The roots of Islamic fundamentalism may be traced to radio messages broadcasted by Adolf Hitler during World War II, a new book by University of Maryland history professor Jeffrey Herf claims.
“Your only hope for rescue is the destruction of the Jews before they destroy you!” Hitler said in a 1942 message, one of thousands broadcast across the Middle East in an attempt to woo the Arab world.
In a broadcast aimed at provoking an anti-Semitic uprising in Egypt, he said: “A large number of Jews who live in Egypt, along with Poles, Greeks, Armenians and Frenchmen, have guns and ammunition.
“Some Jews in Cairo have even asked the British authorities to set up machine guns on the roofs of their houses,” he claimed.
Such begins Allan Hall’s review of Herf’s new book, “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.” In his book, Professor Herf presents over 6,000 transmissions produced by Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels and exported to the Arab world between 1939 and 1945.
“The Nazis relied on radio broadcasts - translated into Arabic - to sow propaganda because of high illiteracy in the Arab world at the time,” Hall writes. “Although radio ownership was small, it was commonplace for cafes and bazaars to draw large crowds to listen to broadcasts.”
But why would the Nazis care how Arabs viewed Jews? What was to gain? Senior editor at The New Republic Adam Kirsch writes:
Once the war began, Germany turned its attention to the Muslim world in earnest. In particular, the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa were important to the Nazis’ geopolitical designs. During World War I, the British had inspired the Arabs to revolt against Ottoman Turkey with promises of independence. But when peace came, the region was divided up between the British and French empires, breeding a resentment among the Arabs comparable to the Germans’ feelings about the Treaty of Versailles. Adding fuel to the fire was the Balfour Declaration, in which the British promised to support a Jewish home in Palestine.
Reading Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World is a reminder of how powerful such lies can be. They are so shameless, so contrary to every evident fact, that they seem to render facts meaningless. If you could believe, for instance, that following the American landings in North Africa, “the Jews” bestowed on Eisenhower the title “the Glittering Sword of Israel”; or that on the way home from the Tehran Conference, Roosevelt and Churchill stopped in Jerusalem to confer with their Zionist masters; or that the tiny Jewish settlement in Palestine was the nucleus of a planned Jewish empire that would include the entire Middle East and all of North Africa—then what wouldn’t you believe?