Jewish Heritage Lecture Series: Prof. Jeffery Herf on Nazi Propaganda to Arabs and Muslims during World War II on Oct. 15th

As part of the Jewish Heritage Lecture Series, History Professor Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland in College Park will be giving a lecture entitled “The Jews Kindled this War in the Interest of Zionism: Nazi Germany’s Propaganda to Arabs and Muslims during World War II and the Holocaust” on Thursday October 15th at 7pm at the Chazen Musuem of Art (800 University Avenue).

Professor Jeffrey Herf

Professor Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland in College Park

Throughout World War II and the Holocaust, the Nazi regime engaged in an intensive Arabic language propaganda campaign aimed at Arabs and Muslims living in North Africa and the Middle East. It was comprised of several million copies of dozens of printed leaflets and, even more extensively, of daily short wave radio broadcasts beamed to the region from powerful transmitters near Berlin. Most of the print and broadcast material was the result of a meeting of hearts and minds between leading officials of the Nazi regime, primarily in the Foreign Ministry, as well in the SS, with pro-Nazi Arab leaders, such as Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who had fled from British forces in the Middle East. Until recently, only small fragments from this campaign had been examined by scholars. This lecture, and the book from which it comes, draws on extensive archival findings in German, British but especially on U.S. State Department archives of the American Embassy in wartime Cairo, for it was there that the Americans transcribed the Nazi broadcasts and sent verbatim English language transcripts to the State Department in Washington.

With the benefit of these recently found “Cairo transcripts,” we are able to document and interpret a cultural fusion between National Socialist ideology and that of political Islam and radical Arab nationalism in wartime Berlin. The Nazis and pro-Nazi Arab exiles found common ground in rejection of liberal modernity and hatred of the Jews. The exiles showed the Nazis that a fundamentalist reading of the Koran could be the key entry point into Arab and Muslim politics while the Nazis explained to the exiles how European anti-Semitic conspiracy theories could be adapted to the contemporary political realities. The resulting cultural hybridity and cultural interaction comprised an important chapter in the diffusion of radical anti-Semitism beyond Europe and in the history of militant Islamist politics and ideology in the Middle East in the decades following World War II.

About the Lecturer:

Jeffrey Herf is Professor Modern European History at the University of Maryland in College Park. His extensive publications on twentieth century German political and intellectual history include: Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge University Press, 1984); Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Harvard University Press, 1997), winner of the American Historical Association’s George Louis Beer Prize); The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard University Press, 2006), winner of the National Jewish Book Award for works on the Holocaust; and Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, forthcoming with Yale University Press, fall 2009).

He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1969 and received his PhD from Brandeis University in 1981. Before coming to Maryland in 2000, he taught at Harvard and at Ohio Universities, and held a variety of fellowships in the United States, Europe and Israel. George Mosse’s legacy of the cultural and intellectual history of modern Europe and of the ideological origins of National Socialism has been an important influence on his efforts to explore the connections between ideologies and politics in twentieth century German history.

This lecture is made possible by gifts from the family and friends of Harry and Marjorie Tobias of Madison, Wisconsin.  This event is sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies at UW-Madison.

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