40 Questions, 40 Answers

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What did the Nazis really think about Muslims?

According to the Nazis' racist ideology, Arabs are racial Semites and thus subhumans, similar to Jews.  In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler described the struggle for world domination as an ongoing racial, cultural and political battle between Aryans and non-Aryans. He envisaged a "ladder" of racial hierarchy, asserting that German "Aryans" were at the top of the ladder, while Jews and Gypsies were consigned to the bottom of the order. On Hitler's racial ladder, Arabs and Muslims occupied a servile place, held in much the same contempt as the Jews.
Hitler made a personal remark in 1939 in which he referred to the populace of the Middle East as "painted half-apes that ought to feel the whip".
As in other instances, however, the Nazis never allowed their ideological views to get in the way of more urgent political considerations. The Nazis recognized the importance of wooing the Arab and Muslim world to their side and, in their public proclamations, downplayed their real views of Muslims and Arabs. When Mein Kampf was being translated into Arabic in 1938, Hitler himself tactfully proposed to omit from it his "racial ladder" theory.


What was the attitude of Muslims towards the Nazis?

Throughout the 1930s, the Nazis tried to exploit Arab and Persian resentment of Britain's colonial domination of the Middle East. The Nazis promised the Arabs "liberation" from the French and British, a promise which many in the Arab world, not grasping the racist character of a Nazi regime that would likely have reduced them to slaves in their own land, took at face value.
Although there was sympathy for Nazi Germany across much of the Muslim world, this was mostly on the grounds of strong anti-British hostility rather than support for Nazi racist doctrines, and it rarely includes an anti-Semitic element. While for the vast majority of Muslims the war in Europe remained a distant conflict, the Nazis managed to recruit some Muslims directly. Two SS divisions were raised from Albanian and Bosnian Muslims, but the Nazis soon discovered that these units were militarily ineffective and unmotivated to fight for the Third Reich.  The Nazis made much propaganda about the meeting between Hitler and Haj Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, which took place on November 21, 1941. Al-Husseini or the Muslims troops fighting on the side of the Wehrmacht were not representative of Muslim sentiments in the course of World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers from Africa, India, and the Soviet Union fought in the Allies' armies to help to defeat fascism at places like El-Alamein, Monte Cassino, the beaches of Provence, and Stalingrad.


Did any Muslims help save the lives of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution?

Yes. The case of Albania is interesting to note. Albania is the sole European country with a Muslim-majority population. Albania was the only country in Europe in which there were more Jews after the war than there had been before the war. Before World War II, there were only 200 Jews in Albania, which had a total population of 800,000. After the war, there were many more Jews after Jewish refugees from some half dozen European countries fled the Nazi persecution and sought shelter in Albania.
Among the 70 Muslims officially recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, there are many stories of great courage and sacrifice. These include the Bosnian Dervis Korkut, who harbored a young Jewish woman resistance fighter named Mira Papo and saved the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most valuable Hebrew manuscripts in the world; the Turk Selahattin Ulkumen, whose rescue of fifty Jews from the ovens of Auschwitz led to the death of his wife Mihrinissa soon after she gave birth to their son Mehmet when the Nazis retaliated for his heroism; and the Albanian Refik Vesili who - at the age of 16 - saved eight Jews by hiding them in his family's mountain home.