Confronting Fascism in Egypt: Dictatorship versus Democracy in the 1930s

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Yet there are still unmapped areas in the research on voluntary and enforced collaboration with German Nazis all around the world. And victims of Nazi terror outside of Europe are only recalled on the very margins of historical discourse, with the subject still absolutely ignored in German schools. Since the foundation of Berlin's Zentrum Moderner Orient ZMO in , the institute has initiated numerous research projects on collaborators, involuntary recruits and victims outside of Europe, not only in World War II but also in the previous war. This work has focused on people and ideas — including ideologies — that migrated between the regions of the world and naturally altered as they did so.

He points out a younger generation of historians with an interest in transnational research approaches. Open historical questions cannot be tackled from a national perspective only. From the Middle Eastern or Indian point of view, for example, racial policy was not necessarily the crucial aspect for their position on Hitler's regime in the s.

For many protagonists, the search for allies against British and French colonialism was the key motivation. A number of ZMO studies have now looked into contemporary Arab reactions to National Socialism, using archive material, memoirs, private documents, newspapers and magazines. On the subject of s Egypt, the work of the historian Israel Gershoni from Tel Aviv University is outstanding, including his just-published book Confronting Fascism in Egypt: Dictatorship versus Democracy in the s. This edition collates widely spread and often inaccessible documents in a single volume.

Source material collections such as these ensure that the co-responsibility of Arab collaborators for Nazi crimes does not get brushed under the carpet. Approval for National Socialism and an abiding enthusiasm for Hitler in the Arab region are a fact in need of further study. In view of the huge gaps in the research and documentation on the majority of the population, this is a question that cannot be answered accurately to this day.

Arabische Begegnungen mit dem Nationalsozialismus Berlin The title "Blind to history? Arab encounters with National Socialism" is intended not to play down, but to include the breadth of experiences on the part of Arab people, from fanatical accomplices to concentration camp prisoners from British and French colonies and mandated territories. Both sides of the scale existed, as research has shown.


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In his dissertation published in , Zwischen Achse und Mandatsmacht. Yet several of his contemporaries in Palestine fought the Germans alongside Britain, which held the mandate for the territory, in the hope of later independence in return. There were many who positioned themselves against National Socialism and fascism for this main reason.

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Arab Socialists of the time in particular took a clear stand against Nazi ideology and activities. Mussolini's threat to conquer Ethiopia also prompted sharp criticism of expansionist fascism and its imperialist striving for Lebensraum , not just in Ethiopia but also in other countries in the Near and Middle East. This section of history has also been all but neglected by academic research.

In the most recent issue of ZMO-Studien , the ethnologist Burkhard Ganzer translates and comments an eyewitness report from a young Iranian on German spies in his country. In a group of German agents stayed in Iran as guests and wards, taken care of by the young Ata Taheri until they were handed over to the British. Sympathies for the Germans were widespread in Iran at the time, as Burkhard Ganzer notes. To date, this particular "encounter" was known mainly from the memoirs of the counter-intelligence officer Major Schulze-Holthus. One of the central approaches of historiography on a global basis is making complementary sources available, which present the perception on the other side.

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Where these views are not available, historical research revolves merely around a single national perspective. The studies written at the ZMO investigate the complex motivations of non-European actors — setting them apart from the one-dimensional studies that are ten a penny in historical research.

Photographs, illustrations, and cartoons were a mode of communication that gave condensed expression to the prevailing viewpoint of the day; without a discussion of the views presented though visual images, our understanding of the public discourse of the era would be incomplete. Through the use of popular characters and their pointed and often-trenchant observations, topical messages on contemporary problems were transmitted to a wider segment of the Egyptian public than that reliant upon the mastery of literacy.

Confronting Fascism in Egypt: Dictatorship versus Democracy in the 1930s

The photographs and caricatures found in three weekly illustrated periodicals—al-Musawwar, Ruz al-Yusuf, and al-Ithnayn wa al-Dunya— will be considered in this chapter. The fortunes of the two weeklies diverged in the s.

Originally supportive of the Wafd, in Ruz al-Yusuf broke with the leadership of the movement and adopted a vehemently anti-Wafdist stance. A British estimate gave a circulation of 24,—26, for al-Musawwar in ; its circulation was estimated at 60, by More than in its sister publication al-Musawwar, photographs and caricature were prominent in al-Ithnayn wa al-Dunya, often appearing on the front and back covers as well as in the body of an issue.

The new weekly eventually became a huge commercial success. An estimate for calculated a weekly circulation in the range of 90, copies, one-quarter of which were distributed outside Egypt. The caricaturist Santis [Santez] was the most visual prominent artist of the Dar al-Hilal publishing house; his work was prominently featured in al-Ithnayn wa al-Dunya. In what follows, we will focus particularly on visual images as an expression of Egyptian opinion regarding Fascism and Nazism.

Visual representations of Fascism and Nazism appeared frequently in all three weeklies by the later s. Individual images juxtaposed authoritarian versus liberal values, contrasted unitary and authoritarian political culture with pluralistic and democratic political culture, and compared the nature and potential of Italian and German imperialism with British and French imperialism.

Its editorial distinctiveness notwithstanding, the caricatures found in Ruz al-Yusuf were also similar to those appearing in its more popular rivals. Our concern is content more than form. They frequently belittled both the leaders and the policies of both dictatorial regimes, denouncing their internal totalitarianism as well as their external imperialism. As with the portrayal of authoritarianism and liberalism in written texts, a characteristic deserving of mention was the mobility of imagery between the external and the internal scene, between dealing with events in Europe and those occurring in Egypt.

