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The fading out of the Third World from the historiography of the Second World War using the example of Africa
Lecture as part of the lecture series "Europe's Africa" at the history seminar of the University of Lucerne on March 1, 2011
By Karl Rössel (Rhenish Journalist Office)
Professor Kuma Ndumbe, political scientist from Cameroon, explains why the Third World was not included in the historiography of World War II:
“The history of the Second World War, like any history, turns out to be that of the victors, but also that of the haves and the wealthy. Despite their military defeat in historiography, Germany and Japan are among the winners, because even if historiography in the two countries has had to accept critical questioning and corrections, they are still perceived as people of the same rank. But those who were forgotten after the war, as if they had not even existed during the war, who have to relearn history with their own children without finding their own deeds in this historiography, are among the real losers. Losers and without a voice of their own, hundreds of millions of people still live with their descendants in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Australia and the Pacific region ... «
This quote can also be read in the epilogue of the exhibition “The Third World in World War II”. It indicates that the economically dominant powers not only determined the history of the Second World War, but also the subsequent history of it. Because when this war began and when it ended, the world was still largely colonized.
All warring powers use colonies for their military purposes. Nevertheless, the strategic importance of the colonial areas for the course and outcome of the Second World War has not received the attention it deserves. The Cameroonian political scientist Professor Kuma Ndumbe explains it this way:
»The researchers from the affluent countries are consciously or unconsciously subject to a silent racism that leads them to regard events outside their own 'wealth center' as being of little relevance to their work. The result is a literature on World War II that deals mainly with the rich nations. Whoever has the funds also determines the topics, theories and directions of research. Therefore, victims from the periphery do not count. And the victims themselves read and learn the literature on the history of World War II published by the centers of the wealthy and distributed worldwide and do not recognize their own history in it. "
Half of the story hidden
In fact, in books, films and newspaper reports about the liberation of Europe from Nazi terror to this day, mostly only pictures of US, French, British and Russian soldiers can be seen and almost all of them are pictures of whites. Photos of black war veterans are rare exceptions to this rule, despite the fact that more than a million African American soldiers served in the US armed forces alone. While their missions in World War II were largely ignored in historiography, those of war participants from Africa, Asia, Oceania, South and Central America were left out all the more.
This is not about marginalia that might have been overlooked, but about a central, if forgotten chapter of history. After all, the Third World provided more soldiers than Europe in World War II and had more war casualties than Germany, Italy and Japan combined.
Large parts of the Third World also served as battlefields: from the Latin American coast to West, North and East Africa and the Middle East to Asia and the Pacific islands.
On all continents, the warring powers requisitioned food for their troops and raw materials for their armaments production, which had far-reaching consequences for the affected countries and their inhabitants, consequences that continue to have an effect in many places today. This also and especially applies to the continent of Africa.
Joseph Ki-Zerbo, historian from Burkina Faso, said in an interview that I conducted with him as part of our research in Ouagadougou: "No event since the slave trade and the dismemberment of the continent through the demarcation of the borders by the colonial powers at the Berlin conference 1884 had such devastating and lasting consequences for Africa as the Second World War ".
Europe images of Africa
Joseph Ki-Zerbo wrote the first history of his continent from an African perspective in the 1960s and in it thoroughly dispelled the prejudice that was widespread in Europe that Africa was a "continent without history" before colonization began. In the introduction to his book, Ki-Zerbo quotes numerous pieces of evidence for the ignorant, colonial arrogance and often bluntly racist attitude that European poets and thinkers had towards the African continent for centuries. So - to name just one example - the German philosopher Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel. In his "Lectures on the Philosophy of History" from 1830 it says:
"(Africa) is not a historical part of the world, it has no movement and no development, and what happened in it, that is, in its north, belongs to the Asian and European world ... What we actually mean by Africa , that is the unhistorical and unopened, which is still completely caught up in the natural spirit, and which only had to be presented here on the threshold of world history. " (Ki Zerbro, p. 24)
Disparaging attitudes like this shaped the European image of Africa in historical studies up to the recent past. According to Ki-Zerbo, a historian in 1957 in the "Revue de Paris" described Africa as a "country without a history". And half a century later this was still echoed in 2007 in a speech given by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on his first trip to Africa as President in Dakar, in which he claimed that "African people have only insufficiently entered history" .
In the 750 pages of his book, Ki-Zerbo proves that the social and cultural development in Africa was indeed far ahead of that on other continents for a long time. According to Ki-Zerbo, the centuries from the 12th to the 16th were the "great" times of Africa. At that time, societies with comparatively highly developed technology and economy as well as a rich cultural life emerged in many parts of the continent. But then the looters and slave hunters from Europe invaded Africa who, with the help of spiritual and spirit-obscuring poisons, i.e. with Christian missionaries and alcoholic beverages, had shaken the great empires of Africa to their very foundations.
The Africans received the first Europeans in traditional hospitality. A fatal mistake based on the fact that the unscrupulous greed of the European invaders for gold, power and slaves was beyond imagination.
