July 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Muslim Brotherhood in the West. Ian Johnson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. 318 pp.
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
– Sir Walter Scott
Ahmad Kamal in 1935
Everyone is familiar with the disastrous after effects of the American effort to mobilize radical Islam to defeat the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, a project that gave birth to Al Qaeda. Ian Johnson’s A Mosque in Munich is an account of a much older, less violent, and smaller-scale chapter in Western attempts to co-opt Islam in the battle with Communism, tracing ill-considered U.S. help to radical Islam in establishing a base in Western Europe. It opens with Nazi use of Soviet Muslim defectors and prisoners of war to try to incite revolt against Soviet rule among the Turkic peoples of Soviet Central Asia. During the war the center of this operation was Berlin; in the postwar period it moved to Munich in West Germany, where, as the Cold War blossomed, both the West German government and the American CIA took over the group of aging Soviet Muslims who had fought on the Nazi side, as well as their German handlers, to use as propagandists to the world’s Muslims, exposing Soviet oppression of Central Asian peoples.
Ultimately, the CIA concluded that the ex-soldiers were too compromised by their history of collaborating with the Nazis to serve as effective spokespeople. The Americans, thinking that religious zealots were just the thing to toss at the godless Russians, then turned to more authentic representatives of Islam, inviting in the radical Muslim Brotherhood, helping it to establish its first foothold in Western Europe. Communism fell but radical Islam lives on, not least in its European incarnation, from which emerged the 9/11 hijackers and, more broadly, the multi-millioned and little-integrated population of Muslim immigrants, strongly influenced by the network of extremist mosques whose first node was the one in Munich planned by ex-Nazis and the CIA as a front for anti-Soviet agitation. Unintended consequences.
Ian Johnson organizes his story around long-drawn-out plans to build the mosque in Munich as a political front. The Americans, the West Germans, and various Islamists competed for years over who would ultimately complete the building and control it. The idea came from a German ex-Nazi who had run the Muslim exile propaganda operation for Hitler during World War II. The CIA adopted the plan and was instrumental in handing it over to Islamic radicals, who in turn saw it as an instrument for expansion. Johnson writes that “Munich was the beachhead from which the Brotherhood spread into Western society.”
Nothing in the thirty years of Johnson’s narrative worked out for the Germans or Americans quite as they hoped. The people we meet along the way are fascinating. And in some ways the whole history is a shaggy dog story. The Nazis, and later ex-Nazis, never got very close to the mosque-building project. Even the CIA had left the scene years before ground was broken in 1967 to actually start construction. One of the most interesting characters, the American adventurer who called himself Ahmad Kamal, was never really connected to the mosque project at all, but won inclusion in the story because the West German government for several years erroneously thought he was the project’s leader, an assumption apparently fostered by the CIA for its own ends.
It may seen counterintuitive that Soviet citizens, no matter their religion, would choose to fight on the side of the Nazi invaders. The brutal Stalin dictatorship in the USSR, which had killed tens of millions of its own citizens in the forced collectivizations and mass purges of the 1930s, was particularly harsh toward its non-Russian subjects. It sought to forcibly eradicate religion, most especially Islam. Large numbers of Turks, Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Tatars, Cossacks, and Caucasians went over to the Germans after Hitler invaded in June 1941. A million Soviet Muslims fought on the German side, 250,000 of them as combat soldiers, most in all-Muslim units such as the SS East Turkestani Armed Formation, which took part in crushing the Warsaw city uprising in 1944. The all-Muslim 13th Handschar Division of the Waffen SS participated in exterminating the Bosnian and Croatian Jews (Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, vol. 2, Israel Gutman, 1990 edition). The central leader of the Palestinians of that period, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, spent the war in Berlin and recruited to the 13th Handschar SS Division. He was also closely involved with the psychological war operation directed at the Soviet Union, the precursor of the mosque project.
Throughout the war al-Husseini broadcast regularly from Berlin a profoundly anti-Semitic, Nazified version, of Islam that had a powerful influence on Islamic militants in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly on Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. This story is told elsewhere, in Paul Berman’s The Flight of the Intellectuals . This Nazified Islam was reimported to Germany at the end of the 1950s with the help of the American government.
Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Hussaini inspecting Muslim SS troops for Hitler
Hitler’s effort to expand Nazi influence among Soviet Muslims was run by Gerhard von Mende, a one-time professor and former SA storm trooper, who worked for the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, known as the Ostministerium, headed by Alfred Rosenberg, a Baltic German. A gifted linguist, von Mende spoke several of the Central Asian Turkic dialects as well as Arabic, in addition to German, French, English, Russian, and Swedish. Through the Ostministerium he built a staff of displaced Soviet Muslims. His first recruits came from an anti-Soviet group of Caucasus exiles called Prometheus that had been operating in Germany since 1925. Rosenberg and von Mende hoped to offer the non-Russian Central Asian peoples some form of nominal independence as an incentive to come over to the Germans. Hitler opposed this, so the Ostministerium Muslim operation never got very far. Von Mende employed Veli Kayum, a leader of the Prometheus group and a Central Asian exile, to scour prisoner of war camps to seek out talented Muslim recruits for his network.
Gerhard von Mende, Nazi spymaster in charge of Soviet Muslim exiles in Germany
Von Mende set up liaison offices for each of the major non-Russian ethnic groups from Ukraine and Central Asia. Their miniscule staffs posed as governments in exile. The Ostministerium used them to recruit to the Nazi army in territories they occupied as they moved deeper into the USSR. In the Crimea, virtually the entire able bodied male Tatar population, some 20,000, signed up, for which Stalin never forgave them. At the war’s end he had the whole of the Crimean Tatars deported to Siberia.
Von Mende was high enough in the Nazi bureaucracy that he attended the 1942 conference on Lake Wannsee where the Holocaust was planned.
As the war progressed the Ostministerium set up puppet parliaments for Azerbaijanis, Volga Tatars, and Turkestanis. They needed some common glue to hold these disparate peoples together, and believed they found it in Islam. Von Mende persuaded the Palestinian Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, to authorize Islamic seminaries run by Nazi-approved clerics.
Gerhard von Mende survived the war. In the chaos of bombed out Germany, occupied by the USSR in the East and by the U.S., Britain, and France in the West, he managed to hide his years in the Storm Troopers and present himself as a harmless academic bureaucrat. He was soon on the payroll of British MI5, once again living well, and building his own intelligence apparatus among Soviet Muslim former soldiers and other exiles. He moved his operation to Munich, the country’s most important postwar city. Soon the West German government also established a paying relationship with von Mende’s intelligence group as part of their Cold War efforts to influence people and events behind the Iron Curtain.
The American consulate in Munich was said to be the second largest anywhere. It served as a listening post for all things Soviet. The Americans ran two radio stations out of Munich. The famous one was Radio Free Europe, which began broadcasting in 1949 and which still operates today from the Czech Republic. RFE was aimed at the Soviet satellite countries of Eastern Europe. It was acknowledged to be an agency of the American government. It 1951 it was supplemented by the less-well-known Radio Liberty (originally Radio Liberation), which beamed shortwave transmissions aimed at the Soviet Union itself. This posed as a civilian nonprofit, operated by the American Committee for Liberation (Amcomlib). It was chaired by former Reader’s Digest editor Eugene Lyons. It had its headquarters at Munich’s Oberwiesenfeld Airport, where, Ian Johnson writes, it commanded “more than a thousand writers, producers, technicians, accountants, and advisers.” Amcomlib and its broadcasting arm were fronts for the CIA. The staff included many legitimate American journalists who chose not to be too squeamish about their secret bosses. But it needed announcers and news anchors who could speak not only Russian but the wide variety of languages of the Soviet minority peoples. Here Amcomlib recruited liberally from von Mende’s Muslim operatives, who could handle the linguistic problems of translating scripts and broadcasting in multiple Turkic languages.
In addition to Radio Liberty, Amcomlib ran a think tank that published papers by its staff, and “also had an emigre relations department that recruited agents, mostly in Munich, and sent them around the world on covert propaganda missions. U.S. government involvement was carefully masked.”
The Ostministerium Muslim agents were mostly able to hide their Nazi past at the end of the war by getting rid of their ID papers and claiming to be Turkish students or refugees from China’s Xinjiang province. Amcomlib and its Radio Liberty aimed at the Soviet Union as a whole, so it had a Russian section and a section representing the many non-Russian peoples in the USSR. Of the latter, Johnson writes, “The people on the desks had almost all worked for von Mende in the Ostministerium.” He adds: “Radio Liberty relied so heavily on Nazi collaborators that the station would have closed without them. One estimate put the proportion of Radio Liberty employees who had worked for the Nazis at 75 to 80 percent.” These were no ordinary soldiers, but people trained as skilled propagandists under the Hitler regime. At least two of them were murdered by Soviet agents shortly after Radio Liberty officially went on the air in 1953.
