Writing at the Times of Israel, Jeffrey Herf explains why Matthias Küntzel’s Germany and Iran: From the Aryan Axis to the Nuclear Threshold should be on your must-read list this summer. You can purchase a copy in our online store. Save 20% through the end of June by using the coupon code TELOS1968.
In Germany and Iran Küntzel is one of those German intellectuals who do what they can to see that the worst does not happen. He argues that for the last century there has been a special relationship between Germany and Iran from the Kaiser Reich during World War I through the “Aryan Axis” under the Nazis in World War II and then to the economic and political ties under the Shah during the Cold War. These connections continued in attenuated form after 1979 when Ruhollah Khomeini seized the 1979 revolution and installed an Islamic Republic in Tehran. Küntzel is one of those German intellectuals of the post-Hitler era, from Karl Bracher in the 1960s and 1970s to Richard Herzinger in recent years, who take the ideas of extremists very seriously. They look into the heart of darkness that was the Nazi regime and conclude that murderous threats to the Jews can happen again elsewhere in different cultural contexts. Today, Herzinger and others, write against the current of our era of euphemism regarding Islamism and Islamist Iran that finds advocates in Washington but also in Berlin.
Küntzel reminds us that the young Ruhollah Khomeini found inspiration from Hassan al-Banna, the founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and from the Brotherhood’s leading ideologue Sayyid Qutb. One of al-Banna’s contributions to world culture was the statement “You love life and we [in the Muslim Brotherhood] love death!” Küntzel recalls a Khomeini speech of 1963. “Why,” Khomeini asked, “does SAVAK [the Shah’s political police] say that we shall not speak of the Shah and Israel? Does SAVAK mean that the Shah is an Israeli? Does SAVAK consider the Shah to be a Jew? Shall I declare you, Mr. Shah, to be a heathen so that you are chased out of this country?”
His discussion of The Islamic State, a collection of lectures Khomeini delivered in 1970, documents the Supreme Leader’s vicious hatred of the Jews and of Israel, hatreds that were part of his opposition to the Shah. As was the case with Islamists such as Haj Amin al-Husseini and Sayyid Qutb before him, Khomeini believed that hatred of the Jews was well founded in the Koran. The Islamic State, a widely read text after 1979 in Iran, was “full of anti-semitic invective.” He wrote that “it is the Jews who were the first to begin with anti-Islamic propaganda and ideological conspiracies. And that continues, as you see, to the present day…the Jews and their foreign accomplices are fundamentally hostile to Islam.”