A Portuguese trading company undertook - quote - to deliver "10,000 tons of negroes". Then white traders snatched their children from slaves to throw them to the hyenas to eat. Men and women were fattened and stuffed with medicines before they were sold so that they could get higher prices on the slave markets. According to Ki-Zerbo, the slave ships were provided with "special equipment such as shackles, rivets and chains, decks and tween decks in order to be able to accommodate the human cargo with the least loss of space". During the crossing to America, the abducted people were forced with lashes to dance on deck for their white guards. And anyone who fell ill or died on the way was simply thrown overboard. "One can assume that Africa has lost at least 50, probably 100 million people since the 15th century," writes Ki-Zerbo. The continent has never recovered from this "bloodletting". The whole wealth of Europe, however, is based on it: Because the slave trade brought European trading companies profit increases of 300 to 800 percent and thus created the financial basis for the industrialization of Europe. This also enabled the production of new types of weapons and ultimately established the military superiority of the European invaders in Africa. Wherever the European conquerors invaded the continent, they recruited local accomplices and soldiers for their campaigns. The forced recruitment, according to Ki-Zerbo, contributed to "making the general miserable situation worse."
African colonial soldiers for European wars
Since the beginning of the 19th century, the colonial rulers raised regular African troops. They were also used in Europe for the first time in the Franco-German War of 1870/71. The "Bourbaki Panorama" here in Lucerne is a reminder of this.
During the First World War, hundreds of thousands of Africans were deployed on the fronts on different continents, in the Second World War there were millions.
Ki-Zerbo, who was also involved in UNESCO's extensive research project on African history, wrote about the consequences of the Second World War for Africa: "The African peoples were required to perform exceptional warfare. In the large coastal cities, hardship prevailed. The poorest wrapped themselves in old ones But generally the burden of war was borne without much resistance: one suffered in silence. No doubt people felt they were part of a great global drama. Yet the burden of war was sometimes easier for soldiers to bear. They were face to face with the Nazi troops and knew who they were fighting against. The anonymous masses of Africans, however, were allowed to work and pay thousands of kilometers from the theater of war. "
The British historian David Killingray, one of the few European scientists who has dealt intensively with the consequences of the Second World War for Africa, comes to the same conclusion: "From the Cape to Cairo there was hardly an area of life that was not economic and beyond was shaken to its foundations by the Second World War. "
The main reason for this is that the world - when the Second World War began - was still largely colonized and in particular Africa - according to the title of this lecture series - was actually still "Europe's Africa", i.e. almost completely under European colonial rule or - like South Africa - was controlled economically and politically by a former colonial power from Europe.
Colonies at the beginning of World War II
As the largest colonial power, Great Britain - with the Commonwealth - had an empire that comprised a quarter of the earth with a quarter of the world's population. The French colonies were twenty times larger than the so-called "mother country" and had 100 million inhabitants. The area of Dutch India (today: Indonesia) corresponded to that of Western Europe. The United States ruled the Philippines and large parts of the South Pacific from islands such as Hawaii and American Samoa.
Japan controlled with Micronesia the north of the Pacific as well as the Korean peninsula, Formosa and Manchuria. And Mussolini's fascist government also ruled over a colonial area in North and East Africa that was many times larger than Italy.
Germany had to cede its colonies in Africa and the Pacific to the victorious powers after the First World War. But their recovery was one of the declared war goals of the Nazis.
However, it took half a century and an African author to research and publish these historical facts for the first time in German-speaking countries. Dealing with this is a vivid example of how historical events that were of great importance for the Third World in general and for Africa in particular were deliberately kept out of local historiography in the post-war period:
Konrad Adenauer as a colonial propagandist
After the First World War, the German Reich had to cede "its" colonies in Africa, on the Chinese coast and in the Pacific to the victorious powers during the peace negotiations at Versailles in 1919. Since then, German grocers, industrialists and bank representatives, who had profited from the plundering of the German colonies, agitated against the "shame of Versailles". National conservative politicians supported this colonial propaganda, as shown by the following quote from Konrad Adenauer, who before 1933 was not only mayor of the city of Cologne, but also deputy president of the German Colonial Society. In this role, Adenauer stated:
"The German Reich must absolutely strive to acquire colonies. In the Reich itself there is too little space for the large population. Especially the somewhat daring, strongly advancing elements that could not be active in the country, but a field for in the colonies Finding their activity is constantly lost to us. We have to have more space for our people and therefore colonies. "
With this Adenauer quote in a "Colonial Special Show" at the Cologne newspaper fair "Pressa" in 1928, the conquest of supposedly "deserted space" in Africa was propagated. In addition, two maps were shown: a small, crowded one from Germany with the title: "60 million without space" and a large, wide one from Africa with the heading: "space without people". (You can see a photo of it in our exhibition here in the historical museum.)