How the CIA first located this small group of Central Asian exiles is a story that no doubt deserves a book of its own. In November 1944 in the last days of the war the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, sent an agent code-named “Ruppert” into Nazi-occupied France to try to find out what the Germans were planning. Ruppert headed for Berlin, where he spent five and a half months posing as a Nazi security officer. There “he recruited a group of people who would at once repulse and fascinate his American employers: Nazis eager to fight the Soviet Union. Ruppert’s top recruit was von Mende.” When the Third Reich collapsed, von Mende brought his cadre of Turkic Soviet exiles over to the Americans. They were debriefed by the OSS at a safe house in Frankfurt.
The downside of becoming dependent on ex-Nazi collaborators was two-fold. First, the Soviet Union quickly discovered who they were, and relentlessly exposed them. Second, aiming their propaganda at a milieu where the common denominator was devout Islam, these were people who had grown up in the USSR where religion was banned and had then lived in Nazi Germany, so their knowledge of Islam and credentials for piety were more than thin. The CIA struggled with this problem for a number of years. Finally it gave up and sought out more authentic Islamists.
The most immediate issue within Amcomlib was hostility between the Russian staff and the Muslims. The latter, no matter how tenuous their religious training, were deeply hostile to the Slavs. Several times the CIA brought in von Mende himself for consultation. His advice, Johnson writes, was to “support the Soviet minorities – and forget about the Russians.” By this time von Mende was running his own network and was principally working as a contractor for the West German government in Bonn, out of upscale offices in Dusseldorf. Von Mende maintained his own moles inside Amcomlib who kept him up to date on the Americans’ problems.
The CIA agents were Russophiles, which made von Mende’s recommendation hard to stomach. But they did send two of their Muslim employees, Rusi Nasar and Hamid Raschid, on the 1954 Hajj to Mecca. Actually Soviet defectors, they pretended to be Turks. They harassed Soviet Muslim pilgrims, even throwing tomatoes at them, shouting “You serve the Moscow atheists!” Time magazine and the New York Times reported the incident as an example of spontaneous opposition to Soviet oppression.
The CIA next sent Rusi Nasar to the Bandung nonaligned nations conference in Indonesia in April 1955, as a representative of the National Turkestani Unity Committee, a front group run by von Mende’s henchman Veli Kayum. The Soviet press denounced Nasar as a “U.S. agent sent from West Germany.” Many years later Rusi Nasar became a respected leader of the Uzbek community in the United States. He was interviewed by Ian Johnson in 2006, at the age of eighty-nine. Nasar acknowledged that he had fought on the German side in World War II, saying it was his way to break the Russian hold over his people. He denied he had ever been an employee of Amcomlib, saying that Isaac Don Levine, author of The Mind of an Assassin, an account of Trotsky’s assassination, had tried to recruit him but he had refused.
By 1956 the CIA began to focus on how to employ a wider range of Muslims in the West. It sent an agent to Turkey to meet with Muslim refugees from the USSR to see if it could broaden its stable, to get away from that taint of men who had fought on the Nazi side. The West Germans were still committed to von Mende’s crew. They had their minister for refugee affairs, Theodor Oberlander, contact von Mende to see if his network of Muslim exiles could put any weight in the scales in Germany’s effort to regain East Germany and territories it had lost to Poland after World War II. Oberlander went way back in the Nazi party, even participating in Hitler’s beer hall putsch in 1923. He had helped plan the extermination of Jews in Eastern Europe. His get-out-of-jail-free card was that he had supported the Ostministerium plan to establish puppet governments for the USSR’s non-Russian minorities, which put him afoul of the SS, which favored outright slavery. This gave him just enough credentials as a critic of Hitler to return to the government, in 1953.
Von Mende proposed that the government unify Germany’s Muslims by selecting a chief imam to lead them. His candidate was hard-core Nazi Nurredin Namangani, who had just arrived in Munich in March 1956. Namangani had been arrested by the Soviets in Turkestan before the war. He was freed by the German invasion and became the imam of the SS East Turkistani Armed Formation. The United States had kept him in a prisoner of war camp for two years.
The West German government embraced this plan. Von Mende had a group of his Muslim exiles, all of whom had worked for the Ostministerium, stage a meeting in a beer hall in March 1958, where they formed the Ecclesiastical Administration of Moslem Refugees in the German Federal Republic. They elected Namangani its head. It was then funded by Oberlander’s ministry for refugees.
Namangani began to collect funding to build a mosque in Munich. His first significant backer was former SS Major Wilhelm Hintersatz, who had commanded the SS Muslim unit in which Namangani had served as chief imam. Hintersatz had himself converted to Islam after World War I and changed his name to Harun el-Raschid. The plan to build the mosque was announced at a meeting of the Ecclesiastical Administration in December 1958. A Mosque Construction Commission was formed with Namangani as chairman.
Robert Dreher, CIA chief in Munich who invited the Muslim Brotherhood in
The American government meanwhile was looking elsewhere in the Islamic world for potential allies against Communism. In 1957 the interagency Operations Coordinating Board for U.S. covert intelligence activities set up an Ad Hoc Working Group on Islam. This body decided its best candidates were the more militant “reform” currents within Islam, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. That same year the CIA dispatched Robert Dreher to run Amcomlib in Munich. Dreher soon began to cultivate a newly arrived Muslim personality: Said Ramadan. Ramadan was the son-in-law and former secretary of Hassan al-Banna, the Egyptian founder in 1928 of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Banna had close ties with the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti. In 1937 and 1938 the Brotherhood attacked Jewish shops in Cairo and became a channel for Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda, still circulated by the Brotherhood today. In 1948, at the announcement of Israel’s founding, the Grand Mufti appealed to the Brotherhood to raise soldiers for the Arab armies that were launched against the new Jewish state. Hassan al-Banna entrusted that task to Said Ramadan.
The Americans first came in contact with Ramadan when he attended a ten-day Princeton University conference on Islam in 1953. He came as an official delegate of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ian Johnson cites a CIA report on the conference that made the assessment “Ramadan seems to be a Fascist.” Fascist or not, in those years the Muslim Brotherhood regarded Communism as a greater evil than Western capitalism, because the USSR prohibited religion outright. That was good enough for Washington.
By the end of 1958, Ramadan was in Munich attending meetings of Mosque Construction Commission, where he made grandiose claims about big donations he could command from Saudis and other rich Arabs. Johnson says that by this time Ramadan was working closely with Dreher of the CIA. Von Mende was angry that his associate, Namangani, was being outmaneuvered by the Americans. In 1960, when the Mosque Construction Commission registered with the government as an official nonprofit, Ramadan, not Namangani, was listed as chairman. Johnson writes:
“Ramadan was suddenly at the helm of the legal entity charged with building the mosque.” Von Mende responded by secretly asking the Bavarian ministry to raise bureaucratic obstacles to halt the mosque project. According to Ian Johnson, the Americans countered by moving one of their assets to Munich to simulate a broad Muslim clamor to see the mosque project move ahead. Ahmad Kamal showed up in town with a small staff claiming to represent a major world Muslim charity called Jami’at al Islam (this had no connection to the radical Pakistani Islamic group with a similar name). “Within less than a year,” Johnson writes, “Jami’at was so successful that the local media assumed it was running the mosque project,” including printing a photo of a Jami’at official inspecting plans for the mosque. The government caved in and withdrew its objections.
Said Ramadan, Muslim Brotherhood representative in Munich who got the mosque project off the ground
Here I stopped cold. I had not heard of von Mende or Said Ramadan, but Ahmad Kamal was a different matter entirely. Back in 1979, when I was still a member of a small Marxist organization, I had moved on party assignment from New York to Virginia, Minnesota, up on the Mesabi Iron Range, to look for a job in the iron mines. Virginia was a tough little town of 12,000 sixty miles north of Duluth, closer to Canada than to Minneapolis. Its one bookstore was a disappointing B. Dalton. I discovered that once a year a women’s group in Hibbing, thirty miles away, would have an outdoor book sale on a few tables. Desperate for something new to read, I went each of the three years I lived on the Range. One year I picked up Ahmad Kamal’s 1940 Land Without Laughter .
It was one of those fascinating, slightly archaic, off-beat adventure books set in that mysterious region, Chinese Turkestan. It has a place on my bookshelves next to the romantic To Lhasa in Disguise of William Montgomery McGovern (1924), William Seabrook’s Adventures in Arabia: Among the Bedouins, Druses, Whirling Dervishes, & Yezidee Devil Worshippers (1927), and Beasts, Men and Gods by Ferdinand Ossendowski (1921). A Pole of Lithuanian Tatar descent, Ossendowski’s book chronicles his 1918-1920 flight from the Bolshevik Revolution, eastward across Siberia and Mongolia, including his failed efforts to reach Tibet. All of this literature verges into the fantastic. Ossendowski became famous in occult circles as a principal source of the legend of the King of the World and the underground kingdom of Agharti. He recounts meetings with Tibetan lamas and Mongolian princes who tell him of an underground kingdom of wise priest scientists who secretly guide the world’s affairs and predict that their ruler, the King of the World, will emerge after a series of devastating world wars to establish a reign of peace and spiritual advancement.
