Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 360
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East
    Book Description:

    During the 1930s and 1940s, a unique and lasting political alliance was forged among Third Reich leaders, Arab nationalists, and Muslim religious authorities. From this relationship sprang a series of dramatic events that, despite their profound impact on the course of World War II, remained secret until now. In this groundbreaking book, esteemed Middle East scholars Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz uncover for the first time the complete story of this dangerous alliance and explore its continuing impact on Arab politics in the twenty-first century.

    Rubin and Schwanitz reveal, for example, the full scope of Palestinian leader Amin al-Husaini's support of Hitler's genocidal plans against European and Middle Eastern Jews. In addition, they expose the extent of Germany's long-term promotion of Islamism and jihad. Drawing on unprecedented research in European, American, and Middle East archives, many recently opened and never before written about, the authors offer new insight on the intertwined development of Nazism and Islamism and its impact on the modern Middle East.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19932-1
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. List of Archive Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xvi)
  5. 1 From Station Z to Jerusalem
    (pp. 1-10)

    It began as another normal summer day in June 1942 at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, the place where SS trainees were taken to see how the Master Race’s captive enemies should be treated.¹ Three barracks in a separate section housed Jewish prisoners, mainly Polish citizens or men deported from Berlin. On that particular day, a squad of shouting guards ordered the Jewish prisoners of Barrack 38 to line up for four special visitors participating in an SS tour.²

    As a model SS facility Sachsenhausen was run with the utmost efficiency and discretion. Whenever a prisoner was murdered or...

  6. 2 A Christian Imperial Strategy of Islamic Revolution
    (pp. 11-31)

    Nazi Middle East strategy would be rooted in debates begun a half-century earlier, in the 1880s, and on how that policy was implemented during World War I. That German strategy was to portray itself as champion of downtrodden Muslims and to promote jihads against Germany’s enemies.

    The original debate setting German policy on this course was between the two men who dominated modern Germany’s origin, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm II. Conservative and cautious, Bismarck urged that the new country focus on economic development rather than seek to be Europe’s leader or a global power. In an 1888...

  7. 3 A Jihad Made in Germany
    (pp. 32-59)

    On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo. The event set off a diplomatic chain reaction two decades in the making. Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum demanding huge concessions from Serbia, which it held responsible for the murders. Serbia refused and turned to its ally, Russia; Russia looked to its allies Britain and France for support. Austria sought Germany’s backing. A month later the Austrians declared war on Serbia and all the powers joined battle.

    In Berlin, the war lit the fuse for Germany’s secret weapon. On July 30, the kaiser explained: “Our...

  8. 4 An Islamism Sheltered in Berlin
    (pp. 60-86)

    The years between Germany’s defeat in the Great War ending in 1918 and the day the Nazis took power in Berlin a mere fifteen years later saw enormous changes in the Middle East. During that time, Hitler and al-Husaini absorbed the lessons of the past German-Muslim alliance and moved toward a new version.

    When this period began, though, none of the coming events seemed even remotely possible. No longer a great power, Germany had to pay massive indemnities. The country was wracked by internal instability and rapid inflation, its territory and population drastically reduced, and Allied troops occupied its rich...

  9. 5 Al-Husaini’s Revolt
    (pp. 87-108)

    Al-Husaini’s importance as father of modern Arab and Islamist politics has never been properly understood for three reasons. First, because he was tainted by his connection with the Nazis, the humiliating Arab defeat by Israel in 1948, and his own subsequent political eclipse, al-Husaini’s historical role and regional influence have seemed of only limited importance.

    Second, al-Husaini has been remembered as just a Palestinian Arab leader. Actually, however, he was the main chief of international radical Arab forces, both Islamist and nationalist, during the 1930s and 1940s. The later conflict between these two groups—when nationalists gained power and suppressed...

  10. 6 The Nazi–Arab/Islamist Alliance Prepares for Battle
    (pp. 109-121)

    Once again, Germany prepared to battle its British rivals in the Middle East, led by a formidable team of experts made up of von Oppenheim veterans, soldiers who had served there during World War I, career diplomats, and academic experts.