So far, Adenauer's activity as a functionary of the German Colonial Society has not even been explored in the least. There doesn't seem to be too much interest in it either, as Adenauer was voted "the most important German politician of all time" in a newspaper poll not so long ago. There are indications that the Nazi regime was able to seamlessly tie in with colonial propaganda like his.
The Nazis' colonial plans
In fact, the NSDAP set up a Colonial Political Office (KPA) as early as 1933 to prepare the administration of a "Germanic colonial empire" in Africa. This should extend from the Atlantic coast in the west to the Indian Ocean in the east and encompass a third of the continent. Its conquest was one of the declared war aims of the Nazis and should take place after the subjugation of Eastern Europe.
From 1940 the Nazi regime was already recruiting police officers and SS troops for operations "in the tropics" and trained selected men and women to manage plantations and mines. Because the African colonial empire was supposed to supply Nazi Germany with nuts, oils, coffee, tea, cocoa, tobacco and tropical fruits, cotton, sisal, tropical woods, ores, metals, gold and diamonds. Even "work books" for registering the "natives" who were supposed to do forced labor under German supervision have already been printed. And Nazi lawyers drafted a "colonial blood protection law" to prevent any "racial mixture" in the colonies. As early as July 1941, the Colonial Political Office was able to announce: "If the Fuehrer, the designer of the German future, will give the order to operate in colonial territory, he will find the Colonial Political Office equipped to carry out this order to the best of its ability."
The East African island of Madagascar wanted to use the Nazi regime in a particularly perfidious way. Four million European Jews were to be deported there. It was clear that not so many people could survive on the island. The death of most of the deportees was thus factored in. The superiority of the British fleet on the sea routes around Africa prevented Madagascar from becoming the site of the Holocaust. In addition, "the war against the Soviet Union ... offered the opportunity ..." to make other territories available for the final solution, "as Franz Rademacher, head of the" Jewish Issues Unit "in the Foreign Office, on February 10, 1942, put it all in one Letter to his colleague Ernst Bielfeld, head of the colonial department, explained. Afterwards, "the Führer decided that the Jews should not be deported to Madagascar, but to the east."
The victory of the Red Army in Stalingrad and the victory of the Allied colonial troops under British command in North Africa thwarted the planned conquest of a German colonial empire in Central Africa.
The first scientist who researched the National Socialists' colonial plans was typically not a German historian, but the political scientist Kum'a Ndumbe from Cameroon, already quoted.He studied in Germany in the 1950s and began researching this topic even then, although his German professors urgently advised him not to do so because there was supposedly nothing to do with it in the archives. In fact, they had never looked for it themselves.
Kum'a Ndumbe was not discouraged, especially since he received an order from the magazine "Das Parlament", which promised to publish the results of his research. But when the facts he presented were available, the magazine shrank from publication. After all, this could have disavowed the incumbent Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and other former colonial propagandists who had been able to continue their political careers in the Federal Republic uninterrupted after 1945. It was Jean-Paul Sartre who published Kum'a Ndumbe's research results on the Nazis' colonial plans for the first time in his magazine "Les Temps Modernes" - in French. In German they could only appear in 1993 in a book with the title: "What did Hitler want in Africa? Nazi plans for a fascist reorganization of Africa".
The example shows that important but uncomfortable chapters of the colonial history of the Second World War were deliberately kept out of the German-speaking historical discourse for almost half a century.
French colonies in the service of Nazi Germany
For a long time, the fact that the Nazi regime also gained access to the French colonies in Africa, Asia and Oceania after the subjugation of France and the armistice agreement with the collaboration government of Vichy from June 1940 - with fatal consequences for their residents. Because they had to use forced labor to deliver raw materials for the German armaments industry and food for the German troops.
For example, rubber for the tires of German military vehicles came from the French colonies in Indochina until the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 - transported by the trans-Siberian railroad.
And from the African colonies, the Vichy authorities supplied the fascist Axis powers with 900,000 tons of phosphate and 350,000 tons of iron for their armaments factories.
In West Africa, at the behest of the Nazi regime, French colonial officials even collected money to feed the tens of thousands of African prisoners of war in German camps who had fought on the side of the Allies. Farmers in the Ivory Coast, for example, had to hand over kola nuts, corn, flour, honey and money to a "Committee for the Care of Prisoners of War".
From February 1941, the supply of the German tank units in North Africa was added, for which further food, cars and trucks were confiscated in the Maghreb. Algeria alone supplied 450,000 quintals of grain, 220,000 sheep and 4.8 million hectoliters of wine in one year, while the Algerian population suffered from malnutrition, tuberculosis and typhus.
The Africa Corps under General Rommel also employed forced laborers after landing in Libya. But while there are dozens of glorifying books and biographies about Rommel and his African campaign, I am not aware of a single historical research paper that seriously explored the consequences of the German-Italian invasion for the populations of Libya and Egypt.
Neither Germany nor Italy received any noteworthy compensation for the exploitation and destruction of North Africa by the German-Italian warfare in the post-war period. On the other hand, there was already enough money in the 1950s for a gigantic war memorial, which 200 veterans of the Afrikakorps unveiled in the Libyan desert in the presence of the widow of Nazi General Rommel to commemorate their "fallen comrades".
