Johnson opens with a review of the systematic Nazi efforts to recruit Soviet Muslims from among their prisoners of war. Many Muslims loathed Stalin, and between 150,000 and 300,000 of them fought for the Axis in World War II. In other words, over and above their unfulfilled propaganda effort directed at Arabs, the Nazis actually fielded a substantial force of mainly Turkic Muslims under the leadership of a scholarly Nazi enthusiast named Gerhard von Mende.On his blog, Pipes admits that he knew about this before Johnson's book, because of his own father's involvement in Cold War research
After the German defeat in 1945, Johnson follows von Mende as he continued his anti-Communist work with ex-Soviet Muslims, now in a Cold War context. But his network of former soldiers proved not very competent at the task of arousing Muslim hostility against the Soviet Union. Their leading intellectual, for example, had served as the imam of an SS division that helped suppress the Warsaw uprising of 1944. Islamists quickly proved themselves far more competent at this political and religious challenge. Johnson explains that they “wear suits, have university degrees, and can formulate their demands in ways that a politician can understand.”
The heart of his fascinating study lies in tracing the evolution, much of it in Munich, from old soldiers to new Islamists. It’s a classic tale of 1950s intrigue, complete with rehabilitated Nazis, CIA front organizations, and dueling Soviet and American ambitions.
Johnson shows how, without anyone quite planning it, the Americans usurped von Mende’s network and handed it over to Said Ramadan. This early U.S. boost to the Muslim Brotherhood, Johnson argues, gave it the means to establish an Islamist framework to welcome the surge of Muslim immigration to Europe in the 1970s.
Thus did the Islamist domination of European Muslims have two hidden facilitators, Nazi and American. Its origins in Barbarossa reveal the ugly pedigree of today’s Islamist strength. Hitler and his thugs could not have foreseen it, but they helped set the stage for Eurabia.
American backing for Islamists prompts Johnson to warn against the futility of allying with the Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk — as Tony Blair once again recently attempted. However tempting, it invariably harms the West. The lesson is simple: Be cognizant of history and do not assist the Islamists.
Coincidentally, I spent the summer of 1953 at the age of three in Munich, just as that city was emerging as a center of Islamic activism, precisely because of the major presence of ex-Soviet Muslims living there. An excerpt from my father's autobiography, Richard Pipes Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger (Yale University Press, 2003), p. 74 explains why he took the family to Munich:
At the end of May 1951, with financial assistance from the Center of International Affairs at MIT, Irene and I left Daniel with our parents and went on a four-month trip to Europe and the Middle East. My purpose was to interview the surviving members of national governments of what had been the Russian Empire during the period 1917-21. I located quite a few of them in London, Paris, Munich and Istanbul, and they helped me appreciably to understand the complex situations of that era. In Paris I established contact with the Georgian émigré community. Two years later, I spent another summer in Europe, this time in Munich, interviewing refugees from Soviet Central Asia, nearly all of them ex-German prisoners of war. The information they furnished on life in their regions in the 1930s reinforced my conviction that nationalism was well and alive in the borderlands of the USSR and that no mass assimilation was taking place.
His research that summer provided the basis of his article, "Muslims of Soviet Central Asia: Trends and Prospects,” The Middle East Journal, Spring, 1955, pp. 147-162 and Summer, 1955, pp. 295-308.
Interestingly, as Pipes notes, the author's website features photos of former Nazi Uzbeks recruited as Islamist CIA agents during the Cold War--not included in the book. Among other Muslim Brotherhood agents on the CIA payroll, according to Johnson’s research: Tariq Ramadan's father...
You can buy a copy from Amazon.com: You can also listen to Ian Johnson's interview on the Diane Rehme show... Nieman Foundation interview here. Carnegie Council interview here. Wall Street Journal review here. Bookforum review here.