A respectable half-shelf in my library consists of books which explore the resonance Nazi anti-Semitism enjoys in the Islamic world. They usually concern the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, a close collaborator of Hitler. The latest addition is Ian Johnson's A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West (Houghton Mifflin, £17.99). Johnson begins with Hitler's Eastern Legions. They were the predominantly Caucasian and Central Asian peoples among whom Nazi intellectuals sought "splittist" collaborators as they pondered how to divide the Soviet Union along ethnic and religious fault-lines. Many of these Turkic or Tatar peoples had suffered under Stalin's version of atheism and Russian chauvinism. Maybe a quarter of a million such Muslim (and Tatar Buddhist) men enlisted in the German armed forces, although many of them were logistical auxiliaries rather than combat troops. Shamefully, after D-Day we handed many of the Cossacks captured in Normandy back to Stalin to be killed, along with the Russian "Fascists" in General Andrei Vlasov's Liberation Army.
The Germans who dealt with these men were mainly from academic backgrounds, because they had the languages and cultural sensitivity. More than two decades ago I published a book, Germany Turns Eastwards, on Germany's eastern experts, the "Ostforscher" who eagerly put their knowledge of "the East" at the disposal of the Nazi regime, before adroitly realigning themselves with "the West" after 1945. Although many of my books are translated into German, this one has not been, since it went a little too close to raw nerves.
One key figure was Theodor Oberländer, the post-war minister responsible for ethnic German eastern expellees. Oberländer was far-sighted. He thought that West Germany should cultivate the former Eastern Legion veterans, so that one day, when the Soviet Union collapsed, these future leaders would encourage independent states to lobby for German unification. But even though Munich became the epicentre for such veterans, who felt unsafe in Berlin, it was not the German government which called the shots any more. Munich's Oberwiesenfeld Airport was home to Radio Liberty, the CIA broadcasting arm aimed at the Soviet Union.
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