Though Ahmad Kamal’s role in the Munich mosque history was transitory, lasting from 1960 to 1962, he is the most interesting character in Ian Johnson’s book, and Johnson provides the most detailed biography currently available of this strange man. First of all, Ahmad Kamal was an American, and probably a convert to Islam. Johnson under the Freedom of Information Act retrieved Kamal’s FBI file, which states that he was born on February 2, 1914, in Arvada, Colorado. His name was Cimarron Hathaway. His mother was Caroline Grossmann Hathaway, his father, James Worth Hathaway. According to an interview Johnson obtained with a daughter, James was a stepfather and Cimarron’s biological father was Qara Yusuf, a Uyghur from Turkestan who was much older than Caroline – he was sixty-four and she sixteen when they married. Yusuf had other wives in his homeland, to which he returned when Cimarron was very young.
Johnson suggests Land Without Laughter was a novel, in part by pointing to several obvious falsehoods in the back cover text of the 2000 paperback reprint edition, prepared by Ahmad Kamal’s son, such as the claim that Kamal “commanded” the Basmaci rebellion against the Soviets, which ended when he was ten years old. The version published in 1940 when Kamal was alive makes no such claim. The Kirkus review when it was first published treats it as nonfiction. It is true that, despite the plethora of authentic sounding detail, Land Without Laughter rates an extremely high score on the improbability index.
The book lists its author and protagonist as Ahmad Kamal and includes no suggestion that it is fiction. It makes no mention of the name Cimarron Hathaway. “Ahmad Kamal” says his father died when he was an infant and that he was raised on Indian reservations, where his mother, never named, was writing histories of the various tribes. While living in Houston, Texas, his mother had him home schooled, hiring a “disinherited son of a Prussian nobleman,” Lothar von Richter, as his tutor. Von Richter happened to be a student of ancient Turkish and fortuitously taught the young “Ahmad” this obscure language, as well as military tactics. The family moved on to Tucson, Arizona, where his next tutor was one Musa Jan, a Muslim scholar from Kazan, who continued his education in the same vein.
Coming of age knowing nothing but military tactics, the Uyghur language, Islam, and the history of Tartary, Ahmad finds himself unfit for anything but a military career in Sinkiang (Chinese Turkestan, present-day Xinjiang). So in late 1935 he sets sail from the Los Angeles port at San Pedro for India, landing first in Bombay. According to his FBI file he had turned twenty-one earlier that year. In his book he claims he was twenty-three. From Bombay he treks across the subcontinent to Delhi, then northwest into what is now Pakistan, and finally to Kashmir. Here, as he tells it, he hires several servants and horses, and, defying a prohibition by the British authorities, sets off in the dead of winter to cross the Himalayan passes into Tibet.
He finds the high passes littered with the corpses of dead pack animals and human travelers, some frozen to death, others killed and stripped by bandits. After many hardships his small party emerges into western Tibet. They travel on by horse and mule into Xinjiang. His goal was to connect with the Chinese Muslim garrison that controlled most of southern Xinjiang from their fortress in the town of Khotan (now Hotan).
Even today Xinjiang’s Muslim people maintain a tumultuous opposition to Han Chinese rule, staging frequent riots, bombings, and acts of sabotage against the Beijing government. In the 1930s the situation was far more chaotic and complex. China was weakly governed by the corrupt Kuomintang (KMT) of Chiang Kai-shek. Mao Zedong’s Long March (1934-1935) established the Communists permanently in Shaanxi in north central China. The northwest provinces of Gansu and Qinghai were ruled by Muslims, three families of Hui (Muslim) Chinese known by their enemies as the Ma Clique (Ma is the Chinese rendering of Muhammad). The Mas offered ostensible allegiance to the Kuomintang. Adjacent Xinjiang to the west was ruled until 1928 by an independent warlord. After his assassination he was succeeded first by Jin Shuren (1928-1933), then Sheng Shicai (1933-1944). Though nominally representing the KMT, both Jin and Sheng were de facto puppets of the Soviet Union.
Chiang Kai-shek in 1933 authorized the formation of the 36th Division of his national army, an all-Muslim corps in Gansu, to invade Xinjiang to overthrow Jin Shuren. The unit was commanded by Ma Zhongying, seconded by his half brother, Ma Hushan. As these troops entered Xinjiang, a Muslim Tatar uprising broke out in the south, known as the Kumul Rebellion. Jin’s main troops were White Russians who had settled in north Xinjiang to escape the Russian Revolution. In a bizarre turn, Stalin sent regular Soviet troops in disguise to secretly join the White Russian units to reinforce Jin Shuren’s position. Ma’s forces defeated Jin Shuren in a series of pitched battles in 1933 and early 1934, culminating in Ma’s capture of Kashgar in February 1934. The USSR responded with a full-scale invasion.
Ma Zhongying retreated into Xinjiang’s southern prefectures, where he confronted the First East Turkestan Republic, the product of the Kumul Rebellion, a breakaway effort by the local Turkic people to establish an independent state. The locals made a sharp distinction between Turkic Muslims and the Hui Chinese Muslims. Ma mercilessly crushed his fellow religionists and established his own stable base at Khotan in the far south. Then, inexplicitly, Ma Zhongying is said to have defected to the Soviet Union, after having battled the Russian troops for more than a year. He was never seen again. The Khotan base was thereafter commanded by Ma Zhongying’s half brother, Ma Hushan.
This was the situation when Ahmad Kamal, as I should now call him, rode into town in 1936, eight months after he left Los Angeles. Ahmad for some reason refers to Ma Hushan as Ma Hsi Jung, but it is clear from everything in his text, including a specific identification of the two names in an appendix, that it is Ma Hushan he claims to have met. (He says he was first told the general’s name by a Mongol in Ladakh on the Indian side of the Himalayas, and that may have permanently tainted his sonic spelling. Alternatively, many Chinese have multiple given names bestowed at different times in their lives and used in different contexts.)
Ahmad Kamal claims that at their first meeting “Ma Hsi Jung” appointed him an officer in the Tungan (Chinese Muslim) 36th Division army. Almost immediately he was dispatched with a squad of thirty-five men to capture or kill a group of 181 deserters. Two battles with machine guns, rifles, and grenades ensued, in which Kamal’s second-in-command was killed along with several others of his unit. A few days later he took part in the storming of Kizil Kurgan, a fortress two hundred miles southeast of Khotan that had been occupied by the Russians and their Chinese allies. This involved storming the walls on siege ladders and hand-to-hand combat with scimitars.
A few weeks after this encounter, Ma Hsi Jung meets with Kamal, telling him he is appointing him to go back to America to buy airplanes for the Tungan army. When the planes arrive, General Ma says, he “will take all of Sinkiang. First, Kashgar, then north to Urumchi, and when he is ruler of all of Sinkiang, he will conquer Kansu and Tibet. And then the balance of Asia!” No megalomaniac he! But his ambition did not stop at the borders of Asia. He dreamed the same dream as Gerhard von Mende and the American CIA, of calling forth a rising of the oppressed Turkic peoples of Soviet Central Asia, and still more broadly, the old Muslim goal of submitting the entire world to Islam. General Ma imagined, erroneously as it turned out, that he held in his hands the match that could set off the Second World War, which fit nicely into his plans of conquest:
“While the bulk of the Russian army would be occupied with the millions of Muslim fighting men besieging their frontiers, other governments would probably take advantage of the moment to throw an army into the field. Ten of every hundred men in Siberia and Russian Turkistan could be relied upon to revolt against the Soviet regime . . . Then, God willing, Ma Hsi Jung would march into the Kremlin!”
In fulfillment of these fantasies Ma Hushan sends Ahmad Kamal up the northern string of towns in western Xinjiang to begin a journey back to America to purchase his air force. Ahmad got as far as Aksu (Aqsu) before being arrested. Jailed under appalling conditions, he was eventually transferred to Urumqi, Sheng Shicai’s capital. There he spent four months in a dungeon, where he lost forty-three pounds. His three traveling companions, casual acquaintances, were executed, apparently solely because they could testify that the pro-Russian government was holding an American citizen. Finally he was ordered released. On his way out of the city a counter order was received when some spy had discovered Kamal was in fact working for Ma Hushan. The telegram was garbled and Kamal succeeded in convincing the commandant that it didn’t apply to him. He was out of the province before the truth caught up with him.
