach was also the common denominator of a research project on “Arab Encounters with National Socialism,” which the Berlin Center for Modern Oriental Studies (Zentrum Moderner Orient) hosted from 2000 to 2003. Its members included the author of this review and the authors of two of the books under review (Nordbruch and Wildangel). The project used indigenous Arabic sources, especially local newspapers, for a close scrutiny of Arab reactions to the challenge of Nazism in a period when Arabs, especially nationalists, perceived that quasicolonial regimes undermined the ostensibly democratic and liberal ethos of the British and French Mandate powers.

Corresponding author
Peter Wien is an Assistant Professor of history at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md.; e-mail:
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1 For examples of academic works, see Haim, Sylvia G., Arab Nationalism: An Anthology (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1976); Simon, Reeva S., Iraq Between the Two World Wars: The Creation and Implementation of a Nationalist Ideology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); Tibi, Bassam, Arab Nationalism: Between Islam and the Nation–State (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997). Other examples are cited below.

2 See Gershoni, Israel, “Egyptian Liberalism in an Age of ‘Crisis of Orientation’: Al Risāla's Reaction to Fascism and Nazism, 1933–39,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 31 (1999): 551–76; idem, “‘Der verfolgte Jude.’ Al-Hilals Reaktionen auf den Antisemitismus in Europa und Hitlers Machtergreifung,” in Blind für die Geschichte? Arabische Begegnungen mit dem Nationalsozialismus, ed. Höpp, Wien, and Wildangel (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2004): 39–72; idem and Jankowski, James P., Confronting Fascism in Egypt: Dictatorship Versus Democracy in the 1930s (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2009). See also Wien, Peter, Iraqi Arab Nationalism: Authoritarian, Totalitarian and Pro-Fascist Inclinations, 1932–1941 (London, New York: Routledge, 2006).

3 See Höpp, Gerhard, Wien, Peter, and Wildangel, René, Blind für die Geschichte? Arabische Begegnungen mit dem Nationalsozialismus (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2004).

4 Küntzel, Matthias, Jihad and Jew-hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11 (New York: Telos Press Publishing, 2007).

5 All translations from German are mine.

6 “‘Beseitigung der jüdisch-nationalen Heimstätte in Palästina.’ Das Einsatzkommando der Panzerarmee Afrika 1942,” in Deutsche, Juden, Völkermord. Der Holocaust als Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Jürgen Matthäus and Klaus-Michael Mallmann (Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2006), 153–76.

7 See Hirszowicz, Lukasz, The Third Reich and the Arab East (London/Toronto: Routledge & K. Paul 1966); Nicosia, Francis R., The Third Reich and the Palestine Question (Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1985).

8 Krämer, Gudrun, A History of Palestine: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding of the State of Israel (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008). The German original was published in 2002.

9 The newspaper is Donau-Zeitung. See the article by Helmut W. Schaller in Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, (accessed 10 October 2009).

10 Gensicke, Klaus, Der Mufti von Jerusalem, Amin el-Husseini, und die Nationalsozialisten (Frankfurt am Main and New York: P. Lang, 1988).

11 Arendt, Hannah, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Viking Press, 1963).

12 Wiesenthal, Simon, Grossmufti—Grossagent der Achse: Tatsachenbericht (Salzburg: Ried–Verlag, 1947).

13 He quotes Schölch, Alexander, “Drittes Reich, zionistische Bewegung und Palästina-Konflikt,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 30 (1982): 672.

14 The original (German Federal Archives/Bundesarchiv, R58/954), according to Wildangel, “Der Nationalsozialismus und sein Schöpfer sind dem gewöhnlichen Araber, der schon beim Hören des Namens Hitler aufhorcht und sich in Freudenausbrüchen ergeht, kein politischer oder weltanschaulicher Begriff; man kann sagen, beide stehen ihm ebenso fern wie Allah, dem er um die versprochene Belohnung in [sic] Jenseits willen die üblichen Gebetsübungen erweist . . .”

15 Wien, Iraqi Arab Nationalism, 3.

16 Watenpaugh, Keith David, Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006). See also Wien, Iraqi Arab Nationalism, and Schumann, Christoph, Radikalnationalismus in Syrien und Libanon: Politische Sozialisation und Elitenbildung 1930–1958 (Hamburg: Deutsches Orient-Institut, 2001).

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
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