Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World by Jeffrey Herf has won the 2011 Sybil Halpern Milton prize, awarded by the German Studies Association. Herf’s groundbreaking history connects Nazi Germany’s Arabic-language propaganda during World War II to anti-Semitism in the Middle East in the decades since. Today we take a look at this prizewinning book.
It has been a good week for Yale University Press books. On Monday, Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon, Nigel Smith’s definitive account of the British poet’s elusive life, made the shortlist for the £5,000 HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Adonis, the Syrian poet and author of Yale’s Selected Poems has been declared the favourite to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (read full article in the Guardian). And now, to top off this week of success, Jeffrey Herf’s Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World has been awarded the Sybil Halpern Milton Prize.
The award is given every two years for work on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. In his book, Jeffrey Herf, a leading scholar in the field, offers the most extensive examination to date of Nazi propaganda activities targeting Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East during World War II and the Holocaust. He draws extensively on previously unused and little-known archival resources, including the shocking transcriptions of the “Axis Broadcasts in Arabic” radio programmes, which convey a strongly anti-Semitic message.
Herf explores the intellectual, political, and cultural context in which German and European radical anti-Semitism was found to resonate with similar views rooted in a selective appropriation of the traditions of Islam. Pro-Nazi Arab exiles in wartime Berlin, including Haj el-Husseini and Rashid el-Kilani, collaborated with the Nazis in constructing their Middle East propaganda campaign.
By integrating the political and military history of the war in the Middle East with the intellectual and cultural dimensions of the propagandistic diffusion of Nazi ideology, Herf offers the most thorough examination to date of this important chapter in the history of World War II. Importantly, he also shows how the anti-Semitism promoted by the Nazi propaganda effort contributed to the anti-Semitism exhibited by adherents of radical forms of Islam in the Middle East today.
The Sybil Halpern Milton prize is organised by the German Studies Association. Here is the award committee’s comments:
“This original and provocative book reveals how much can still be learned about National Socialism, the Holocaust, and World War II. Jeffrey Herf uses a wealth of previously untapped sources from archives in Germany and the United States to explore the massive print and radio campaign that Nazi propaganda experts directed at the Arab and Muslim populations of North Africa and Central Asia.
By demonstrating empirically how Nazi antisemitism found an audience among Middle Eastern militants and meshed with their views during World War II, Herf effectively underscores the pivotal role of ideology in the perpetration of the Holocaust. His focus on the interplay between Nazi ideology and politics and non-European political agents helps us recognize the Holocaust as not only European but global in its dimensions.”
Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World is available now from Yale University Press.