Last modified: 2014-05-29 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: palestine | germany | nazi | world war ii |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors
image located by Victor Lomantsov, 04 August 2012
Interesting photo of Palestinians with flags
http://www.diletant.ru/blogs/1321/2528/ Inscription: "Palästina".
Photo made in 1937.
Victor Lomantsov, 04 August 2012
This seems to be a photo of Palestinian Arab members of the
German (Nazi) military, as borne out by the other
photos, which show Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, meeting
with Hitler and Himmler. Husseini was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis and
helped raise (albeit not too successfully) Muslim units for the
Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht.
(Of course, he and the Nazis saw eye to eye on the "Jewish Problem" and saw this
cooperation as part of that cause in their respective spheres.) I've read about
Bosnian and Azerbaijani units, but it's news to me that there were units (if
were, and this isn't just propaganda) from Palestine.
It should also be pointed out that there was Nazi sympathy among some (but, it should be stressed, not nearly all) of the Templers, Christian German settlers in Palestine. (They were the namesakes of the "German Colony," a neighborhood not far from where I live in Jerusalem, and other neighborhoods around Israel, for example one right in the middle of the Defense Ministry campus in Tel Aviv.
A couple of years ago, if I recall correctly, Nazi flags and even a swastika-patterned inlay floor were discovered in an old house in the Jerusalem neighborhood, interestingly but perhaps coincidentally not far from the old headquarters of the Mufti.) Some of these sympathizers enlisted in the German military and there was even a Hitler Youth branch in Jerusalem, so this photo may well not be a picture of Arabs at all but of one of those groups, and the author of the linked page may have made a mistake.
Nachum Lamm, 04 August 2012
This flags are flags of the Nazi Youth Organisation "Hitler-Jugend", regional
branch of Palestine. The historical context to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj
Amin Al-Husseini, is correct.
Jens Pattke, 05 August 2012
Actually, I would tend to doubt the 1937 date unless there is some compelling
reason to believe it. What we have here is a scene of the "victors" (for want of
a better term) displaying the symbols of the "vanquished". The uniforms of the
military personnel appear to be British-style, not German, to me and the fact
that civilians are involved tell a specific story even if we are not privy to
The two flags, that of the "Palestine" regiment of the Hitler Youth and of the German Young People, are, I think, being displayed as trophies. Here is my theory on when and where and why:
There was a German settlement in the British mandate of Palestine founded in 1908 named Waldheim. The citizens of this town were all German citizens. After the Nazis took power in Germany, that government handled all of the affairs of Waldheim, including supplying appropriate Nazi teachers and establishing Nazi institutions such as the Hitler Youth. A branch of the latter, including a large camp, for all of Palestine was established there in the 1930s (likely 1935-36). By the time the war started some 350 men from Waldheim had returned to Germany to serve in the German Army.
In 1939, after hostilities were commenced between Germany and Great Britain, the remaining settlers, mainly the old, the sick, and the fanatical evangelicals, were interned there along with other Axis soldiers captured during the course of the war. By the end of the war and shortly thereafter, almost all of the German residents were either transported to Australia or were otherwise expelled from Waldheim.
The Haganah entered the nearly abandoned settlement 17 April 1948 and on 12 May 1948 a group of young Zionist pioneers from Czechoslavakia, Austria and Romania established Kibbutz BaMa'avak (lit. "In The Struggle") in the abandoned colony.
Three years later, the name was changed to Alonei Abba in memory of Abba Berdichev, who was parachuted into Czechoslovakia in 1943 to assist clandestine British forces, but was captured and executed in 1945. (See Wikipedia entry on Alonei Abba.)
I'm guessing the photo shows the members of the new kibbutz displaying the trophies of their taking of the settlement in April or May 1948, or some such.
Dave Martucci, 05 August 2012
A big mistake, I am afraid, for it conveys a very incorrect idea of the
political situation in Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s. Given the
politically-charged connotations of this photo (notably the word "Palestina" on
Swastika flags), and given the propensity of Zionist revisionists to willfully
or ignorantly distort the historical context of this photo in order to advance
current propaganda, it behooves us to set the record straight.