Ahmad Kamal crossed the Gobi desert, Mongolia, then China, and finally returned to the United States. He hints in closing that he intends to secretly purchase the aircraft he had been commissioned to buy.
Ma Hushan staged a new offensive in June 1937. He captured Kashgar and held it until October. Defeated, he fled to British India. In 1939 he returned to China. In his native Gansu he fought alongside the Chinese Communists against the Japanese invaders. Then, in 1950, he led an uprising in Xinjiang against the new Chinese Communist government. This lasted until 1954, when the redoubtable general was captured. He was executed by the Chinese at Lanzhou. He never marched in glory into Moscow’s Red Square at the head of a Tatar host.
How much, if any, of Cimarron Hathaway’s swashbuckling tale is true? It is filled with images of barbaric cruelty: floggings, beheadings, rapes. He says he is speaking mainly in Uyghur, which may or may not explain why every conversation comes through as flowery and stilted. His companions – soldiers, merchants, travelers – quote more quaint proverbs than Sancho Panza. And his own bravery often seems over the top, from cutting off men at the ankles with his scimitar from the top of a scaling ladder to throwing a bowl of slops he had been given to eat back in a guard’s face or tossing a cup of hot tea into the face of an interrogator who could easily order him shot.
Ian Johnson cites Hathaway’s FBI file, which confirms that he did go to Central Asia in 1935, and that he was arrested by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang and escaped. It also states that he was married while in Xinjiang and his seventeen-year-old wife died of some act of violence during the turbulence there. In Land Without Laughter one of the author’s soldier companions without his knowledge negotiates an arranged marriage for him, but it is with a fourteen-year-old and he manages to get out of it the same night, unconsummated, returning the girl to her parents. Whatever passport he was carrying in that adventure would have borne the name Cimarron Hathaway, as he did not officially change his name to Ahmad Kamal until he was back in the United States, in a Hollywood court in 1938.
In 1941, Ahmad Kamal returned to China. There he did marry a Tatar woman named Amina, who had worked as a linguist and correspondent for Russian newspapers. They were both imprisoned by the Japanese in the Weihsien internment camp in Shandong, where they spent almost four years. On their return to the United States after Liberation the Los Angeles Times ran an article with their pictures. Kamal said he had gone back to Chinese Turkestan to retrieve his notebooks from his 1935-36 trip. He told the Times that at the time he and Amina were detained by the Japanese he had three manuscripts, a novel, a history, and a political study. Prohibited from keeping anything but a Bible, he and Amina transcribed the three manuscripts into ornate Turkic script and passed them off to the Japanese guards as a copy of the Koran. ( LA Times , November 11, 1945)
There is yet another curious side tale here that Ian Johnson did not pick up. This one involves the mystery of Amelia Earhart, the famed woman pilot who during an around-the-world flight disappeared over the Pacific in July 1937 with her copilot Fred Noonan,. One theory was that she had been spying for the United States and was captured by the Japanese. On August 21, 1945, as the Weihsien camp was shutting down, a radiogram was sent from there to Earhart’s husband, the publisher George Putnam, in North Hollywood, California. The telegram read:
“Camp liberated; all well. Volumes to tell. Love to mother.”
It was unsigned. Forty-two years later, on June 28, 1987, the Los Angeles Times reported that a State Department employee had found a copy of this message in the Earhart files in the National Archive. This sparked a renewal of the theory that Earhart had been captured by the Japanese and interned in the Weihsien camp. “Love to Mother” was widely assumed to be some kind of secret code, and the conspiracy literature soon abounded with the abbreviation for it: LTM.
A recent post by Ron Bright and Laurie McLaughlin clears up the mystery. The sender of the mysterious unsigned message was our Ahmad Kamal. It seems that one more of the improbable claims about Cimarron Hathaway that appear on the back cover of the 2000 edition of Land Without Laughter was true, or partly so. This was the claim that he had been a combat pilot. Ron Bright and Laurie McLaughlin in 2001 located his son, who confirmed that Ahmad Kamal had been a licensed pilot and that he kept a plane at the Burbank airport, also used by Amelia Earhart. The son added that Kamal knew both Earhart and her husband, George Putnam, and that when he left for his trip to China in 1941 he had asked Putnam to regularly look in on his mother, who lived nearby. Beyond these facts this account is full of misinformation, claiming, for example, that Ahmad Kamal served as a guide for the famous dinosaur hunter Roy Chapman Andrews, the purported model for Indiana Jones. But Andrews’ expeditions in the Gobi Desert and Central Asia took place between 1922 and 1930, when Cimarron Hathaway was still a boy. It appears that Kamal’s son has a thin grasp of his father’s history and has expanded his legend into myth. (http://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Forum/FAQs/ltm.htm)
There is always something uncertain surrounding everything claimed about Cimarron Hathaway/Ahmad Kamal. His Jami’at al-Islam charity, which he invented while living in Indonesia in the 1950s, issued brochures claiming it had been founded in Turkestan in 1868-69 to promote revolution against tsarist Russia. Ahmad’s son, the source of the information about Amelia Earhart, was born in 1950 so events in 1937 took place long before he was around. Cimarron had left for Xinjiang the first time when he was only twenty-one. He had been back in the United States only a few months when Amelia Earhart left on her fatal flight. Surely he was not a licensed pilot then, much less with his own plane in a hangar at the Burbank airport. In the years after her disappearance he became an author and sought out contacts with various publishers, including Scribners, who published his Land Without Laughter in 1940. Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, was also a publisher. As the Weihsien camp was shutting down in 1945, Kamal sent two messages, not just one. The second was to Maxwell Perkins at Scribners.
Ahmad Kamal lived in Los Angele between 1945 and 1951. During that period he wrote and published three novels: Full Fathom Five , about Greek sponge divers in Florida, One-Dog Man about a boy and his dog, and The Excommunicated , a romance thriller set in pre-Communist Shanghai. He marketed a number of short stories and worked in Hollywood as a screen writer. Then he abandoned literary work and turned to Islam in a serious way, publishing The Sacred Journey: A Pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabic. Thereafter his life was bound up with intelligence work for the United States on behalf of Islamic, and in particular, Turkestani causes.
In the early 1950s he moved to Indonesia, where he lived in Bandung. The U.S. government lent him the money for his passage, and Johnson says that Kamal told a friend he would be working for the U.S. government. Kamal established the world headquarters for his Jami’at charity in Jakarta. Von Mende’s files claim Kamal was working for the Americans in providing support to an anticommunist minister in the Indonesian government. After two assassination attempts Kamal fled to Barcelona. Von Mende’s files also record that Ahmad Kamal refused to work for the CIA, because he claimed it was heavily infiltrated by Soviet spies. Instead he was paid by the National Security Council, at the personal request of Richard Nixon, then Eisenhower’s Vice President. Kamal tried to have the famous 1955 Bandung nonaligned nations conference canceled, and when that failed he returned from Spain to attend for a day, but left for fear of a physical attack. Throughout all of this his primary goal remained what it had been in Xinjiang in 1936: to inspire Islamic opposition to Communist rule.
There were unproven claims that Kamal’s Jami’at charity supplied funding for arms for Islamic insurgencies, including the Algerian revolution for independence from France and the Palestinians in Jordan, from which the Jami’at offices were expelled in 1961. Then in October 1961, at a conference at the New York Sheraton hotel, the Jami’at began to fall apart. It issued a declaration that it was withdrawing its pledge to refrain from “extreme methods” because of the failure of Western governments to support the Islamic cause. It also fired its principal representative in Munich, Ahmet Balagija, who, like von Mende’s operatives, was a former Muslim soldier in the Wehrmacht.
The Americans now regarded Ahmad Kamal as too troublesome. They retaliated by ordering an audit of the funds they had been supplying to the Jami’at charity. Jami’at was being paid to care for some 4,000 refugees. On inspection it proved there were only 400 and the money was being used for its general propaganda work. In March 1962 Jami’at al-Islam International, to use its full name, announced that it was leaving Germany to do work in sub-Saharan Africa. It was never heard of again.
According to Johnson, “A few years later, Kamal would move back to California to continue his covert work.” He is said to have traveled extensively in Burma. Johnson adds, “In 1969, he offered the Burmese opposition leader U Nu $2 million if he would depose the country’s dictator, Ne Win.” The back cover text of the 2000 edition of Land Without Laughter , repeated in reprints of his three novels, say that Ahmad Kamal was the “commanding General of the Muslim liberation forces of the Union of Burma into the 1980′s.” Searches trying to confirm this turn up only the back covers of the reprint editions of his books. Ahmad Kamal died on October 13, 1989, in Santa Barbara, California.
