TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

Matthias Küntzel on the Historical Background of Iranian Antisemitism

Writing at The Tower website, Ben Cohen examines Ali Khamenei’s eliminationist rhetoric toward Israel, as well as the responses of Western politicians in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. Cohen’s article “Global Anti-Semitism Has a New Leader” draws on the historical research recently introduced by Matthias Küntzel in his book Germany and Iran: From the Aryan Axis to the Nuclear Threshold, now available in our online store.

Here is an excerpt from Cohen’s piece:

The echoes of Nazism in Khamenei’s rants are not a coincidence. As the German scholar Matthias Küntzel explains in his fascinating Germany and Iran: From the Aryan Axis to the Nuclear Threshold, a long-standing “Germanophilia” among Iranians presented the Nazis with a ready audience for their propaganda, which stressed the common racial origins of Aryans and the majority population of Iran (“the land of the Aryans”). Its clearest expression took shape in the Persian-language broadcasts of Radio Zeesen, named after the small town south of Berlin where its offices were located.

In addition to the shared Aryanism myth, other core themes revolved around the symbiosis between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. “Every American who comes to the Orient does so on the instructions of the Jews,” Fritz Grobba, Hitler’s ambassador in Iraq—who played a major role in inciting the June 1941 Farhud pogrom against the Jews of Baghdad—told Radio Zeesen’s large audience. “The Jews are pulling the American strings.”

While eyewitness reports of crowds in bazaars, town squares, and coffee houses hunched over wireless sets attest to Radio Zeesen’s popularity, one listener was able to tune in privately, using a trusty, British-made Pye radio. That individual was Ayatollah Khomeini, who returned to the Shi’a holy city of Qom in 1936 at the beginning of his long march to the leadership of the Islamic Republic that emerged from revolutionary turmoil 43 years later.

Khomeini, says Küntzel, was a “connoisseur” of European anti-Semitism whose own writings betray the strong influence of Nazi doctrine on the “Jewish Question.” For example, in his key tract, The Islamic State, Khomeini wrote contemptuously of the “Jews” and their ambition for a “Jewish world state. . . . And since they are liars and determined, I fear that they—God preserve us!—will one day achieve their goal.”

Read the full article at The Tower website.

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