The Russian blogger (Dmitry Puchkov) who originally posted this photo, stated incorrectly that it was 1937 with "happy faces of Palestinians" (presumably Palestinian Arabs.) This is impossible on many levels. His linkage of this photo to the schemes of Haj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, is also disingenuous at best.
Jens Pattke and Dave Martucci are, of course, correct that the two flags are Third Reich youth flags. Dave is also very much on the right track with his speculation about the historical context.
The German consulate in Jerusalem was closed when the British captured the city in 1917. It reopened in 1924 and enjoyed perfectly good relations with both German Jews and Palestinian Jews. With Hitler's accession to power in 1933, the consulate in Jerusalem entered a surreal period of enforcing Nazi racial policy on German Jews (such as professors at the Hebrew University) while simultaneously continuing cordial relations with Palestinian Jews (even though consul staff had been quickly replaced with loyal Nazis.) Hitler's Englandpolitik and Britain's strong German sympathies (including notably King Edward VIII in 1936) meant that both sides strained until the outbreak of war in 1939 to remain friendly. This also meant that the substantial German community in British Mandate Palestine operated freely and openly under the aegis of their internationally-recognized Nazi government in Berlin. Here are photos of Germans freely flying swastika flags in British Palestine between 1933 and 1939:
Note that these are Germans in Palestine, not Palestinian Arabs. I challenge anybody to find a legitimate instance of Palestinian Arabs embracing the Nazi swastika as their own in British Palestine, even in the entourage of al Husseini. (It's not impossible, but the probability is almost nil.) After the Arab Revolt of 1936, al Husseini fled first to Lebanon (where he subsequently escaped French house arrest), then to Baghdad where he fomented a little trouble for the British, then to Italy and finally to Germany. Despite the smiling photos of al Husseini with Hitler and Himmler in 1941, the Nazis did not give him all he wanted, and historians differ as to whether al Husseini was driven by genuine antisemitism or rather by opportunistic nationalism at a time when he thought the Germans would win the war. Al Husseini's influence in British Palestine after his 1937 departure was very limited, and later quite discredited amongst Palestinian Arabs.
So what about that photo? (and here is a slightly larger copy)
Dave Martucci is absolutely correct that this is a classic victor's pose with war trophies. (Note that the flag in the foreground is soiled.) The uniforms of the men in the back row are definitely British. Although the cap badges are indistinguishable, they are possibly Jewish remnants of the (British) Palestine Police. They do not appear to be Haganah (but I could be mistaken.) Nothing about this photo would have been possible in 1937.
Dave speculates that these trophies were found in Waldheim (Alonei Abba), but I think the buildings in the background suggest a much more built-up area like Jerusalem. During the 1948 war Israeli soldiers found a cache of Nazi flags, badges, and documents (including passport applications) in a disused building on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem, thought to have been the Nazi headquarters in Palestine in the 1930s. (When the German consultate closed in 1939, many records were passed to the Spanish consulate for safe-keeping, and perhaps later conveniently "misplaced" by the Spanish.) After the fighting stopped, H.D. Schmidt went to examine the artifacts and described his findings in "The Nazi Party in Palestine and the Levant 1932-9" (International Affairs, v. 28, no 4, Oct 1952, p. 460-469.
Our photo in question almost certainly depicts this 1948 find in Jerusalem. The men are Jews triumphantly displaying Nazi trophies found three years after the defeat of Germany. Neither the men nor the flags are Arab.
T.F. Mills, 06 August 2012
Somewhat larger at
but I can't find the article to go with it.I'm not sure what we're seeing,
though. Apart from maybe the man in the middle, nobody in the picture seems to
like being there. If they are "Palestinians", whatever that meant at the time of
the photograph, they apparently are not the kind who like such flags.
In the comments, other years are mentioned, and someone with a name I can't transliterate seems to insist on 1948. I was going to ask whether anyone could ask the author how he dated the photograph, but it would seem this already happened in the comments. Could someone check those comments further; there's are whole blocks of text in there, and the style suggests added information. Maybe some of it pertains to the photograph.