Where the explicit subject of a visual image was external, in many cases its implicit reference was what was going on in Egypt. To what degree may these visual images be assumed to have represented broader Egyptian views on the subject of dictatorship versus democracy? Our premise in what follows is that the relationship between production and reception is dialogic. As with written text, the images of reality presented in visual form were put forth with a presumed audience in mind and according to the feedback received from consumers.

Mussolini was often presented in paramilitary garb, wearing the black shirt, tight white trousers, high black boots, and distinctive cap of the Fascist squadristi; sometimes he appeared in Italian military uniform.

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His head was usually uncovered, allowing the caricaturist to emphasize the distinctive fashion in which the German leader combed his hair. His slight stature notwithstanding, Hitler was unquestionably viewed as the greater menace; a ludicrous but very dangerous little man. Visual portrayals of the two fascist leaders combined an overall message of menace and threat with one of ridicule and clownishness.

On the one hand, Mussolini and Hitler were presented as monstrous tyrants, cruel and merciless dictators at home and militaristic warmongers thirsting for conquest and destruction abroad.

His right foot rests on the Mediterranean; his left foot, shown in the form of the Italian boot, tramples on Ethiopia, in the process crushing the dove of peace. A caricature in al-Ithnayn wa al-Dunya in November depicted a voracious Mussolini, now dressed in military uniform, in the process of eating a pizza shown in the form of Ethiopia. The message is clear: Mussolini will continue with his aggression until its aim, the conquest of Ethiopia, is completed.

A caricature of the same month depicted Mussolini, again in military uniform and festooned from head to toe with the tools of war cannon, tanks, aircraft, a warship , on his way to attend Figure 3. Mockery and Terror 95 a ceremony in commemoration of Armistice Day. Stuck between the hammer of Great Britain and the anvil of Italy, Egypt was bound to pay the price for the growing hostility between the two great powers generated by the Ethiopian crisis.

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The caricature mirrored reality: just as Hitler progressively seized center stage in the international arena from a marginalized Mussolini, so the real danger to the world came to be seen as Hitler and Nazi expansionism while Mussolini and his Fascist regime increasingly came to be presented as little more than frustrated camp followers of the Nazi war machine. Al-Ithnayn wa al-Dunya opened with a gloomy prognosis as to what the new year had in store.

Street brawling between the paramilitary Green Shirts of Young Egypt and more recently established Blue Shirts of the Wafd had presented a problem of public order in and , one that indeed was a factor in the ouster of the Wafdist ministry of Mustafa al-Nahhas by the end of the year. A January cartoon in the anti-Wafdist Ruz al-Yusuf, showing Mussolini and Hitler facing a disgruntled Nahhas and removing their shirts in protest against the possible dissolution of Egyptian paramilitary groups, drew a link between fascist paramilitarism abroad and quasi-fascist para- Mockery and Terror 97 militarism, such as that of the Wafdist Blue Shirts, at home.

Al-Ithnayn wa al-Dunya published several caricatures concerning the Czech crisis. Will she be broiled and eaten in the end? Is he better than I?! The background of the caricature is a somber one, a dark night with only a few stars providing light. One in December was a commentary on recent rumors that the Italian government was attempting to sign a nonaggression pact with Egypt. You already got too much when we recognized the annexation of Ethiopia. I feel like hiding from the shame. Anyone who dares take one more step will force me to beat him and break his skull. Mockery and Terror I have no other weapon!!

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Forget it! After all, it is For its part, Ruz al-Yusuf saw the German absorption of Czechoslovakia as portending further Nazi expansionism and conquest. By , Egyptian caricaturists did not view Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as comparable powers and equivalent threats to peace. Unquestionably, Hitler was seen as the greater force and menace to world stability.

Figure 3. It was not long before Mussolini assuaged his appetite by invading Albania. The caption Figure 3. Thus a photograph on the front page of one issue portrayed four Egyptian soldiers peering apprehensively from behind a pile of sandbags. One caricature of early September depicted Poland, Germany, and Great Britain as three sharks in a row, each successively larger. As the German predator shark attempts to swallow a smaller Poland, the even larger shark representing Great Britain in turn is prepared to devour Germany before it can consume Poland.

This favorable climate allowed them to develop a largely sovereign discourse. In most cases, they brought to the public arena a humanist, pluralist, and liberal worldview. Many considered their local discourse an integral part of the universal discourse of modernity. With a regular circulation of perhaps 20,—30, copies of each issue by the interwar years, it was an all-Arab forum as well as an Egyptian monthly.

Confronting Fascism in Egypt: Dictatorship versus Democracy in the 1930s

Although under Christian ownership and operation, many Muslim intellectuals contributed to its monthly discussion of contemporary issues. Unlike the other journals considered in the following discussion, its frequent use of photographs and illustrations gave it a visual as well as textual impact. From an ideological standpoint, al-Hilal expressed the liberal and Westernizing outlook that had come to characterize much of the Egyptian elite by the early twentieth century. Its implicit purpose was to promote a synthesis between modern ideas and practices on the one hand and the indigenous Arab cultural legacy on the other.

A publication owned and edited by Christians in a primarily Muslim environment, its editors followed a cautious and prudent strategy of publishing mainstream and generally moderate opinions on controversial issues, thus appealing to the broadest intellectual common denominator in order to reach the widest readership possible.

Nonetheless, in a journal that was a product of the Westernized elite culture of early twentieth-century Egypt, the views articulated in al-Hilal were usually supportive of liberal values and social modernism.

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In scope and outreach, they resembled al-Hilal.

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