The mosque project continued without him. Now safe from the threatened government prohibition, a decisive meeting was held on November 26, 1961, where the young students from the Muslim Brothers, with support from the CIA, backed Said Ramadan to head the project while von Mende’s old soldiers supported one of their own, the half-blind Ali Kantemir. Kantemir won a majority, but Ramadan, who was the incumbent, won the day when a German bureaucrat pointed out that the group’s charter required a two-thirds majority for such a decision. Ramadan held on to his position.
With his American backing and his beachhead in Germany secure, Said Ramadan in May 1962 went to Mecca to help create the Muslim World League, still today one of the most important international Islamic organizations. Ramadan’s agenda was to make the group sharply political, in particular to declare itself the enemy of Israel.
It didn’t take long for the Americans to discover that when they bought Ramadan they didn’t get what they had bargained for. Johnson writes:
“The Germans and the Americans had the same idea: control the mosque, control the local Muslims, and then use them to fight communism. The local Muslims were still in Munich and to that extent could still be used for covert propaganda purposes, but . . . it seems that Ramadan hadn’t cared about uniting Muslims to fight communism.” Ramadan wanted instead to promote the Muslim Brotherhood’s version of militant Islam, focused on a world revolution to impose Islam and Sharia law not only on the Communist lands but everywhere. And for that he had no use for the old Nazi soldiers. He wanted young, impressionable disciples. As Johnson puts it, “He didn’t want an umbrella group; he wanted a cell.”
By 1962, as Holocaust studies began to cast light on ex-Nazis still active in German political life, von Mende was snubbed by being refused an invitation to a major Washington conference on Islam and the Soviet Union. He died in December 1963. From 1964 on, Amcomlib and its Radio Liberty concentrated on broadcasting and abandoned trying to manipulate Germany’s Muslims through their religious leaders. In the 1970s, when it was exposed as a CIA front, Radio Liberty was merged with Radio Free Europe.
The Munich mosque
The Islamic Center of Munich opened to the faithful on August 24, 1973. By this time control had passed to an alliance between Saudi Arabia’s militant Wahabis and the Saudi branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Said Ramadan, an Egyptian, was squeezed out in 1966. Acting on a well-financed, expansionist vision, over the next twenty years it established branches throughout Germany, promoting the Brotherhood’s version of Islam. It recruited fighters for jihad in Bosnia and inspired Islamic militancy in other world hot spots.
Figures intimately associated with the Munich mosque’s operation such as Youssef Nada and Ahmed Totonji helped to spread the Brotherhood to the United States. Totonji was a central founder of the Muslim Student Organization in 1962, which Johnson writes is “widely regarded as the first Brotherhood organization in the United States.”
That the radical Muslim Brotherhood got there first in establishing its network of religious houses of worship has had an incalculable effect as Europe’s Muslim population has mushroomed over the last three or four decades. According to Ian Johnson’s figures (circa 2009-2010) there were fifteen to twenty million Muslims living in Western Europe; of these, 3.5 million were in Germany, as many as 6 million in France, and just under 2 million in Britain.
Evidence that the Munich mosque has ties to actual terrorism is thin. A regular worshipper in the 1980s was Mahmoud Abouhalima, later convicted in the attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, believed to be Al Qaeda’s finance chief, sought spiritual counseling at the mosque before being extradited to the United States in 1998. Somewhat less clear are long-standing accusations that two central figures of the mosque helped finance terrorism. These are directed at Ghaleb Himmat, the mosque’s chief imam for twenty-nine years, and the mosque’s principal financial figure, Youssef Nada. They concern the al-Tarqwa Bank, of which Nada was a co-founder and Himmat served as a director. There is little dispute that the bank is a Muslim Brotherhood enterprise, or that the Brotherhood supports terrorism at least in Iraq against the government and its American supporters and against Israel.
The bank’s European functionaries include some very unsavory characters. Headquartered in Switzerland, its officers include Swiss Islamic convert Ahmed Huber, an enthusiastic admirer of Hitler, and Francois Genoud, a central manager of Nazi assets in the years after World War II. Jordan accused the bank of funding Musab al-Zarqawi, the since-deceased head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, while the United States insists they laundered money for Osama bin Laden and Hamas. The UN joined the U.S. in declaring the bank and its officers terrorist financers, though the UN withdrew the designation in 2010. Nada denies the charges, but Himmat was forced to resign from his long-held position at the mosque in 2002.
More indisputable is the role of the mosque and its siblings in other cities in spreading anti-Semitism and promoting a version of Islam that rejects integration in European societies and aspires to replace secular regimes with Islamic Sharia law governments. This has created a huge existential problem for Western Europe and generated a large anguished literature on the subject, to mention only Robert S. Keiken’s Europe’s Angry Muslims and Walter Laqueur’s The Last Days of Europe and After the Fall .
One creation of the Munich mosque is the European Council for Fatwa and Research, said to be the most influential body in setting the norms of Islamic attitudes in Europe. Johnson cites a 2004 meeting of this body where German Muslim scientist Mohammad Hawari received no objection when in a lecture he explained that the Jews are responsible for the sexual revolution, with the aim of destroying the morals of Islamic youths in order to take over the world. He cited as his authority for this claim the notorious Russian tsarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a mainstay of Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda and today widely reprinted in Arabic throughout the Middle East. .
“Far from setting up rules to govern a fringe group, the fatwa council issues guidelines aimed at tens of millions of European citizens and residents – members of Europe’s second-biggest religion.” The head of this organization, Mahdi Akef, is a past head of the Munich mosque, the Islamic Center of Munich. He calls the Holocaust a myth and is a public sympathizer of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
So where have we arrived? This tale is something like Rashomon, being able to see the same events from opposite and irreconcilable points of view. During World War II two evil totalitarian systems were locked in a death struggle, each looking for any weakness in the other that would let it get a grip on its opponent’s throat. The captive Turkic peoples of Soviet Central Asia had their own aspirations for independence, which the Nazis exploited. The majority of these Muslim nations finally won their goal, not with the help of Nazi Germany or even the American CIA, but only with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. The Muslim peoples of China’s Xinjiang province, the central concern of Ahmad Kamal’s life, are the exception. They remain under the domination of an alien people. In that story Ahmad Kamal is an admirable outsider, bridging American and Turkic Muslim cultures, devoted to a people that were by birth, or perhaps only in his vivid imagination, his forebears and blood kin. If he invented many details about his life and history, enough is true to validate him as a patriot to the Muslims of Xinjiang.
At the same time, in the broader world beyond Chinese Turkestan, Islamic radicalism is a declared enemy of most of the essential values of the advanced democracies. Islam as a whole does not accept the separation of church and state essential to maintain harmony among peoples of different creeds and sects. It stands where Christianity did in the fifteenth century. Moderate and reform-minded Muslims are in a decided minority, while a more militant minority at the other end of the spectrum enforces its view by violence. Giving one of the more extreme variants of this authoritarian and intolerant current a hand up in establishing itself in Western Europe ahead of the flood of Islamic immigrants that followed, and came under its influence, was a disastrous mistake that we will pay for for generations to come. Part of how that part of the story will unfold is being written now in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood finally has governmental power, and is proving to have within it some more moderate elements. One wing is seemingly willing to work with the West, to extend toleration to Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority – who long predate the invasion of Islam – and to retain the peace treaty with Israel. Others hew to the traditional view of Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, that the whole of the world that is not under strict Sharia law is jahiliyyah, degenerate barbarians, who must be forced to submit to Islam, while the Jews are fit only for extermination. Much rides on how this contest plays out.
November 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
Grigoris Balakian, 1876-1934: “The German officers would often speak of us as Christian Jews and as blood sucking usurers of the Turkish people.”
by Andrew Bostom |
This past week I was privileged to receive an advance copy of the soon to be released (March 31, 2009, according to the publisher, Random House) first time English translation of Grigoris Balakian’s epic personal memoir of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1918, “Hai Koghkotan,” “The Armenian Golgotha,” originally published in Vienna, in 1922. The 1922 volume 1, and the second volume (which apparently “fell into a void for lack of funding,” was found among Grigoris Balakian’s sister Rosa Antreassian’s post-humous papers in 1956, and published in Paris in 1959) are presented in a very accessible, elegant English translation by Grigoris Balakian’s grandnephew, Professor Peter Balakian—an accomplished scholar of the Armenian Genocide himself—with the able assistance of two colleagues, Anahid Yeremian, and Aris Sevag.
Modern genocide historians who have been wont to re-examine the disintegrating Ottoman Empire’s World War I jihad genocide against its Armenian minority through the prism of The Holocaust, often cite a comment by Hitler that the mass killings of the Armenians served the Nazi leaders as an “inspirational” precedent for predictable impunity. During August of 1939, Hitler gave speeches in preparation for the looming invasion of Poland which admonished his military commanders to wage a brutal, merciless campaign, and assure rapid victory. Hitler portrayed the impending invasion as the initial step of a vision to “secure the living space we need,” and ultimately, “redistribute the world.” In an explicit reference to the Armenians, “Who after all is today speaking of the destruction of the Armenians?,” Hitler justified their annihilation (and the world’s consignment of this genocide to oblivion) as an accepted new world order because, “The world believes only in success.”
