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(GSA 2008) Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 GSA 32nd Annual Conference, St. Paul, October 2-5, 2008 Session 137: "Germany's Efforts to Influence the Arab and Muslim World before and during the Nazi Period" Moderator: Carol Fink, The Ohio State University "Nazi Germany's Arabic Language Propaganda Campaign during World War II and the Holocaust: Old Themes, New Archival Findings" Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland "On Weimar Orientalism" Suzanne Marchand, Louisiana State University "Halbmond und Hakenkreuz. Neue Forschungen zum deutsch-arabischen Verhaeltnis" Martin Cueppers, Universitaet Stuttgart Commentator and Reporter: Francis R. Nicosia, University of Vermont This panel addressed the question of Nazi Germany's policies in the Arab world during the Second World War. The topic includes two significant issues in the history of the Third Reich, namely its foreign policy, and its Nazi ideology – specifically its racist _Weltanschauung._ What was the substance of Nazi geopolitics with regard to the Middle East and the larger Islamic world before and particularly during the Second World War? And what was the nature of Nazi attitudes and policy toward so-called "non-Aryan" as well as "Aryan" peoples outside of Europe – specifically, toward the Semitic Arabs (Christian and Muslim), the Turkic-speaking peoples and "Aryan" Iranians and other Muslim peoples of Central and South Asia? Surprisingly, there has been relatively little scholarship on this topic over the past forty or more years. However, this has changed in recent years with the publication of significant works, particularly by German scholars, including the 2006 book _Halbmond und Hakenkreuz: Das Dritte Reich, die Araber, und Palaestina_ co-authored by one of the panelists, Martin Cueppers. Moreover, recent developments in the Middle East and Central Asia, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Islamic fundamentalism, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, and the attacks of 9/11 to name a few, seem to have generated renewed interest in the relationship between Nazi Germany and the Arab and larger Islamic world. In his paper on Nazi Germany's Arabic language propaganda during World War II, Jeffrey Herf did not focus on real or concrete Nazi or larger Axis geopolitical ambitions in the Arab world during the war. Rather, he sought to illuminate a specific tactic in that larger policy, one that Berlin followed in its propaganda efforts to rally Arab opinion and support for the Axis war effort in North Africa and the Levant. And that tactic derived in large part from the Nazi policy of total war against the Jews, the very "war" that Hitler and his regime repeatedly stressed was as much a part of Germany's military operations as was the German army's campaigns in the Soviet Union and North Africa. In his paper, Herf provided considerable evidence that the main substance of Nazi Germany's propaganda in the Arab world was the idea of an absolute solidarity in the war against the Jews, one that it alleged was the dominant force uniting the Arab world with the Axis, and Islam with National Socialism. This propaganda line appeared to over-shadow even the notion of liberating the Arab world from British imperialism. Via various media that included the dissemination of literature and radio broadcasts to the region during the war, as well as through the Nazi regime's relationship with Arab exiles in wartime Berlin, foremost among them Haj Amin al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Jeffrey Herf identified the primary focus of the Nazi message to the Arab and larger Islamic world. Moreover, his main conclusion was that any consideration of Nazi propaganda and the policies it promoted in the Arab world during World War II clearly reveals a common National Socialist and Arab/Islamic hatred of the Jews and determination to destroy the Jewish people, one that clearly reflected, as Herf stated, a "history of political and ideological fusion." Although Herf cautioned that a proper consideration of the Arab and Islamic reception of Nazism should be left to scholars of modern Middle Eastern history and Islam, those with the ability to conduct research in Arabic, Farsi, and other languages of the region, he alluded to a common ideological bond between National Socialism, Arab nationalism, and Islam which, in his view, developed into an unfortunate reality during the Second World War. In her paper on German orientalism in the Weimar Republic, Suzanne Marchand considered a necessary but often neglected component of any consideration of German interests in and policies toward the Middle East, Central, South, and East Asia. With her focus on German orientalism during the Weimar years, she did not set out to link pre-Nazi orientalist sources to the specific attitudes and policies of the Third Reich that the other two papers address. Nevertheless, the theoretical and intellectual impact, both real and imagined, of orientalism on earlier German as well as later Nazi interest in and policy toward the various parts of Asia is important for an understanding of some of the people who helped shape those policies. Marchand stressed that the definition of an "orientalist" is very broad indeed, and was not confined in Germany solely to academic circles. Moreover, only a part of her paper dealt with earlier German _Islamforschung_ and its anti-western elements, an aspect of German orientalism that in any case is difficult to link to Nazi anti-Semitism and plans for the Arab/Islamic world. Moreover, in noting the uneven connection between pre-1933 German "orientalism" and Nazi policy, she cautioned that "…while one can find trajectories that take one into the Nazi era, one can also observe many discontinuities…" This is an important point for any understanding of the sources and motivations behind Nazi policy in the Middle East and Hitler's ultimate intentions in the region, whether they were geared toward truly independent Arab states, or an Axis replica of Anglo-French imperial control, or some combination of the two. And, if some German orientalists did in fact have some influence on the regime at any point after 1933, their expertise – and some of them did indeed have expertise, even in the languages of the region – may provide useful German sources to supplement the much needed access to Arabic and other sources from the region. Martin Cueppers' paper considered Nazi Germany's Middle East policy during the Second World War. He too placed emphasis on the relationship between Nazi anti-Semitism and its policy of genocide toward the Jews in Europe and beyond, and the substance and aims of Arab nationalism and political Islam. After a very cursory treatment of German policy in the region before the war, Cueppers focused his comments on the twin components of Hitler's Middle East policy during the war, namely the destruction of Great Britain's position in the region, and the extension of his campaign to annihilate the Jews of Europe to the Jews in North Africa and the Middle East. He revealed Hitler's plans to have victorious German armies in the Soviet Union and North Africa meet up somewhere in the Levant, south of the Caucasus, the total defeat of Allied armies in the region, and the destruction of the Jews of North Africa and the Levant, with what Cueppers concludes would likely have been the eager support of the Arab people and their leaders. He placed particular emphasis on the fact that previous scholarship has virtually ignored the existence of SS units that were prepared to go to the Middle East to organize the mass murder of the Jews in North Africa and the Levant. Without explicitly saying so, Cueppers seemed to support Jeffrey Herf's suggestion that there existed a high degree of commonality between the anti-Semitism of Germany's Nazi leadership, that of the Mufti and other Arab exiles in Berlin, and the general Arab population in North Africa and the Middle East. He also argued that the anti-Semitism of the Nazis survived the war and the defeat of National Socialism in Europe in 1945, and has prospered in the Islamic world ever since. In his commentary, Francis Nicosia thanked the three panelists for their informative contributions, for providing him with some valuable ideas and information for his current work on the same general topic, and for providing the audience with the basis for a good discussion. In referring to the panel title, however, he cautioned that the "Arab/Muslim world" is an enormous mix of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious groups and traditions that defies simple or clear categorization. Nicosia wondered for which of these groups if any the Mufti in wartime Berlin truly spoke. He commended the papers by Jeffrey Herf and Martin Cueppers for their informative and useful analysis of German policy, and Suzanne Marchand's paper for linking a necessary but largely neglected topic to the discussion of Germany and the Middle East. He agreed with Jeffrey Herf's suggestion that a truly scholarly analysis of the Arab and Islamic reception of National Socialism and attitudes toward Jews required scholarly competence in the modern history of the Middle East, as well as in the languages of that region. Nicosia also questioned the extent to which German propaganda represented true intent or pure deception on the part of Nazi leaders. Were the Germans sincere in their promises of real independence to the Arabs? What was the place of Berlin's Vichy French and Italian allies in German calculations? Did Germany really intend to give the Arabs independence at the expense of French and Italian imperial interests and ambitions? Or was it potentially the sort of pseudo-independence the Allies gave the Arabs in the form of Mandates after World War I, or Egypt in 1922 and Iraq in 1930 – something the Arabs never would accept? Was there no suspicion at all among Arab exiles in Berlin about Germany's real intentions, and the possibility that Hitler might do to the Arabs what the British did to them earlier, with false promises of independence? Finally, Nicosia suggested that any consideration of the anti-Jewish hatred and violence perpetrated by some Arabs against Jews in Palestine and elsewhere during those years requires an analysis of the impact of Jewish immigration into Palestine and Anglo-French imperialism in the region during the Mandate period, regardless of the conclusions one might draw from them. To explain, of course, is not to justify. The session attracted an audience of about 35 people who participated in the lively discussion that followed the presentations. The panelists were all eager, positive, and open to the give and take of scholarly debate among themselves and with members of the audience. Professor Carol Fink, the moderator, ably and fairly kept the presenters, the commentator, and the members of the audience within the appropriate time limits while providing some of her own thoughts on issues raised in the discussion. It was a superb session from beginning to end, and I know I speak for the rest of the panel in thanking Jeffrey Herf for organizing the session. For a complete listing of all sessions at the 2008 German Studies Association Conference, please visit https://thegsa.org/conferences/2008/index.asp