|Despite Shoah denial, Iran worked with Nazis|
by Edwin Black
JTW News and Features
president has shot to the forefront of Holocaust denial in recent days,
but it may seem more like self-denial: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad need only
look to his country's Hitler-era past to discover that Iran and
Iranians were connected to the Holocaust and the Nazi regime, as was
the larger Arab and Islamic world under the leadership of the mufti of
links to the Third Reich began during the pre-World War II years when
it welcomed Gestapo agents and other operatives to Tehran, allowing
them to use it as a Middle East base for agitation against the British
and the region's Jews.
among these Gestapo men was Fritz Grobba, Berlin's envoy to the Middle
East, and often called "the German Lawrence" because he promised a
Pan-Arab state stretching from Casablanca to Tehran.
between Berlin and Tehran were strong from the moment Adolf Hitler came
to power in 1933, when Reza Shah Pahlavi's nation was still known as
shah became a stalwart admirer of Hitler, Nazism and the concept of the
Aryan master race. He also sought the Nazis' help in reducing British
intense was the shah's identification with the Third Reich that in 1935
he renamed his ancient country Iran, which in Farsi means Aryan and
refers to the Proto-Indo-European lineage that Nazi racial theorists
and Persian ethnologists cherished.
idea for the name change was suggested by Iran's ambassador to Germany,
who came under the influence of Hitler's trusted banker Hjalmar
Schacht. From that point, all Iranians were constantly reminded that
their country shared a bond with the Nazi regime.
after World War II began in 1939, the mufti of Jerusalem crafted a
strategic alliance with Hitler to exchange Iraqi oil for active Arab
and Islamic participation in the murder of Jews in the Mideast and
Eastern Europe, predicated on support for a Pan-Arab state and Arab
rule over Palestine.
the war years, Iran became a haven and headquarters for Gestapo agents
and German operatives. It was from Iran that the seeds of the abortive
1941 pro-Nazi coup in Baghdad were planted.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's forces booted the Nazis out
of Iraq in June 1941, the German air crews supporting Nazi bombers
escaped across the northern border back into Iran.
the mufti of Jerusalem was spirited across the border to Tehran, where
he continued to call for the destruction of the Jews and the defeat of
the British. His venomous rhetoric filled the newspapers and radio
broadcasts of Tehran.
Tehran and elsewhere, the mufti was a vocal and vigilant opponent of
allowing Jewish refugees to be transported or ransomed into Palestine.
Instead, he wanted them shipped to the gas chambers of Poland.
the summer of 1941, with the support of key Iranian military and
government leaders, the mufti advocated implementing in Iran what had
failed months earlier in Iraq. The plan once again was for a total
diversion of oil from the Allies to the Nazis in exchange for the
accelerated destruction of the Jews in Eastern Europe and support for
an Arab state.
the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Iran already had been supplying Hitler's
forces in occupied Czechoslovakia and Austria. Now the mufti agitated
to cut off the British and the Allies completely and supply Germany in
its push against Russia and the East.
October 1941, British, Russians and other Allied forces invaded Iran to
break up the Iran-Nazi alliance. Pro-Nazi generals and ministers were
arrested and the shah's Western-leaning son was installed.
mufti scampered into the Italian Embassy, where he shaved his beard and
dyed his hair, and was then allowed to exit the country along with the
rest of the Italian delegation.
the mufti relocated permanently to Berlin, where he established his own
Reich-supported "bureau," he was given airtime on Radio Berlin. From
Berlin and other fascist capitals in Europe, the mufti continued to
agitate for the destruction of international Jewry, as well as a
pan-Arab and pan-Islamic alliance with the Nazi regime.
called upon all Muslims to "kill the Jews wherever you see them." In
Tehran's marketplace, it was common to see placards that declared, "In
heaven, Allah is your master. On Earth, it is Adolf Hitler."
the mufti organized three Islamic Waffen SS divisions to undertake
operations in Bosnia, among the 30,000 killers were some volunteer
contingents from Iran. Iranian Nazis, along with the other Muslim
Waffen SS, operated under the direct supervision of Heinrich Himmler
and were responsible for barbarous actions against Jews and others in
Bosnia. Recruitment for the murderous "Handschar Divisions" was open
and public in Iran.
and its leaders not only were aware of the Holocaust, they played both
sides. The country offered overland escape routes for refugee Jews
fleeing Nazi persecution to Israel ‹ and later fleeing postwar Iraqi
fascist persecution ‹ but only in exchange for extortionary passage
fees. Thousands of Jews made their way to Israel via Iran both during
the Holocaust and after the fall of Hitler, when Arab leaders,
especially in Iraq, tried to continue Germany's anti-Jewish program.
Iran profited handsomely.
Edwin Black is the author of Banking on Baghdad, which revealed the extent of the Arab-Nazi alliance.