“Omar Amin” von Leers and the Islamization of Nazism

Johannes “Omar Amin” von Leers (d. 1965), was a Nazi disciple of Hajj Amin el-Husseini who converted to Islam, found a haven in Egypt, and embraced a 1300 year-old ideology to destroy the Judeo-Christian West—Islamic jihad.

Sixty-four years ago, June 8, 1955, while still in exile in Argentina, Leers wrote a letter to W.E.B. DuBois, extolling Islam and African Muslim soldiers under WWI-era German colonial governance, as follows:

“[The] German administration was openly in favor of Islam. No African became a color sergeant in the Askari Army [i.e., African soldiers fighting under German colonial leadership] who was not a steadfast Moslem. And also in Cameroon the Germans never forgot to give power and dignities to the Moslem Amirs of the North. The Germans were convinced Islam makes good soldiers and reliable men—and that a Moslem does not drink alcohol and therefore can be used for positions of confidence. An uncle of mine who was for a long time [an] officer in the Askari Army told me, when I was a boy, ‘You must know that Islam is the best religion for soldiers. By disgrace of history, we Germans have not go it [Islam] and now cannot change the situation. ..[I]n Africa, a negro converted religion often becomes the ape of the European, imitating him in his worst aspects—but Islam makes him a noble African with a feeling of his own dignity. As an officer I like better a noble African on my side in the battle, than an ape of mine.”

As I noted in my 2013 analysis of the first fully annotated English translation of Hajj Amin el-Husseini’s 1937 fatwa on the Jews—which re-affirms canonical Islam’s Jew-hating motifs used to foment murderous violence against them by Muhammad himself, since the advent of Islam, till now—this seminal proclamation of incitement by the “Godfather” of the Palestinian Muslim movement, was pure Islamic dogma, devoid of any themes from the writings of Nazi racial theorists, epitomized by von Leers’ 1936, “History on a Racial Basis.

Leers is a fascinating case study. By any objective standard, his career trajectory—as a favored contributor in Goebbels’s propa­ganda ministry, to his eventual adoption of Islam (i.e., as Omar Amin von Leers) while working as an anti-Western, and Antisemitic/ anti-Zionist propagandist under Nasser’s regime from the mid-1950s, until his death in 1965—represents the “Islamification of Nazism,” rather than a “Nazification of Islam.”

Understandably, none of the important data summarized below have been described by Jeffrey Herf, an avatar of the “Nazification of Islam” hypothesis. In his The Jewish Enemy—Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Cambridge, 2006, pp. 180–81), Herf included a very limited English translation extract of von Leers’ conclusions from the 1942 essay “Judentum und Islam als Gegensatze,” (in Die Judenfrage in Politik, Recht, and Wirtschaft 6, no. 24, December 24, 1942): 275–78), whose fully annotated translation (as “Judaism and Islam as Opposites”) I provided in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism (pp. 619-625), and here. Herf even failed to mention von Leers’ subsequent conversion to Islam, and was also oblivious to the Nazi author’s thorough grounding in, and accurate representation of, the pious Muslim sources (i.e., Koran, hadith, and sira). This negationist approach of German fluent “Nazification of Islam” historians such as Herf compounds their failure to deal with the quintessential, canonical Islamic motifs of el-Husseini’s 1937 Islamic fatwa—available in German since 1938—in an informed, intellectually honest manner. Listen, for example, to Herf’s comments in this 2012 documentary, twice repeating the word “supposedly,” at 7:30 to 8:19, absent any reference to, or apparent knowledge of, el-Husseini’s accurate canonical Islamic sourcing.

Upon his arrival in Egypt in 1956, it was Hajj Amin el-Husseini who oversaw von Leers’ formal conversion to Islam, and remained one of his confidants. Leers described the origins of the Muslim “forename,” Omar Amin, that he adopted as part of his conversion to Islam in a November, 1957 letter to American Nazi H. Keith Thompson:

I myself have embraced Islam and accepted the new forename Omar Amin, Omar according to the great Caliph Omar who was a grim enemy of the Jews, Amin in honor of my friend Hajj Amin el Husseini, the Grand Mufti.

Already in essays published during 1938 and 1942, the first dating back almost two decades before his conversion to Islam while in Egypt, von Leers produced analyses focused primarily on Muhammad’s interactions with the Jews of Medina. These essays reveal his pious reverence for Islam and its prophet and a thorough understanding of the sacralized Islamic sources for this narrative, that is, the Koran, hadith, and sira, which is entirely consistent with standard Muslim apologetics.