In El Alamein, Tobruk and on other former battlefields of the Second World War in the region there are today numerous monuments to German, Italian and Allied victims. But to the best of my knowledge, none of them reminds us of the forced recruits and slave laborers of the fascist Axis powers who were tortured to death, or of the hundreds of thousands of colonial soldiers who fought under British command in North Africa and of whom thousands died in North Africa. These included Indians, Aborigines from Australia, Maoris from New Zealand, Pacific Islanders, soldiers from the Caribbean and troops from all existing and former British colonies in Africa.
Racism in the South African Armed Forces
South Africa alone, for example, provided around 335,000 soldiers in World War II, including blacks, whites and so-called "coloreds", as people with Indian ancestors are called in the country's racist terminology.
In 1941, 60,000 South Africans fought against the German Wehrmacht's Africa Corps in the North African desert. On November 21, the fifth brigade of the "Cape Corps" got into a losing battle with German tank units and fighter planes. 3,000 South Africans were taken prisoner by Germany, 224 perished in the fighting. The survivors buried the dead side by side in a mass grave. But when the front moved further, the South African High Command had the bodies exhumed and buried again - in three graves, separated by skin color.
Apartheid did not become the official state doctrine in South Africa until 1948, with the colonial laws drafted by the Nazis appearing in retrospect as templates for South African apartheid laws. In the armed forces, however, as the example shows, strict racial segregation was already in effect during the Second World War.
The persecution of the North African Jews
Irrespective of the historical research not only in Germany but also in France, the fact remained for a long time that after the armistice agreement of the French collaboration government under Marshall Philippe Pétain with the Nazi regime in June 1940, the approximately 500,000 Jews in the North African colonies France were threatened with death. As recently as May 1940, 1,350 Algerian Jews lost their lives for France in the fight against the German Wehrmacht. But when the Vichy regime took over colonial administration, Jews in Algeria first lost their French citizenship and then all public offices and functions. According to the "Jewish Statute" of June 1941, they were no longer allowed to work in numerous professions (from journalism to teaching) and from June 1941 also no longer as lawyers, traders, insurance agents and entrepreneurs. Ultimately, the French colonial officials forced Jews to sell their shops and homes at ridiculous prices and banned Jewish children from schools and universities.
The German and Italian fascists and their French allies also maintained more than a hundred labor camps in North Africa, to which, in addition to political opponents and deportees from Europe, thousands of Maghrebian Jews were also deported. In the Giado camp in the Italian colony of Libya alone, 562 prisoners perished.
In eastern Morocco, 7,000 forced laborers had to lay tracks for a planned trans-Saharan railway that was to extend to Niger. Most of the camps in Algeria and Tunisia were located in remote desert regions, where tens of thousands of prisoners were exposed to the scorching hot summer days and icy winter nights without protection. The partisan Claudio Moreno therefore described the Hadjerat M'Guil camp as a "French beech forest in North Africa".
It is remarkable how little attention has been paid to the persecution of North African Jews to this day. For example, the impressive field of stelae in Berlin and the memorial next to it explicitly only remind of "the extermination of European Jews". There are no references to the persecution of Jews outside Europe. A few points in North Africa can only be found on a map in the entrance area, which extends as far as the southern countries bordering the Mediterranean and on which camps are recorded. But information on this is not provided.
Between 4,000 and 5,000 Jews from the Maghreb were killed as a result of hunger, mistreatment and torture in the North African labor camps as well as pogroms such as 1941 in Tunisia and deportations to the Nazi death camps.
Arab accomplices for the fascist Axis powers
As the American Middle East historian Robert Satloff, who researched the region for two years, writes, the staff of the fascist penal camps in North Africa consisted entirely of local volunteers:
"Numerous reports from eyewitnesses show that Arab soldiers, police officers and workers were ready to do anything - sometimes to a substantial extent, sometimes to a lesser extent - to also act against North African Jewry, following the example of the persecution of Jews in Europe: Jewish special laws on the compulsory obligation of Jewish workers to the administration of labor camps. From the outskirts of Casablanca to the desert regions south of Tripoli, Arabs served as guards and overseers in the labor camps everywhere. And with a few exceptions, they were with the Jewish (and others) Prisoners feared as willing and loyal servants of the Nazis, Vichys and the (Italian) fascists. "
Robert Satloff had actually traveled to North Africa to look for Arab resistance fighters and anti-fascists who had saved Jews. He hoped to use such positive role models to promote the readiness in Arab countries to deal critically with National Socialism, the Holocaust and the involvement of Arab collaborators in them. Satloff also found some of these Arab "heroes" such as the Tunisian Khaled Abdelwahhab, who hid Jewish women from German occupation officers who wanted to kidnap them to their military brothel. But unlike some German Islamic scholars and Arabists, Satloff has the academic honesty to publish research results that contradict his actual goal. For example, he writes that the descendants of Arabs who came to the aid of Jews in World War II asked him not to give their names, because otherwise the families would be ostracized, if not physically attacked, by their current neighbors. This is how explosive the processing of history in the North African context can be.
