The Nazi Co-operation with Anticolonial Nationalists – Andrew Devenish

David Motadel argues in his article, The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt Against Empire, that the co-operation between Nazi regime leadership and the significant anticolonial nationalist exile community in Berlin has been under-studied and under-acknowledges by historians. Motadel believes that such co-operation was more significant than most acknowledge, who believe the explicitly racist policies and racial supremacist nature of Nazi ideology left no room for such alliances between regime leadership and anticolonial leaders from the Global South. In 1941, it became official strategy in Berlin to provide assistance to anti-imperialist movements in India, North Africa, and the Middle East, yet Motadel focuses mostly on the interactions between the Nazi regime and the anticolonial community within Berlin. Motadel’s argument that these interactions are significant seems to be at odds with the military strategy of the Nazis. For example, Germany recruited heavily from their colonial prisoners of war using propaganda and came up with Asian, Indian, and Arab volunteer brigades to fight on the front lines, and it was official policy to support nationalist movements in nations under the colonial control of Germany’s enemies in order to destabilize these empires.

Motadel even writes that Hitler lamented that he had not done enough to support these colonial nations at the very end of the war. To me, these seemed like the most significant aspects of Nazi co-operation with anticolonial nationalist movements, yet the majority of Motadel’s article focuses on the political leaders of many of these movements in Berlin. The Syrian rebel leader Fawzi al-Qawuqji in Berlin is quoted by Motadel as saying, “With the German retreat on all fronts, our negotiations have been less active, and we have lost hope of achieving what we hoped for.” This suggests that the more significant aspect to the movement was the war effort. After all, if the Nazis couldn’t win the war, how could they provide aid to these nationalist movements afterward? Al-Qawuqjii needed Germany to win the war to advance his interests, so without the war effort the various organization and congresses, meetings and discussions between anticolonial leaders in Berlin, and between these leaders and the Nazi regime couldn’t amount to any success for their goals. I would like to see more from Motadel on the impacts of the anticolonial nationalist community in Berlin, and have him explain in more detail how they are more significant than they have historically been given credit for.

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