    The Nazi regime also had new tactics that made this second effort seem more likely to succeed. Nazi Party branches had been established among Germans living in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world in a project headed by the young Wilhelm Bohle, who became an SS general. By 1938, this Auslands-Organisation had 580 cells in eighty-two lands engaged...

  11. 7 Al-Husaini in Search of an Empire
    (pp. 122-143)

    During World War II, Berlin backed Islamism and militant Arab nationalism. Al-Husaini was its candidate to lead a revolution, rule the Middle East, assist in destroying the British there, kill the Jews, and help ensure that Adolf Hitler ruled the world supreme. The grand mufti was the Nazis’ most important nonstate ally, and both sides intended that the radical Arab-Muslim forces, once in control of their countries, become a full partner in the Axis alongside Germany, Italy, and Japan. This alliance between al-Husaini and Hitler, militant Arab nationalist-Islamist forces and Nazis, was vital for waging and winning the war on...

  12. 8 Germany’s Muslim Army
    (pp. 144-174)

    German strategy in the Middle East had failed twice. Depending on al-Husaini and his radical Arab faction of nationalist and Islamist groups to stage a revolt in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine had fizzled, with the British left in control of all these countries. Equally, the attempt to march through North Africa, capture Cairo, and advance into Palestine, spreading genocide along the way, had been defeated on the battlefield. For the fulfillment of Hitler’s and al-Husaini’s hopes only the Soviet front was left.

    Ironically, the decision to attack the USSR and its timing, in June 1941, had ruined the Nazis’ best...

  13. 9 A Bid for Partnership in the Axis
    (pp. 175-191)

    Both before and during World War II, al-Husaini and the Arab nationalist-Islamist faction stood at the very center of Germany’s strategy. In effect, they sought to become the Axis’s fourth member, alongside Germany, Italy, and Japan. But how did that group promote its interests and build its ideology in the collaborationist era, and what other nationalist and Islamist forces developed during the war?

    In their September 27, 1940, agreement that al-Husaini and al-Kailani had originally proposed they were granted admission into the Axis as a full partner with Germany. The plan was that once Egypt, Iraq, and al-Husaini’s personal empire...

  14. 10 The War After the War
    (pp. 192-208)

    By 1943, the British controlled the regimes ruling every Arab country, or at least could depend on their support for the war. Britain had returned as-Said to power in Iraq; installed the moderate nationalist Wafd Party in Egypt; backed the loyal Abdallah in Transjordan; taken over the French colonies of Lebanon and Syria; ruled Palestine; captured—along with the Americans—Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria; and also occupied Iran, along with the Soviets and Americans. In contrast, their Arab enemies were either in Allied prisons or in Berlin. The same situation of moderates displacing radicals happened briefly in Palestinian Arab politics....

  15. 11 The Arab States’ Useful Nazis
    (pp. 209-232)

    Many Nazi war criminals evaded justice, but only in the Middle East did this fact have major political implications, and almost exclusively in that region were they able to continue their careers in government, the military, and propaganda work. No Arab country ever expelled any of them for their past war crimes or views, but instead shielded from prosecution all of the German war criminals who fled to them.

    South America was also a destination for Nazis to flee and flourish but they were only able to do so in smaller numbers and generally for shorter periods of time than...

  16. 12 How the Axis Legacy Shapes Today’s Middle East
    (pp. 233-254)

    Hitler committed suicide, Nazi Germany disappeared. But the era’s legacy continued to shape Middle East events long afterward through their allies in the region. Al-Husaini emerged as Palestinian Arab and Islamist leader; many of the collaborationist nationalists and Islamists became top officials or leading forces in their countries; and there was continuity between the Arab nationalist and Islamist ideologies that had led them to collaboration with Nazi Germany and those that dominated the Middle East during the seven decades after Hitler’s fall.

    While greatly diminished in importance, al-Husaini remained the historic Palestinian Arab leader until he was able to anoint...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 255-324)
  18. Index
    (pp. 325-340)