The SS command to exterminate the North African Jews
In 2006, the historians Martin Cüppers and Mathias Mallmann published documents for the first time that prove that the Nazi regime was also forging concrete plans to exterminate the Jews in North Africa and the Middle East. In their book "Halbmond und Hakenkreuz", the two employees of the Ludwigsburg Research Center for the Prosecution of Nazi Crimes show that a special SS commando in Athens had been on call for its deployment in North Africa since mid-1942. The troops - with "seven SS leaders, 17 subordinates and men" - were under the command of SS-Obersturmbannführer Walter Rauff, who had already been involved in mass murders in Poland and had trucks converted in 1941 so that people inside were murdered by exhaust fumes could become. This "familiarity with the process of the rationalized extermination of the Jews" predestined Rauff, according to Cüppers and Mallmann, "for the new post as head of a mobile death squad for the Middle East."
Rauff's troops only consisted of a maximum of 100 people, but the Nazis relied on finding enough local "volunteers" for the extermination of the Jews, as in Eastern Europe: "As has long been suggested in numerous reports of the mood," said Cüppers and Mallmann, " (...) in the Middle East an unmistakable and in part already well-organized number of Arabs from the local population offered themselves as willing accomplices of the Germans. The central field of activity of Rauff's command, the realization of the Shoah in Palestine, would be immediate with the help of those collaborators after the appearance of the Panzer Army Africa was quickly put into practice. "
After the Allies were able to repel the advance of the German troops in Egypt, the SS death squad landed in Tunisia in November 1942, where around 85,000 Jews lived at that time. Immediately after his arrival, Rauff had leading members of the Jewish community arrested and ordered them to deploy 2,000 Jewish forced laborers to expand the German front lines by the next day. Failure to comply Rauff threatened "with the immediate arrest of 10,000 Jews".
The German occupiers had 30 labor camps built in Tunisia and forced Jews to continue working in ports and on railways even during Allied bombings. In addition, Jews had to pay taxes in the millions, with which the Arab population was compensated after Allied attacks, because "international Judaism" was supposedly responsible for the war.
In the Tunisian coastal town of Sfax, the SS command was planning to build a concentration camp, which only had to be abandoned because of the Allied advance.
The plans of the Nazis to annihilate the Jews in the Maghreb and the sympathy of Arab collaborators for a quote "final solution to the Jewish problem in all Arab and Muslim countries" are among the grave consequences of the Second World War in Africa. The question arises why it took more than six decades before these facts were finally researched historically and presented to the public. One answer to this is that many regional experts, Islamic scholars and Arabists have shown no interest in dealing with Nazi collaborators in the region. On the contrary: some, such as employees of the Center for the Modern Orient in Berlin, do not even shy away from systematic distortions of history in order to make Nazi collaborators from Arab countries appear as anti-colonial freedom fighters and to play down their open sympathies for fascist social models and the anti-Semitic racial madness of the National Socialists.
This can be demonstrated on the basis of the publications that were created as part of a multi-year research project by the Berlin ZMO on "Arab encounters with National Socialism". Even the title sounds belittling, as if a couple of Arabs and Nazis met on the promenade of contemporary history and waved to each other.
Senior Nazi collaborators in Egypt
Indeed, especially among the elites in North Africa and the Middle East, there was broad and outspoken sympathy for fascism and the war of the fascist Axis powers in North Africa.
But these are consistently downplayed by the ZMO. For example, Gerhard Höpp, who was a leading employee of the ZMO from 1996 until his death in 2003, published a study on "German Islamic Politics between 1938 and 1945". In it he wrote that in July 1942 two Egyptian military pilots flew over the British-German lines on behalf of King Faruk to hand over British military plans to the General Staff of the German troops in North Africa. In preparation for the espionage operation, the Egyptian consul met SS Oberführer Erwin Ettel and a nephew of the Palestinian Grand Mufti Husseini in Istanbul. The three had agreed that the successful transfer of British military secrets to the German Wehrmacht should be signaled by reading out certain suras from the Koran on the Nazis' propaganda station, which also happened on August 13, 1942.
The Islam scholar Höpp was interested in this story only in the use of Koran suras in the context of German military espionage. The fact that the Egyptian king and his military collaborated with the SS and that Allied military secrets were divulging the Nazis was not worth mentioning for him. His conclusion was: "This episode is certainly meaningless in itself; it merely illustrates one of several, ultimately unsuccessful attempts to locate and ultimately win local allies for Germany's initially military advance into North Africa and the Middle East."
In fact, Nazi Germany found countless "native allies" in Egypt, not just in the royal family, but at all levels of society. By the end of the 1930s, the following of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood had risen from 8,000 to 200,000. Following the German model, the organization called for a boycott of Jewish businesses and demanded: "Jews out of Egypt and Palestine!" As a result of this agitation, there were bomb attacks on a synagogue and Jewish private houses in Cairo in 1939.
