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deological warfare, anti-colonialism, and self-discipline. These were the main common principles that the Nazis used in their attempt to attract Arab Muslim communities to fight for them. Overcoming the vain attempt to persuade Turkey to wage war with the Nazis, Hitler sought to gather as many Muslims as possible among the volunteer soldiers who fought for Nazi Germany. As the Middle East was an area dominated by England and France during the interwar period, the Nazis began to regard the Arab world as a possible ally in a war against these states.

Politics in the Middle East

Hitler wanted to exploit first and foremost the anti-colonialist feelings which were indeed very strong among the Arabs. There was Nazi propaganda accentuated among the Arabs, and even a Nazi invasion was being pursued in the area that was meant to “liberate” the peoples ruled by the colonial powers such as France and England. But more than anything else, Hitler was pursuing oil in the Middle East, with which he could even win the war. Had Hitler controlled the oil fields in Iran and Iraq, Romania would not have played a crucial role in the oil supply of German tanks.

That is why Hitler’s statements became more and more praiseworthy to the Islamic religion. He had categorically declared himself anti-Catholic because this was a “weak” religion and he accepted suffering, allowing Jews to multiply in Europe over the centuries and enriching them on their own. Instead, he considered Islam to be a firm, militaristic religion, suited to a performing society. Heinrich Himmler was also an admirer of Islamic principles, saying that the promise of such a rich paradise after a heroic death was the language that every soldier understood. He believed that the Islamic religion creates ideal, fearless, and loyal soldiers.

By 1940, Germany had already occupied France and dominated much of Europe, and the world did not know what to expect anymore. An attack was suspected in North Africa and the Middle East as the Italians had a certain interest in this area. Fortunately, however, Turkey’s decision to remain neutral in World War II made the intervention of the Nazis in the area far too cumbersome. Turkey had an important strategic position and was in relatively good relations with Germany, and any wrong move by the Germans in that area could convince the Turks to move to the opposing camp. Even so, not many would have expected Germany to prefer attacking the Soviet Union to the detriment of the Middle East.

Amin al-Husseini and Adolf Hitler in 1941 (Source: Rare Historical Photos)

The argument of anti-Semitism had not convinced many Muslims, although there is a belief that they always share a certain aversion against the Jews. In some places where Muslims lived with Jews in good understanding, there were cases where Muslims even protected the Jewish population against Nazi deportations and massacres. Albania is an exemplary case in this regard, with Albanian Muslims rescuing more than 1000 Jews from extermination. It became the sure state in Europe where there were more Jews after the war than before the war, with the Jewish population grew from just 200 to over 2000.

The only place where anti-Semitic propaganda had worked among Muslims was in Palestine, where a marked phenomenon of Zionist Jewish migration to the ancient sites of Israel had already begun. Local leading politicians such as Amin al-Husseini was promoting anti-Semitism to the Muslims from Palestinian.

Muslims soldiers from the German Army

With the attack of the Soviet Union, the importance of gathering as many allies as possible became high. The attacked state contained a large number of Muslims, the Caucasus and Crimea being the most targeted. Here the Nazi propaganda enjoyed great success because the Soviets strongly suppressed any trace of the Islamic religious cult. From there were recruited several thousand of Muslims, especially loyal to the Germans and dedicated to the cause.

The attitude of the Nazis towards the Muslims seemed astonishingly open. On the eastern front, Nazi authorities ordered the repair of mosques, prayer centers and Islamic schools destroyed by the Soviets and strongly encouraged them to practice religious rituals again. The Nazis’ concessions to the recruited Muslim troops even closed their eyes to certain practices that contravened Nazi laws. For example, they allowed them to sacrifice animals for religious holidays, thus eliminating the animal protection law given in 1933.

Muslim Bosnian soldiers from division Waffen-SS 13 praying circa 1942 (Source: Rare Historical Photos)

The Waffen-SS 13 division was formed of Muslim Bosnian soldiers, their motivation was the fight against the communist partisans who wanted to form a communist Yugoslavia. This was the first Waffen-SS division made up of non-Germans and consisted mostly of Bosnian Muslim soldiers and a few Catholic Croats, while all officers were German or Yugoslav German-speakers. A second Muslim Waffen-SS division, the 21st Skanderbeg division, contained mostly Muslim Albanians, convinced of the Nazi ideology for the same reason: the fight against communism. In total, about 70,000 Muslims fought alongside the German Fuhrer in World War II.

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