If history is dictated by the concerns of the historian’s day, then it’s surprising more of us haven’t heard the story of the Halbmondlager, or “Half Moon Camp”, a small First World War prisoner-of-war camp in Zossen, near Berlin.Interesting, and alarming. However, they may be trying to whitewash Islam, as the following suggests when they bring up the failure to persuade some of the inmates to switch sides:
It was like no other PoW camp in history. Reserved primarily for Muslim prisoners, detainees lived in relative luxury and were given everything they needed to practise their faith. Spiritual texts were provided, Ramadan observed, a mosque erected – the first on German soil – and there were sermons by visiting spiritual leaders and academics.
But Half Moon Camp was not some torchbearer for the more enlightened treatment of PoWs ushered in later by the Geneva Convention. It was, instead, the symbolic centre of a spectacularly unsuccessful pet project of Kaiser Wilhelm II: to turn Muslim soldiers fighting for Britain and France into jihadists loyal to Germany. Extensively written about in German history books but elsewhere a long-forgotten story of the Great War, the camp’s extraordinary role is finally being highlighted as part of the renewed scrutiny of the conflict in this centenary year.
The unlikely prophet of the jihad was German aristocrat, adventurer and diplomat Max von Oppenheim. The 54-year-old had returned to the Heimat after 20 years of travel and study in the Orient and, before Britain had even declared war on Germany, had convinced the Kaiser that Islam was Germany’s secret weapon. Oppenheim believed that a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign would stir up a mass Muslim uprising against Britain and France from within colonial territories such as India, Indo-China and north and west Africa.
Why weren’t the men motivated by jihad? It’s perhaps more pertinent to ask, “Why would they have been?” As Rogan points out, the concept was daft to begin with. “It was not a natural thing: a targeted jihad focusing on three Western countries but excluding three other European countries. You hate Britain and France but not Germany, Bulgaria and Austria – what is that about?”Oh please! Presumably, if this report has any meat to it, these were moderate Muslims at the time, maybe even Sufis convinced the civilized western world was better for them, but any religious movement that upholds verses and themes as repulsive as what the Koran contains is not like folks anywhere else. If they don't believe in true self-support and think women inferior to men, that's not like anyone else either. Some of the commentors on the article seem to understand this too.
Rogan also thinks Oppenheim and his enthusiastic band of orientalists were deluded. “There was this misconception that Muslims behave in a uniformly fanatical way: they pray together in massive numbers, they obviously all surrender their thoughts in a uniform way, and if you turn that to your advantage you’ve got a powerful force to motivate and mobilise. It just doesn’t work that way.
“Muslims are like people anywhere else. Their willingness to get into something as risky as war is going to be determined by their interests, or their fears, or the threats that they face. It’s not because somebody waves a sword or a Koran and tells them to go to war.”
There may be some more details being left out of this report, though it does acknowledge Germany's collaborations with Turkey at the time. But for now, it appears