The Egyptian government had contractually agreed to fight on the side of Great Britain in the event of war. But the British commanders shied away from using the Egyptian army with its 40,000 soldiers on the North African front because they doubted their loyalty. Rightly so, because Egyptian officers, including the later presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar as-Sadat, were in constant contact with the German command in Libya and coordinated their activities with the Nazi general Erwin Rommel. Sadat later freely admitted this in his book "Revolt on the Nile".In September 1942, Sadat met two German secret agents in Cairo who presented him with forged papers, radios and £ 20,000 for his attempt to pave the way for German troops in Egypt.
But the British got ahead of it and arrested Sadat and the two Germans. The chief of the Egyptian general staff, Aziz Akli el-Masri, was one of the conspirators and ended up in custody.
In July 1942, the king was already conferring with former head of government Ali Mahir, who had been deposed by the British, on the composition of the cabinet that was to work with the German and Italian occupiers. With Shekh el-Azhar, the head of the Muslims in Egypt, he prepared a brilliant reception for the fascist troops, which was to surpass "the pomp with which Napoleon was once welcomed".
Facts like these cannot be found in the ZMO's publications, although they could already be read in a 1966 study by the Polish historian Lukasz Hirszowicz. Hirszowicz was the first to evaluate relevant documents from the Foreign Office and other government agencies of the Nazi regime.
When it came to Egypt at a conference of the Berlin ZMO, Wolfgang Schwanitz, for example, gave a lecture, who dealt with issues such as the history of the "German Chamber of Commerce in Egypt". He maintained good German-Egyptian relations in the 1930s, without even mentioning the fascist takeover of power in Germany in 1933. Instead, he thought episodes such as the following from 1938 were worth mentioning:
"The 'Führer and Reich Chancellor' (Adolf Hitler) generously gave the young King Faruk a 'Mercedes-Benz-Sport-Cabriolet' for his marriage to the beautiful Farida."
The publications of the Berlin ZMO show that some Islamic scholars and Arabists consciously hide or even paraphrase uncomfortable chapters of history because the historical facts could disturb their current position in the Middle East conflict.
Start of the Second World War in Ethiopia in 1935?
Other historians, as Professor Kum'a Ndumbe rightly criticizes, clearly do not attach the same importance to historical events that took place in Africa as they do to comparable scenarios in Europe.
This is shown by the handling of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and Abyssinia, with which in 1935 the last country that had been able to successfully resist any attempts at colonization was to be subjected to European rule.
I will not go into the Italian war of annihilation in East Africa, because Professor Mattioli, who has researched it, will certainly do more detailed and qualified than I could in his lecture in two weeks. But I want to at least raise the question of why this war is otherwise hardly mentioned in the historiography of the Second World War, even though hundreds of thousands of soldiers from 17 countries and three continents were deployed in it until the Italian surrender in 1941. Wouldn't a similar war scenario, if it had taken place on the European continent, be taken for granted as the beginning of the Second World War? Does the Ethiopian theater of war only go unnoticed because it is in Africa and the majority of black soldiers fought there?
As part of the research for the teaching materials published by us on the role of the Third World in World War II, I looked through all the history textbooks that are used in lessons in North Rhine-Westphalia. I only found one that mentions the war in Ethiopia - even if only in a few lines. This 2007 "history booklet" concludes: "The Ethiopians had nothing to counter the attack (by the Italian troops) with modern weapons, poison gas and extreme brutality." In fact, Ethiopia not only had an army with more than 100,000 soldiers that stood against the invaders for six months until the capital Addis Ababa was subjugated, but afterwards hundreds of thousands of partisans, who called themselves "Patriots", fought for four years continued in guerrilla style against the occupiers and thus made a significant contribution to the Italian defeat in 1941.
But African war participants seem to count "nothing" in the truest sense of the word in the local historiography. This also shows the fact that the millions of African colonial soldiers who fought under French and British command are excluded from European historiography.
African colonial soldiers under British command
The British Army alone recruited around one million men in Africa during World War II - often by force. These African soldiers fought against Italian colonial troops in British Somaliland and Ethiopia in 1940/41, from 1940 to 1943 against the German-Italian units in the Libyan-Egyptian border area, in 1942 against the Vichy regime in Madagascar and in 1944 against Japanese troops in the jungles of the British Burma colony. The fact that the Japanese attack on the British crown colony of India could be repulsed is not least thanks to the approximately 100,000 African soldiers who stood there under British command in the first front line.
Nobody thanked them: The wages of the African soldiers were significantly lower than those of the British military and their food was far worse. The commanders of the colonial troops were all white officers. The British High Command prepared them for their command functions with a pamphlet which stated that African soldiers had "the state of mind of children" in many ways.
