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.