Grigoris Balakian’s eyewitness account of events from 1915-1918—recorded in his diaries during World War I, and already published by 1922—provide a unique, independent confirmation of this ideological, and genocidal nexus, and antedate The Holocaust by two decades. Specifically, Balakian’s striking observations (on pp. 280-281) from a chapter entitled, “The Treatment of the Armenians by the German Soldiers” capture attitudes of German military officers towards the Armenians that foreshadow, chillingly, the genocidal depredations they would inflict upon European Jewry during World War II.
The German officers on their way to Palestine and the Mesopotamian front had no choice but to pass before the Bagche [Asia Minor] station [train]. All of them used offensive language with regard to the Armenians. They considered us to be engaging in intrigue, ready to strike the Turkish army from the rear, and thus traitors to the fatherland…deserving of all manner of punishment.
Although most of the Armenians living in Turkey had been deported, scattered, and martyred in the spring of 1915, a few hundred thousand survivors still perishing in the deserts to the south—wasting away to nothing. Nevertheless the German officers’ Armenophobic fury continued, and not a word of compassion was heard from their lips. On the contrary, they justified the Ittihad government, saying, “You Armenians deserve your punishment. Any state would have punished rebellious subjects who took up arms to realize national hopes by the destruction of the country.”
When we objected, asking if other states would dare to massacre women and children, along with men, and annihilate an entire race on account of a few guilty people, they replied: “Yes, it’s true that the punishment was a bit severe, but you must realize that during such chaotic and frightful days of war as these, it was difficult to find the time and means to separate the guilty from the innocent.” This was also the merciless answer of the chief executioners—Talaat, Enver, Behaeddin Shakir, Nazim—and their Ittihad camarilla.
The German officers pretended ignorance of the widespread slaughter of more than a million innocent Armenians, irrespective of sex and age, and referred only to deaths by starvation and the adversities of travel during the deportations. Thus they exonerated the Turkish government, saying that its inability to provide for hundreds of thousands of deportees in a disorganized land like Asia Minor was not surprising. Meanwhile Turkish government officials prevented the starving refugees from receiving bread distributed by the Austrians and Swiss, stating, “Orders have come from Constantinople not to give any assistance. We cannot allow either bread or medicine to be given. The supreme order is to annihilate this evil race. How dare you rescue them from death?” The German officers would often speak of us as Christian Jews and as blood sucking usurers of the Turkish people.
What a falsification of the wretched realities prevailing in Asia Minor, and what a reversal of roles! Yes indeed, there was an oppressor. Either the Germans were consciously distorting the facts and roles, or the Turks had really convinced them that the Turks were the victims and the Armenians were criminals. How appropriate it is to recall here this pair of Turkish sayings: “The clever thief has the master of the house hanged” and “The one who steals the minaret prepares its sheath in advance, of course.”
Many German officers had no qualms about turning over to the Turkish authorities Armenian youths who had sought refuge with them; they knew full well that they were delivering them to their executioners. If an Armenian merely spoke negatively about a German—be he the emperor or [Baron] von der Goltz Pasha [a German military aide to the Ottoman Empire], or the average German—or dared to criticize German indifference toward the Armenian massacres, he was immediately arrested and turned over to the nearest Turkish military or police authority. And if the Germans found a certain Armenian particularly irritating, they pinned the label of spy on him.
Mistaking me for an Austrian, a few German officers boasted of having turned over several Armenians to the Turkish police, adding with a laugh, “Only the Turks know how to talk to the Armenians.”
Wilhelm Harun-el-Raschid Bey, 1886-1963: The apotheosis of two conjoined, genocidal twentieth century ideologies—jihadism, and ethno-nationalism.
The career trajectory and personal attitudes of Wilhelm Hintersatz (born 1886; died 1963) epitomize these genocidal connections. Hintersatz achieved the rank of colonel serving the Kaiser’s Austrian armed forces in Turkey, during World War I, where he became an assistant to Enver Pasha—one of the ruling Ittihad (Young Turk) triumvirate architects of the Armenian Genocide—and converted to Islam, assuming the name Harun-el-Raschid Bey.
During World War II, he joined the Waffen SS as Standartenfuhrer (Colonel) of a unit that merged Waffen groups operating in the Ural Mountains, and Central Asia, from 1944-1945. As described by Professor Kurt Tauber in his meticulously documented two volume tome (published in 1967) on the post World War II era phenomenon of residual anti-democratic German nationalism, Beyond Eagle and Swastika, Wilhelm Harun-el-Raschid Bey wrote Aus Orient und Occident; ein Mosaik aus buntem Erleben [From the Orient and the Occident: A Mosaic of Varicolored Experiences], ostensibly “…about his personal experiences and travels, interlarded with his reflections,” which was published in 1954. However, as Tauber observes, cleverly avoiding strict German laws against the publication of overtly Antisemitic writings which were stringently applied during the early post World War II period, Harun-el-Raschid Bey concealed his Jew-hatred behind a “folkish” façade.
Yet, in doing so he presented a clear and penetrant racist orientation, masquerading as lighthearted story telling and simple good fun. Some of the descriptions of people and events have an almost Stürmer-like quality, including even the attempted seduction by a Russian Jewess!
Wilhelm Harun-el-Raschid Bey represents the apotheosis of two conjoined genocidal 20th century ideologies—jihadism, and ethno-nationalism. And as true believer in both, he remained seemingly unrepentant even in the aftermath of the genocidal killings these hatemongering ideologies provoked.
Ahmed Huber recounted a conversation with Mohammad Amin al-Husseini: the Nazi ideology was an inspiration from Islam
November 24, 2012 § 2 Comments
November 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
Amin al-Husaini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, remains a controversial figure. The Palestinian leader, who was born in 1895 and died in 1974, first sparked controversy during his lifetime. As an officer in the Ottoman army during the First World War, he implemented the German idea of organizing jihad and terror behind enemy lines. (See my discussion here.) Later, he led the resistance against the British mandate authority in Palestine during uprisings in 1929 and in 1936. He fiercely opposed Jewish settlement.
But it is, above all, the Grand Mufti’s close ties to National Socialist Germany that are the subject of ongoing debates. From 1941 to 1945, he lived for the most part in Berlin as a guest of the German government. The Nazis provided office space, vehicles and money, so that the Mufti and his entire entourage could stay active. In return, the Mufti used his influence in the Middle East on the Nazis’ behalf and recruited Muslims for the Nazi war effort. On the airwaves of Nazi Germany’s Arab language radio service, he called for a Holy War, a jihad, against the Allies and the Jews.
Some German authors, like René Wildangel, claim that it is still unclear whether and to what extent Amin Al-Husaini was informed about the Nazis’ exterminationist policies toward the Jews. In a recent review of Klaus Gensicke’s biography of the Grand Mufti, John Rosenthal expresses some doubts as well: noting that the fact that members of the Grand Mufti’s entourage visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1942 is not sufficient evidence for concluding that he also knew what was transpiring in the death camps further to the East.
But in fact the full record of the available evidence, including both German and Arabic sources, leaves no room for doubt anymore. Indeed, the Grand Mufti’s own words provide the most compelling proof. Memoirs of the Grand Mufti, edited by Abd al-Karim al-Umar, were published in Damascus in 1999. (See cover photo below.) In the memoirs, al-Husaini openly discusses his close relationship to SS chief Heinrich Himmler.
According to his account, he often met Himmler for tea and during these meetings the Nazi leader confided some of the secrets of the German Reich to him. Thus, for example, in the middle of 1943, Himmler is supposed to have told him that German nuclear research had made great progress: In three years, Germany could have an atomic weapon that would guarantee its “ultimate victory.” As Rainer Karlsch’s recent book on “Hitler’s Bomb” has shown, this assessment was not far off. Himmler presumably confided this information to the Grand Mufti on July 4, 1943. That is the date on a photo of the two men with a signed dedication from Himmler: “to his Eminence the Grand Mufti — a Memento” (see below).
In the memoirs, the Grand Mufti also describes what Himmler said to him in that summer of 1943 about the persecution of the Jews. Following some tirades on “Jewish war guilt,” Himmler told him that “up to now we have liquidated [abadna] around three million of them” (p. 126 — see Arabic excerpt below).
There is evidence, moreover, that the Grand Mufti knew about the Nazis’ plans still earlier. In 1946, Dieter Wisliceny, a close collaborator of Adolf Eichmann in the “Jewish Affairs” division of the Reich Central Security Office, provided a written statement on the Grand Mufti to the Nuremberg Tribunal.