The colonial soldiers reacted to racist discrimination of this kind with protests and mutinies. For example, many refused to board the transport ships to India because they were denied surcharges for war missions in Asia, as granted to British soldiers.
British courts-martial imposed flogging and death sentences on the leaders of the revolts. Despite this, more than 25,000 men deserted in East Africa alone in 1944/1945.
British historiography of World War II also spared the effects of the war on the colonized for decades. John Hamilton, platoon leader and communications officer in the 81st West African Division during the war, criticizes the fact that even the most detailed English-language story about the Battle of Burma deals with the tens of thousands of colonial soldiers from West Africa who fought there on the side of the Allies in just four lines .
In 1998 the "Memorial Gates Trust" was established, a foundation that raised money to finally donate a memorial to the millions of so-called "volunteers" from India, Africa and the Caribbean who fought under British command in World War II to honor. On November 6, 2002, the British Queen, Queen Elisabeth, inaugurated the small memorial pavilion - 57 years after the end of the war.
State-decreed historical flaws in France
In France, on the initiative of President Sarkozy, the exclusion of the colonial history of World War II was even to become state doctrine. In February 2005 his government drafted a law according to which history books in France should - quote - "recognize the positive role of the French presence in its overseas colonies, particularly in North Africa".
This state-prescribed misrepresentation of history should primarily refer to the French colonial past in Algeria. It sparked a heated public debate. After all, France had not only recruited tens of thousands of soldiers in Algeria for both the First and Second World Wars and also for its colonial war in Indochina until 1954. And French troops had killed a sixth of the Algerian population, almost one and a half million people, in the war of liberation that Algerians had to wage from 1954 to 1962 for the independence of their country. The North African immigrants in France reminded Sarkozy in 2005 of these far from positive aspects of history and the youth revolt in the migrant quarters of the banlieus temporarily overturned the Paris government's plan to gloss over French colonial history. During their protests, young people whose families came from the Maghreb explicitly pointed out that their fathers and grandfathers had gone to war for France, but had never received adequate pensions and compensation, and that also the children and grandchildren of veterans who had come to France freed from Nazi terror would have to apply for a visa today to enter the land their ancestors would have given their lives for.
African colonial soldiers under French command
Even under French command, around a million African soldiers were deployed in World War II, many of them even on different sides of the front. After the declaration of war on Nazi Germany in September 1939, the French Republic recruited around 500,000 African soldiers into its African colonies.
Many of them were at the front in northern France in May 1940 to repel the invasion of the German armed forces. The exact numbers are not known, but how large the proportion of African soldiers must have been is shown by estimates such as that of Professor Raffael Scheck, who will report in this lecture series on the massacre of the German Wehrmacht of African prisoners of war. According to this, when the French surrendered in June 1940, 60,000 Africans had already been captured by Germany.
After the French defeat and the armistice between the collaborationist government of Vichy and the Nazi regime, colonial soldiers from West and North Africa, who had been recruited for missions against Nazi Germany, had to continue to wage war on the side of the fascist Axis powers, for example in Dakar, in the Levant (Syria and Lebanon) and in 1942 also in North Africa. They also faced soldiers from Central and East Africa under Allied command in all of these theaters of war.
General Charles de Gaulle, who called for resistance against the Vichy regime and Nazi Germany in June 1940 from London, was only able to build up his "Free France" force in the colonies. Because of the 35,000 French soldiers who had fled to Great Britain like him, only 2,500 were ready to fight by his side in 1940. The rest followed the call by the Nazi collaborator Petain to return to Vichy France.
De Gaulle's first base was Fort Lamy in Equatorial Africa (in present-day Chad) and he later wrote in his memoirs: "In the vast expanses of Africa, France was actually able to set up a new army to defend its sovereignty [...] and thus the balance of power Africa, within reach of the peninsulas of Italy, the Balkans and Spain, provided an excellent starting point for the reconquest of Europe. "
When the Vichy government lost control of the colonies after the Allies landed in North Africa in 1943, de Gaulle recruited hundreds of thousands more soldiers in North and West Africa for the Allied landing forces in Italy and Provence.
The colonial soldiers were often forcibly recruited by the British, as well as by the French military, and often received hardly any military training worth mentioning before they were shipped to Europe and sent to the front.
Baba Sy, who became Obervolta's defense minister in 1979 (today: Burkina Faso) and was one of the West African troops of Free France during World War II, reported to the Tirailleurs Sénégalais:
"They didn't give us any political explanations at the time ... The French only told us that the Germans thought Africans were monkeys and that we could prove that we were human with our involvement in this war. That was it ..."
Like many other tirailleurs, Baba Sy was embarked in Dakar in 1943 to go to war in Europe. He took part in the landing in Italy, was injured on the island of Elba and was ultimately involved in the liberation of Strasbourg. "We were still there when the war ended," he said. "Because blacks were only used as far as the center of France to repel the Germans."