Anyway, which flags do we see, and are these specimen different in anyway?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 26 August 2012
The more I look at that photo the more I am persuaded that the men in the
picture, although in British uniform (or British-style, note) are in fact
Israelis; this is buttressed by the young boys up front, who certainly are
neither British nor Arab. That would likely date this picture as the 1948 war,
and not earlier. I couldn't find the text on isradem.com that went with the flag
(they have some 26 pages of photos) but that might help.
One further comment: I ran a Google translation of the last two Russian paragraphs above the photo. Allowing for the awkwardness of machine translation, they read: "See for yourself. This is a picture of 1937. Her joyful faces of Palestinians. In fact, no state of Israel also, did not. There is some (already considerable, however, especially after 33 years) the number of Jewish settlers living in the Promised Land. And it is in the hands of the Palestinian youths? Under which banners they intend to go to the fight against the infidels? With whom to fight? And who are considered allies in the "holy war"? "
It should be noted that the Jewish settlers of Palestine before 1948 referred to themselves as "Palestinians", whereas the Arabs of the area did not. They only assumed that label after the '48 war.
Albert S. Kirsch, 26 August 2012
For some reason, the two messages that give what I think are the definitive
answer to the question are not automatically included in the thread. Simply put,
this flag was among Nazi paraphernalia, about a decade old, found by
Jewish soldiers in a building in Jerusalem's German Colony during the 1948 war.
They had been used by Nazi groups in Jerusalem in the 1930's; when the Nazis
were thrown out by the British, the possessions of the consulate (or related
bodies) were given to another embassy, which put them in storage until they were
Nachum Lamm, 26 August 2012
Let me emphasize what I was being too polite to say the first time. I wrote that
blogger Dmitry Puchkov's "linkage of this photo to the schemes of Haj Amin al
Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, is also disingenuous at best." It is, in
fact, part of the virulently nasty propaganda that the Nazi Germans and the
Palestinian Arabs are "the same enemy" of Jews. And many perfectly decent
people fall for this, because, as archaeologist Graham Hancock says, humans are
a species with amnesia. How quickly we forget our own times, let alone that of
our parents and grandparents, let alone truly ancient history.
Historians call this delusional process the nunc pro tunc (now for then) fallacy, or prolepsis, or presentism. Out of ignorance we try to understand the past through the lens of our often flawed conception of the present. In the case of our controversial photograph of "Nazis in Palestine" very few people remember, let alone can conceive, of a German colony in what is now Israel, especially Germans identifying themselves with Nazi paraphernalia. So we try to understand the photo in the context of the only present that we know, that is one of conflict between Jewish Israelis and largely Muslim "Palestinians." Part of our evolutionary nature is a duality, the uglier side of which tends to view survival as being at the expense of others. So, we inject denigration of the "others" into our mythological understanding of ourselves. Or worse, when we imagine our survival instincts to be seriously threatened, we demonize and dehumanize them. There is hardly anything more demonic in our post-1945 memory than swastikas (even if few recognize the real fascist sentiments that continue to thrive in our midst.) Whilst ignorance is understandably at the root of misidentifying this photo, it is hard to believe that prejudice is not the motivation for unquestioningly flying with the wrong narrative.
As evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson says, our brains evolved to help us survive in this world and only incidentally to understand it at greater depth than needed for survival. See for instance Michael Shermer's "The Believing Brain" for an excellent analysis of the political and religious implications of brains that have little adaptive use for "truth" unless we choose against the grain to devote ourselves to the "incidental" science of history and the history of science. It is only in the 18th-20th century that we have truly begun to understand our environment, both natural and historical. Yet 21st century nation-states and religions still define themselves not by a rigorous examination of the complicated threads of history, but by simplistic mythology rooted in our forgetfulness and penchant for self-serving distortion.
Flags, both in design and in interpretation, are largely an auxiliary of mythology, i.e. how people define themselves rather than what they really are. I think it behooves us to persistently push vexillology a step beyond mere identification into the "incidental" realm of true wisdom, acknowledging the difference between mythology and history. We have done a good job of debunking the Betsy Ross myth. We need to apply that sort of care in everything we do, not fearing to tread into contentious myths. Perhaps in so doing we can help make the planet a little more harmonious
T.F. Mills, 29 August 2012
A brilliant analysis!