According to Wisliceny, at the beginning of 1942 Eichmann made a detailed presentation to al-Husaini on the “solution of the European Jewish question.” The presentation took place in Eichmann’s “map room” in Berlin: “where he had collected statistical graphics on the Jewish population in the various European countries.” The Grand Mufti, Wisliceny recalls, was “very impressed.” Furthermore, al-Husaini is supposed to have put in a request to Himmler to have Eichmann send one of his assistants to Jerusalem after Germany had won the war. The representative of Eichmann was to serve as the Grand Mufti’s personal advisor: i.e. when the Grand Mufti would then set about “solving the Jewish question in the Middle East.”
We can infer from other documentation that this was not just a vague idea. A declassified document on Nazi war crimes from the National Archives in Washington indicates that as of mid-1942 a special SS commando unit had plans to liquidate the Jews of Cairo following the capture of the city by German forces. (See detail below.) Gen. Erwin Rommel was supposedly disgusted by the proposition. The head of the SS unit, Walter Rauff, had earlier been involved in developing vans that served as mobile gas chambers. It should be noted that he was a German and not a Pole, as suggested in the U.S. government document.
In his memoirs, however, the Grand Mufti feigns astonishment at Himmler’s remark. On his account, Himmler asked him how he would solve the problem of the Jews in his country. Amin al-Husaini says that he answered that they should go back to where they came from. To which Himmler is supposed then to have replied: “Come back to Germany — we will never allow them to do that.” But the Grand Mufti is here white-washing his own role in history. After all, in Berlin on November 2, 1943, he publicly declared that Muslims should follow the example of the Germans, who had found a “definitive solution to the Jewish problem.”
Wolfgang G. Schwanitz is a historian of the Middle East and German Middle East policy. He is the author of four books and the editor of ten others, including “Germany and the Middle East, 1871-1945.” He grew up in Cairo and Berlin, and he teaches at Rider University in New Jersey. The above article had been adapted from a longer article that appeared on the German website Kritiknetz. The full German version is available on Kritiknetz here. The English translation is by John Rosenthal.
November 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
During World War II, hundreds of thousands of foreign peoples joined with Hitler’s legions to bring theirs people into special status in Hitler’s New Order. Tens of thousands among them were Muslims, where the majority of them came from Soviet Union. Under the banner of the crescent and the swastika, these Soviet Muslims believe to become holy warriors to liberated theirs land. But the end of this unholy alliance was a disaster for them.
The Pro-Nazi Soviet Muslims
When the German Army invaded Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941 they saw many of their opponent inhabitants welcomed them as liberators. One of the group of Soviet citizens that felt had reason to rejoiced the coming of the Teutonic legion invaders were Soviet Muslims.
Many of Soviet Muslims hates domination of Russians upon them. They still remembered theirs golden age under the Muslim khans, emirs, and sultans before they fall into Russian Czardom between 17th and 19th centuries. Actually, when the Czardom liquidated during Bolshevik Revolution, the Muslim Soviet got a chances to liberated themselves from theirs Russian masters and formed some independent states with help from theirs Turkish brothers and her German allied. Even for a while they thought to build a Greater Turkey Sultanate like Pan-Turanian longing.
In Caucasus, an all-Islam army, composed of Azeris, Ajars, and other Caucasian Muslims, assist the Turkish army under Nuri Pasha, who was known for his Pan-Turanian ideas. They besieged many non-Muslims towns in Caucasus that refused surrender to them and starved it into submissions. Some of them implicated with the massacres of Armenians.
The same thing developed in Central Asia. In Kokand, a free government of Turkestan was proclaimed, while the emirs of Khiva and Bukhara asserted their independence. The Turkish-Tartar peoples in Crimea and Volga also arise against the Russians.
Unfortunately, after succeeded consolidated their power in Russia, the Bolshevist penetrated these areas. One by one centers of Muslim resistance to communism fell.
The attempt to free these Muslim areas from Russian rule had failed, and the Soviet government succeeded in reestablishing its authority over the whole Caucasus and Turkestan. But the native peoples rejected this Russian-Communist authority. Some of them rise against the Moscow rule when the communist forced collectivized farms and atheistic attitudes upon them. One of the uprisings erupted in Chechnya, where the Cechens under an ex-communist named Hasan Israilov rise against the Soviet regime.
The unrest of these Muslim peoples didn’t escape from Hitler intention. When many of Muslim Soviet POWs enthusiastic wished to join with the victorious Wehrmacht against theirs ruler, theirs aspirations get a green light from the German dictator. On December, 1941 a top secret memorandum ordered that the OKW was to create two Muslim units: the Turkestanisch Legion, consisted Muslim volunteers from Central Asia, like Turkomans, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kirghizs, Karakalpaks, and Tadjiks; and Kaukasisch-Mohammedan Legion from Caucasian Muslims volunteers, like Azeris, Daghestans, Chechens, Ingushes, and Lezghins. Beside a separated unit consisted Muslim Tartars, Wolgatatarische Legion, was formed in Poland on January 1942.
Dr. Lipson is a Senior Researcher at Holocaust Resource Center and Archives, Queensborough College in New York;
…the “Eden” of Sarajevo was shattered more than 50 years ago, when Bosnia was part of the Independent State of Croatia established by Nazi Germany in 1941. By early 1942, the community’s “crowning achievements” and Jewish life in Bosnia and Croatia had been extinguished. Thousands of men, women, and children were taken to the hastily built Jasenovac camp and murdered by the Muslim S.S. units and the Croatian Ustasha, with one German officer acting as observer. More than 60,000 Jews died, along with 27,000 Gypsies. The Serbs, the only anti-Nazi ethnic group in Yugoslavia, suffered the greatest losses..
Tartars read a German recruitment poster in Crimea
|Azerbaidjan SS platoon in Warsaw during the Uprising.|
|Grand Mufti of Jerusalem with Soviet Muslim volunteers in German army in Berlin.|
November 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
The story of how the Grand Mufti helped Hitler and the Nazi’s in their goal of eradicating the Jews during World War 2 and the Holocaust.
The idea and ideology to “exterminate Jews” originates from the Arabs and is one of the core duties for Muslims according to the teachings of Islam and Mohammed’s instructions. Hitler was fascinated with the East, Eastern belief systems and Occult Sciences. He borrowed the svastika from India’s ancient Vedic system, flipped it over, tilted it and made it into the logo for the Nazi party.
Adolf Hitler had deep admiration for Islam and it’s overwhelming military ideology.There are several witness reports from close staff of Hitler’s who have confirmed his deep admiration for Islam. Islam is the founding father of antisemitism and the ideology has harbored extremist antisemitism for 1,400 years which continues to this day. Arab antisemtism is behind the Israel-Palestine conflict, cloaked under feigned land battles.
Although some writers speculate that Nazism brought antisemitism to Islam, it is far clearer that it was the other way around. It is hardly sensible to claim that a 1,400 ideology was influenced by a political leader who only came into power in 1933. Hitler was fed and bred on antisemitism through his admiration for Islam and the ideology of Mohammed. Hitler detested Christianity for its ‘weakness’.
What is interested to note is how the Islamic ideology has the tendency to turn it’s admirers into extremists. Again and again we find cases of recruits who transform into an extremist mindset once they come in contact with Islam, altering their personality in a negative way to an ideology that seeks to hate other people.
November 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Mufti of Jerusalem meeting Adolph Hitler
The Muslim Brotherhood is back. Its spiritual leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has returned to Egypt from exile and has addressed an audience of millions in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Harold Brackman has produced a timely and significant report for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre against Antisemitism (PDF) warning against wishful thinking concerning the Brotherhood’s ‘moderation’. His report points out the three-way historic alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nazis, and Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem.
Assassinated in 1949 in retaliation for the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in murdering an Egyptian Prime Minister, Hassan al-Banna never stepped foot in Britain’s Palestine Mandate. Yet Hamas considers him as “a martyr” to the Palestinian cause. There is a certain logic in this posthumous honor because, without the pro-Nazi alliance between al-Banna and Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti, before, during, and after World War II, the Muslim Brotherhood would never have achieved its prominence in Egypt or throughout the Middle
Al-Banna never visited Jerusalem, but he sent his brother there in 1935—the year before the eruption of the bloody “Arab Revolt” against the Jewish community—to lay the foundations of a political-military alliance with the Mufti.
