Mufti with Nazi Muslim recruit
Mufti with Nazi Muslim recruit Israel news photo: file

During World War II Nazi Germany tried to rally support in the Arab world, often trying to find common ground in anti-Semitism. The extent of the Nazi propaganda in Arabic has been revealed in a book titled Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.

Historian Jeffrey Herf based his book on wartime broadcasts in Arabic that were transcribed by the American embassy in Cairo. Thousands of transmissions were sent from 1939 to 1945.

Instead of spreading European anti-Semitism, the Nazi army focused on playing to existing anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world, Herf writes. While Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion had both been translated into Arabic by the 1930s, the Nazis quoted the Koran instead, working to convince their Muslim audience that Islam called on them to eliminate Jews.

"Your only hope for rescue is the destruction of the Jews before they destroy you,” warned one radio message.

Nazism with Islam

Nazi propaganda of the 1940s played a part in the development of modern Islamist hatred, Herf has stated. “Islamic fundamentalism, like European totalitarianism in the 20th century, was and is a mixture of very old and very modern elements,” he told the British Telegraph.

"The Arab-language propaganda produced in wartime Berlin was a significant chapter in the longer history of radical Arab nationalism and militant Islam,” he said.

The Nazis attempted to turn Arab rage to the issue of British Mandatory Palestine, claiming that efforts to create a modern Jewish state were part of a widespread Jewish effort to “rule the whole world.”

The broadcasts are a record of “one of the most important cultural exchanges of the twentieth century,” Herf believes. The Nazis learned that to make political inroads, they should focus on fighting Zionism, while the Arab street was exposed to complex anti-Semitic conspiracies.