I know that it isn't usual to quote whole message of such a length, especially for a short answer like this, but I felt it wouldn't be right to omit anything only for the sake of brevity.
Tomislav Todorović, 29 August 2012
That's the best post I've had the pleasure of reading on FOTW-ml for a very long
time. I urge the relevant editor to quote it at length when he uses it for
André Coutanche, 29 August 2012
The ideas emphasized by T.F. Mills are not much off from the views Riceour has
on ideology. In peril to move off the flags topic too much, so I'll try to keep
it brief, one of the most respected sociologists regarding the issue of
ideology, Paul Riceour wrote about three functions of ideology: first, the
reality dissimulation; second, the authorities legitimacy and third, the social
(RICOEUR, Paul. Lectures on ideology and utopia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.) It is appropriate to use sociological concept of ideology when studying flags - as in most cases - flags are graphical and material expression of ideological concepts of whomever devised them and use them. Therefore, in this regard, flags serve to dissimulate, legitimate and integrate. With dissimulation Riceour considers a form of deception in which one conceals the truth, or in other words a creation of a false picture of oneself. Using flags to dissimulate consists of concealing the truth, or in the case of half-truths, concealing parts of the truth, like inconvenient or secret information. Thus using symbols on a flag is a choice of showing things that one finds positive and omitting and showing them differently those that one considers negative - giving impression that one is not what one is. Together with functions to legitimate one's authority and integrate certain group, the use of such photographs of flag use out of context indeed seems to be prime example of ideology at work.
Considering humans to be amnesic animals, to paraphrase Hancock mentioned by Mills, it does not take much graphical skills to include dissimulating elements in flags (or in the use of them), to be able to deceive intended audience in promotion of one own ideology. And one should not blame flags, as they are inherently simplistic in presentation of one's identity - they tend to include and emphasize only a small number of mythological concepts - if they would not be so simple they would not easily function as flags - as we know from, for example, Ted Kaye's Good Flag Bad Flag manual. And once you have to choose only a few ideas, they are necessarily based on mythology and have no ability to express all the facets and intricacies of the modern post-industrial society. In that regard, on can easily consider that flags, especially those of nations, are concept of pre-21st century nation-states ideologies and even earlier "simplistic mythology rooted in our forgetfulness and penchant for self-serving distortion".
It is the role of modern vexillology, as I see it, to debunk the myths, make them known and understandable and thus disarming them from misunderstanding and misuse. It would, I believe, not make these symbols any less effective and potent in their positive social function, but would render them less prone to be misinterpreted as a vehicle for spreading intolerance.
Željko Heimer, 29 August 2012
As much as I hesitate to intrude in the impressive discussion being held by T.E.
Mills and Željko Heimer on what I'll label "Flags as an Auxiliary of Mythology,"
as a retired lower level educator, I add that one of the hardest things faced by
the practicing educator/teacher is helping students understand the motives and
meanings of symbols used by those who were contemporaries of historical events.
Students, who see all things in black and white and through their own contemporary eyes continually make judgments about historical events and people based on their modern perceptions of events and find it difficult to see them through the eyes of those who lived it. Simply saying that the meaning of historical actions, events, or symbols, such as those used on flags, had a very differently meaning to those not blessed with historical hindsight, doesn't in many cases help their historical understanding because of the modern mythology that has grown up around them. Today's youth can't understand that the bigotry and prejudices of the 19th and 20th Centuries were in many cases not even conscious to those living then, and their acceptance of what we now view as outrageous and unacceptable behavior is partly based on completely different perceptions of reality.
My apologies for inserting the mundane into the discussion, but it triggered my memories of my own teaching years and the difficulties I had in setting aside my own cultural preconceptions and trying to make a balanced presentation of historical events.
Pete Loeser, 29 August 2012
We have accomplished so much in vexillology, documented a mountain of
information, but are still just crossing the frontier of analysis. That is why I
took a cursory look at science and flags in my ICV24 paper, which was less well
said than you have done in one short paragraph.
Lee Herold, 29 August 2012