Leers’ 1942 essay, “Judaism and Islam as Opposites,”  simultaneously extols the “model” of oppression the Jews experienced under Islamic suzerainty and the nobility of Muhammad, Islam, and the contemporary Muslims of the World War II era, foreshadowing his own conversion to Islam just over a decade later. And even earlier, in a 1938 essay, von Leers sympathized with “the leading role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. in the Arabians’ battles against the Jewish invasion in Palestine.”

Judaism and Islam as Opposites,” also provides a reverent summary characterization of Muhammad’s activities in Mecca, and later Medina, which is entirely consistent with standard Muslim apologetics. Citing (or referring to) the relevant foundational text sources (i.e., Koran 13:36; 8:5558; 59:115; the sira and canonical hadith descriptions of the fate of individual Jews such as Abu Afak and Ka’b ibn Ashraf and the Jewish tribes Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir, Banu Qurayza, as well as the Jews of the Khaybar oasis), von Leers chronicles Muhammad’s successful campaigns that vanquished these Jews, killing and dispersing them, “or at most allow[ing] them to remain in certain places if they paid a poll tax.” Von Leers further describes the accounts (from the hadith, and, more elaborately, the sira) of Muhammad’s poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess, and also notes the canonical hadith that records Caliph Umar’s rationale for his putative expulsion from northern Arabia of those remaining Jews who survived Muhammad’s earlier campaigns. And von Leers (like Hajj Amin el-Husseini) even invokes the apocalyptic canonical hadith that forty-six years later became the keystone of Hamas’s 1988 charter sanctioning a jihad genocide against the Jewish State of Israel. Von Leers concludes his 1942 essay by acknowledging and endorsing the chronic, humiliating oppression imposed upon the Jews under Islam, while contrasting their perfidy with the nobility of Muhammad and the contemporary Muslims of the World War II era he idealized, before eventually converting to Islam himself, in the mid-1950s.

I was able to obtain (from the Russian State Military Archive of captured Nazi documents), and have translated from the original German, an unpublished, approximately six-thousand-word essay Leers wrote during World War II (apparently in 1942–1943), titled, “Philosophies of Peace and War in Islam.” The views expressed by von Leers on jihad during the same era, prior to his formal conversion to Islam, were remarkably concordant with those of the classical Islamic legists, and modern era traditionalists. Disingenuously ignoring the explicit imperial designs of jihad—to subjugate all of mankind under Islamic law, as detailed with lucidity in the Koran, sunna, and a millennial continuum of Muslim jurisprudence—von Leers provides a hagiographic overview of Islam’s bellicose institution for global conquest, linked to his condemnation of Western European Christendom. Predictably, Leers also highlights a traditional Koranic statement of Jewish perfidy in relation to wartime treaties:

“The Qur’an considered the Jews, who never remained true to the treaties they made with the Prophet, to be lower than cattle. It says concerning them, ‘Verily, The worst of moving (living) creatures before Allah are those who disbelieve, – so they shall not believe. They are those with whom you made a covenant, but they break their covenant every time and they do not fear Allah.’ (8:5556).”

Leers “exegesis” on Koran 8:55 is entirely consistent with the gloss on this verse in the authoritative Koranic commentary Tafsir al-Jalalayn (p. 390), as well as the equally salient commentaries of Muqatil b. Sulayman [d. 767], and Qurtubi [d. 1273], the classical Shiite gloss of Tabarsi [d. 1153], and the modern exegesis of late Al-Azhar Grand Imam Tantawi [d. 2010],  which indeed maintain that 8:55 refers to the Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza.

Finally, an October 1957 US intelligence report on von Leers’ writing and activities for Egypt and the Arab League confirmed his complete adoption of the triumphal Muslim worldview, desirous of nothing less than the destruction of Judeo-Christian civilization by jihad:

“He [Dr. Omar Amin von Leers] is becoming more and more a religious zealot, even to the extent of advocating an expansion of Islam in Europe in order to bring about stronger unity through a common religion. This expansion he believes can come not only from contact with the Arabs in the Near East and Africa but with Islamic elements in the USSR. The results he envisions as the formation of a political bloc against which neither East nor West could prevail.”

We live in an era of unleashed jihadist forces pious Muslim convert “Omar Amin” von Leers long ago foresaw, cherished, and nurtured. Those who wish to preserve our uniquely Western heritage of freedom must not ignore, or worse still, delusively reinterpret this existential threat to all non-Muslims, not merely the Jews Leers obsessively despised as an ideologue marinated in concordant Nazi, and Islamic totalitarianism.

 

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at @andrewbostom.org

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