Prominent since the 1929 anti-Jewish pogroms, the Mufti had modelled his auxiliary of 20,000 “child soldiers” on the Hitler Youth. He urged the Brotherhood to do the same in Egypt. Al Banna who already admired the Brownshirts readily agreed. A fascist party, Young Egypt, emerged with youthful paramilitary wing whose face was the “Green Shirts”—modelled of course on the Nazi youth cohort. Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat were attracted, but were also drawn into the orbit of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood put serious business in the hands of a military fifth column or underground army modelled on General Franco’s “phalanges” (the term was translated into Arabic as kata’ib), also sometimes called “The Secret Apparatus” or military wing (in Arabic, Nizam al-Khass). During World War II, a British intelligence analyst assessing the threat posed by the Brotherhood’s “battalions,” actually characterized them as “suicide squads” organized to practice “terror.” Al-Banna received money from Nazi agents to establish his terror network.
The Brotherhood’s terror battalions were based in Egypt yet looked beyond it. Young members like Nasser and Sadat were recruited at the direction of the Mufti to spy on the British. They dreamed of the news that never came of a victory by General Rommel at El Alamein because this was supposed to be the trigger for a general anti-British uprising during which the Brotherhood would work with the Afrika Korps in eradicating—first Egyptian, then Palestinian—Jewry.
A Middle East Holocaust was no idle threat. When the results of Rommel’s lightning campaign were still in doubt, the rumor in Cairo was that Hitler had reserved two floors in the Shepherd’s Hotel to accept the British surrender of Africa. The Zionist leaders in British Palestine knew they faced an impending catastrophe. The Mufti escaped British scrutiny in Jerusalem for the more friendly confines of Berlin where in November, 1941, he had tea with Hitler who asked him “to lock in the innermost depths of his heart” that he (Hitler) “would carry on the battle to the total destruction of the Judeo-Communist Empire in Europe.”
He collaborated with the Nazis in organizing a special Einsatzgruppe Egypt, to be headed by SS Colonel Walter Rauff that was supposed to follow in the wake of Rommel’s victorious army and systematically murder Egyptian and then Palestinian Jews. Inventor of the mobile death-gas van on the Russian front, Rauff never got further than Tunisia. Visiting Auschwitz with Himmler and Eichmann, the Mufti urged that the work of extermination be accelerated, and dreamed of the day when the Tel Aviv-Jaffa region could be made Judenrein without the need of railroad cars and the laborious “selection process” of the European Final Solution.
After Rommel failed, the Mufti bemoaned Hitler’s choice of invading Russia rather than first attacking the Middle East, as had Alexander the Great and Napoleon. Maybe Hitler was thinking a similar thought when he reportedly said that he “could win the war if he was a Mohammedan.”
Arab newspapers in Palestine pictured him and Mussolini in a god-like light, and Nazi propagandists brainstormed about depicting his as a Prophet surpassing Muhammad or (for Shia consumption) the Twelfth Imam who would bring on “the ends of days.”
With the help of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Germans would quickly have disposed of the Middle East’s “Jewish problem”! In 1943, the Mufti reluctantly switched his advocacy to German mass bombing of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Germans did do some bombing, but the Mufti’s more ambitious plan vetoed by Field Marshal Göring as impractical.
From his base in Europe, the Mufti showed that he, too, could have a powerful impact. As “Hitler’s Voice to the Arabs,” his radio broadcasts told the Muslim Brothers and other sympathisers that:
The Versailles Treaty was a disaster for the Germans as well as the Arabs. But the Germans know how to get rid of the Jews. . . . the Germans have never harmed any Muslim, and they are again fighting our common enemy who persecuted Arabs and Muslims. But most of all, they have definitely solved the Jewish problem. Arabs! Rise as one to protect your scared rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. . . . God is with you.
He also urged the ambush of British troops, and sabotage of British oil pipelines, bridges, and lines of communication. In addition, he helped recruit as many as 100,000 European Muslims to fight for the Third Reich, primarily in the Balkans but also in Hungary. His two Muslim Waffen-SS divisions are credited with murdering 90 percent of Bosnian Jews. In an extraordinary show of influence, he also convinced Himmler and Eichmann to change their minds and reject an Allied-proposed swap of 4,000 Jewish children destined for the death camps in return for the release of 20,000 German POWs. The Mufti viewed every European Jew gassed as one less potential Palestinian refugee who would need to be liquidated by his followers with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The full proof that al-Banna and the Mufti were indeed “blood brothers” came when the Mufti escaped Nazi Germany the day after it surrendered, fleeing to France where he was held under “house arrest” in a luxury villa. Clement Atlee’s British government, General Charles De Gaulle’s French government, and Tito’s Yugoslav government all decided it was not in their interests to extradite him to Nuremberg for trial as a war criminal. (Let it be remembered that, soon after World War II, the New York Times featured a fawning interview with the Grand Mufti.)
A primary reason for the Mufti escaping prosecution was the thunderous campaign organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose membership had swelled to as many as 500,000 during the war, on the Mufti’s behalf. When the Mufti conveniently “escaped” from France and arrived in Cairo, the Brotherhood’s newspaper exulted that:
Thank you, our Lord, for your mercy . . . . The Arab hero and symbol of Al Jihad and patience and struggle is here in Egypt. The Mufti is among his friends. . . The Mufti is here, oh Palestine! Do not worry. The lion is safe among his brethren and he will draw plans of Al Jihad and struggle for you. We, here, shall be his soldiers and we shall not stop fighting for you until you rid yourself of Zionism. . . . Yet this hero who challenged an empire and fought Zionism, with the help of Hitler and Germany, Germany and Hitler are gone, but Amin al-Husseini will continue the struggle. . . . One hair of the Muftis is worth more than the Jews of the whole world. . . . Should one hair of the Mufti be touched, every Jew in the world would be killed without mercy.
As Paul Berman points out, while even Nazi war criminals who fled to Argentina found it wise to keep a low profile for several years, its was only in the Arab world that its most notorious war criminal—Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti—received a hero’s welcome, thanks to his impregnable reputation among the Muslim Brotherhood as a positive symbol of both anti-Jewish jihad and Nazi Judeocide.
The Brotherhood’s Worst Nightmare: The New Jewish State: As Holocaust Survivors, many defying the British blockade, began arriving in the Holy Land and the UN began its slow progress toward a Partition Plan envisioning a Jewish and a Palestinian state, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood reacted with fury.
On November 2, 1945—”Balfour Day” celebrated as a day of rage by anti-Zionists—mobs shouting “Death to the Jews” rioted in Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said. Jewish businesses were pillaged by “hooligans and professional burglars” according to U.S. Naval Intelligence, but Coptic, Greek Orthodox, and Catholic organizations were also targeted. There followed a 1947 press campaign by the Brotherhood accusing Egyptian Jews with “secret plans to satisfy their greed” by controlling Egypt’s financial and political institutions.
Brothers burned down a Coptic Church during a religious service. Among their slogans: “Today it is Zionism’s turn, tomorrow it will be Christianity’s; today is Saturday, tomorrow will be Sunday.” The Brotherhood demanded the reintroduction of the dhimmi laws reducing Jews and Copts to second-class citizenship. To protect Cairo’s Jewish Quarter, the Egyptian government had to declare a state of emergency and ban public demonstrations. Egyptians Jews were blackmailed into making anti-Zionist statements and contributing to extremist Islamic causes.
In April, 1948, before the end of the British Mandate and outbreak of the Israeli War forIndependence, three battalions of Egyptian Muslim Brothers arrived to fight the Jews. Already in 1945, Said Ramadan—later, a key organizer of the Brotherhood in Western Europe—had opened its Jerusalem Branch back in 1945.
The Egyptian government, which initially refused to train Brotherhood volunteers, quickly changed its mind. One resident of Cairo’s Jewish Quarter remembers anti-Jewish “Pandemonium break[ing] loose” when Israel officially declared its independence. The truce of July, 1948, was marked by another “orgy of looting” and bombings of Jewish department stores, according to the British Ambassador. For three months, Egyptian Jewry was under siege.
Though only 471 Brotherhood volunteers fought in the war, the Brotherhood’s stock back home increased immeasurably, with its membership swelling to perhaps a million. The Egyptian government has second thoughts about the Brotherhood’s loyalty. It ordered a crackdown during which the police discovered “automatic weapons, grenades, gelignite with fuses, detonators packed in bags and crates, gun cotton, ammunition, bombs, as well as forged car numbers.”
Moderate Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi ordered the crackdown because the Brotherhood was attempting “to overthrow the established order in Egypt under cover of helping the struggle against Zionism in Palestine.” The Prime Minister had also been reluctant to go to war with the new Jewish state. He was assassinated, probably on orders of the Brotherhood, in late December, 1948. The assassination, probably by Egyptian security agents, of Hassan al-Banna, soon followed. A new, troubled era had begun.
The Center for Security Policy’s Dave Reaboi spent some time with Professor Barry Rubin of the GLORIA Center in Israel. Prof. Rubin is one of the world’s foremost experts on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and in the Arab world. He’s the author of dozens of books and hundreds of articles on topics ranging from Islamism in the East to anti-Americanism in the West. He blogs regularly at http://rubinreports.blogspot.com