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.”
—Grigoris Balakian, from his eyewitness memoir of events during 1915-1918
Grigoris Balakian’s eyewitness account of the Jihad Genocide of the Armenians from 1915-1918—recorded in his diaries during World War I, and already published by 1922 (but not in English till 2009, as Armenian Golgotha)—provide a unique confirmation of the ideological, and genocidal nexus, between the plight of the Armenians during World War I, and the Jews during World War II, antedating 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” captures 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 [Young Turk Ottoman 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.”
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!
Adolph Hitler’s Appreciation of Jihadism, and His General Islamophilia
Perhaps the earliest recorded evidence of Adolph Hitler’s serious interest in the jihad was provided by Muhammad ‘Inayat Allah Khan (who adopted the pen name “al-Mashriqi”—“the Orientalist” or “the Sage of the East”). Born in the Punjab in 1888, al-Mashriqi was a Muslim polymath who attended Cambridge on a government scholarship and excelled in the study of oriental languages, mathematics, engineering, and the sciences.
Not only did Mashriqi translate the standard abridged version of Mein Kampf (then commonly available) from English into Urdu during one of his sojourns in Europe, which included time spent in Berlin, he met Hitler in the early years of the Fuehrer’s leadership of the National Socialist [Nazi] Party. Their meeting took place in 1926 at the National Library. Here is the gist of Mashriqi’s report on his interaction with Hitler as described in a letter to the renowned scholar of Indian Islam, J. M. S. Baljon:
I was astounded when he [Hitler] told me that he knew about my Tazkirah [a jihad-promoting work]. The news flabbergasted me . . . I found him very congenial and piercing. He discussed Islamic Jihad with me in details.
The “Ten Principles” Mashriqi elucidated in the Tazkirah—the work Hitler discussed with him in 1926—produced a quintessential message of Islam enshrining the ideals of militaristic nation building. This vision sounded almost identical to sections of Hitler’s Mein Kampf (compare to Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp. 169–79, Reynal and Hitchcock trans., 1941)—certainly in the following paraphrase from Tazkirah prepared by some of Mashriqi’s colleagues for foreign consumption:
A persistent application of, and action on these Ten Principles is the true significance of “fitness” in the Darwinian principle of “Survival of the Fittest,” and a community of people which carries action on these lines to the very extremist limits has every right to remain a predominant race on this Earth forever, has claim to be the ruler of the world for all time. As soon as any or all of these qualities deteriorate in a nation, she begins to lose her right to remain and Fitter people may take her place automatically under the Law of Natural Selection.
Albert Speer, who was Hitler’s minister of Armaments and War Production, wrote a memoir of his World War II experiences while serving a twenty-year prison sentence imposed by the Nuremberg tribunal. Speer’s narrative includes a discussion which captures Hitler’s effusive praise for Islam, “a religion that believed in spreading the faith by the sword and subjugating all nations to that faith. Such a creed was perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament.” Hitler, according to Speer’s account, repeatedly expressed the conviction that, “The Mohammedan religion . . . would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” These sentiments were also expressed by Hitler to Dr. Herman Neubacher, the first Nazi mayor of Vienna, and, subsequently, a special delegate of the Nazi regime in southeastern Europe. Neubacher wrote that Hitler had told him Islam was a “male religion” and reiterated the belief that the Germans would have been far more successful conquerors had they adopted Islam in the Middle Ages. Additional confirmation of Hitler’s very favorable inclination toward Islam is provided by General Alexander Loehr, a Lutwaffe commander (executed in 1947 for the mass murders of Yugoslav civilians). Loehr maintained a smiling Hitler had told him that Islam was such a desirable creed the Fuehrer longed for it to become the official SS religion.
Hitler appears to have viewed the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad as an appropriate model for waging genocidal, total war. During the mid to late nineteenth century, jihad total war campaigns—adapted to the conditions of modern warfare—were waged by the Ottoman Empire against its Bulgarian and Armenian Christian minorities. The Ottoman tactics included innumerable atrocities, mass slaughter, and extensive, murderous deportations. Official Ottoman jihad declarations during World War I assured that the genocidal aspects of Islamic doctrine were “updated” by the application of modern total-war offensive doctrines and directed at the Armenians, in particular. This jihad-inspired policy begot razzias (raids), massacres of villagers, massacres of Armenian conscripts in work battalions, and mass deportations—all representative of an overall total-war strategy implemented by the Ottoman state and military high command.
And the disintegrating Ottoman Empire’s World War I jihad genocide against its Armenian minority, specifically, served as an “inspirational” precedent to Hitler. During August 1939, Hitler gave speeches (for example, as contained in this U.S. Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality document, pp. 753-54) 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 extermination 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.” The specific comments about the Armenians, dated August 22, 1939, and recorded by German Admiral Canaris, were made two days after Hitler accepted the Soviet terms for a non-aggression agreement, and prior to the German invasion of Poland.
Historian Vahakn Dadrian has observed that although Hitler’s motives in seeking to destroy the Jews were not identical with those of the Ottoman Turks’ in their attempts to eliminate the Armenians, “the two victim nations share one common element in Hitler’s scheme of things: their extreme vulnerability.” Moreover, Hitler emphasized the urgent task, “of protecting the German blood from contamination, not only of the Jewish but also of the Armenian blood.” Predictable impunity—the ease with which the Armenian genocide was committed and how the perpetrators escaped retributive justice—clearly impressed Hitler and his henchmen, considering a similar action against the Jews. As historian Abram Sachar noted, “the genocide was cited approvingly twenty-five years later by the Fuehrer . . . who found the Armenian ‘solution’ an attractive precedent.” Finally, the German Jew, Richard Lictheim who as a young Zionist leader had negotiated with Ottoman leaders in Turkey during World War I, characterized the “cold-bloodedly planned extermination of over one million Armenians . . . [as] akin to Hitler’s crusade of destruction against the Jews.”
Hitler’s murderous actions, consistent with those of his Ottoman “inspirers,” and the Nazi dictator’s personal affinity for Islam, are better characterized as a jihad against the Jews. Indeed, Hitler found common cause with one of the most influential Muslim leaders of the World War II era, jihadist Hajj Amin el-Husseini, whom the Nazis dubbed the “Muslim Pope.” El-Husseini’s writings and declarations educated his Nazi allies about Islam’s canonical Jew-hatred—i.e., in the Koran, and so-called traditions of Muhammad—and the Nazis in turn used this religiously sanctioned Islamic Jew-hatred as a recruitment tool for Muslim SS units in Bosnia, Croatia, and the Soviet Union.