When Paris was liberated, General de Gaulle no longer wanted to see the African soldiers march in the front row. He wanted to integrate the French Resistance, which he was politically suspicious of because of its left-wing socialist attitudes, into his armed forces and see young French people celebrated as liberators on the Champs Elysees. During the war in its final phase, images of predominantly white French liberators were specifically staged, which would then determine the writing of history.
Although de Gaulle's Free France troops had consisted mostly of Africans, it was actually six decades before the French government officially commemorated the African colonial soldiers and invited African veterans to celebrations such as the 60th anniversary of the Allied landing in Provence.
The Anciens Combattants from Africa have been waiting in vain for equal treatment to their French "comrades" in the payment of war and disability pensions.
French colonial crimes hidden
In France, it took more than half a century before the French government no longer simply denied war crimes in Africa, such as the massacre in Thiaroye in Senegal.
In December 1944, almost 1,300 Tirailleurs Sénégalais ("Senegal Riflemen") had returned to West Africa from their war service in Europe. Many of them had years of imprisonment and forced labor in German camps. In Thiaroye, a provisional transition camp at the gates of the Senegalese port city of Dakar, they waited for their remaining wages to be paid out and for the promised demobilization bonuses of 500 francs. They also demanded the same compensation of 5,000 francs per person that the French received for captivity.
The colonial officers on site, many of them already in office under Vichy, refused to make the payments and also wanted to grant only half of the official exchange rate when exchanging French francs for the colonial currency CFA. So there was a revolt. The Africans took a French officer hostage and only released him after assuring them that he would comply with all of their demands.
But after his release, tanks surrounded the camp on the night of December 1, 1944 and opened fire at five in the morning. When the tirailleurs rushed out of their barracks, drunk with sleep, the French commanders had them mercilessly slaughtered.
The number of victims is given as 35 to 300, depending on the source. It is difficult to verify as the French authorities have not yet released all files.
French military courts sentenced 34 so-called ringleaders of the revolt in March 1945 to prison terms of up to 10 years. Five men died in prison and the rest were pardoned in June 1947 due to mounting political pressure.
News of the Thiaroye massacre quickly spread across West Africa. It became a symbol of the arbitrariness of the colonial power and gave impetus to the independence movements in the region. A feature film by the Senegalese director, writer and war veteran Ousmane Sembène reminds of this as early as 1989.
In French history books, however, this massacre was still kept secret many years later, as was the events on May 8, 1945 in Algeria, the day the war ended in Europe.
May 8, 1945 in Algeria - a day of mourning
To this day, May 8 is a national holiday in France, but a day of mourning in the former French colony of Algeria. Algerian author Alice Cherki explains why:
"In Algeria, many men had volunteered as soldiers and believed that the end of this war would bring them freedom as well, as the French had promised. On May 8, 1945, the end of the war in Europe, the people of Constantine went to Guelma and Sétif took to the streets to remind de Gaulle of his promise, which led to confrontations with French settlers who shot blindly into the crowd, and the French army came to their aid and eventually even deployed planes a terrible massacre of Algerian civilians. Whole families were massacred in the process. "
Even French government sources now have to admit that at least 1,500 Algerians were killed that day. Algerian sources name up to 45,000 victims.
I saw photos from that day in the Revolutionary Museum in Algiers, they were photos of mountains of corpses that were carted by French soldiers to the outskirts and burned there.
For many in Algeria, the 8thMay 1945 therefore marked the beginning of the Algerian War of Liberation, as Free France de Gaulle demonstrated with brutal violence on that day that it was unwilling to voluntarily and peacefully grant the country independence. For this, more than a million Algerians had to lose their lives by 1962.
There are now some detailed historical studies and documentaries by Algerian and French authors of the May 8th 1945 slaughter in Algeria. But the relevant government archives are still not all publicly available.
The writing of history about the role of the Third World in general and Africa in particular in World War II has been restricted, manipulated and hindered by government agencies to this day.
Due to forced recruitment and forced labor during the Second World War, large parts of Africa's traditionally self-sufficient agriculture collapsed. In addition, large parts of the continent were devastated by the war. To date, Africa has not recovered from the consequences of these war-related upheavals. All belligerent powers therefore had no interest in remembering it. If the important role that Africa played in the liberation of Europe from National Socialism had been perceived by the general public, political consequences might have had to be drawn from it. Adequate pensions and allowances might have to be paid, or reconstruction aid and reparations provided.
Consequences, therefore, which would have incurred costs and which every government in the powers involved in the war therefore tried to avoid.
Anyone who takes history seriously and perceives it would have to advocate a different approach to the African countries and their inhabitants, and also to treat migrants who come from there with greater respect than is the case in Europe today. If there is currently a debt to be settled, it is definitely Europe's with Africa and not the other way around. In reality, however, this Europe, which systematically plundered Africa before, during and after the Second World War, even denies entry to the descendants of the African soldiers who fought for its liberation.
The shameful debates these days about how to deal with the refugees who are trying to escape from the dictatorships of North Africa that Europe has courted for decades confirm this once more. It is time for something to change in this racist and historically forgotten attitude.
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