German Propaganda

Some propaganda aimed at Muslim soldiers was orchestrated by the German authorities in an attempt to undermine the Muslims’ allegiance to Britain and the Allies. The propaganda tried to convince Muslims to change sides, or to demoralise them and shake their belief in what they were doing. As the Ottomans were fighting with the Germans, they also alerted soldiers to the fact that they were fighting against fellow Muslims.

There were even rumours spreading among soldiers that the German leader, Kaiser Wilhelm II, had converted to Islam!

The Germans printed leaflets about how accommodating their camps are, and emphasised the notion of how fighting with the Ottomans would be ‘jihad’ against the infidels. German posters portrayed Britain as the true enemy of the Muslims, suggesting that they were using the Indian Army as slaves. By the Second World War, Britain had noticed the danger this posed, so began to depict the Indian Army positively in its own propaganda.

P11_Painting-of-a-german-mosque

Painting of a German Mosque

Halbmondlager

Until recently, the story of Halbmondlager was omitted from British history books. Known in English as the ‘Half Moon Camp’, Halbmondlager was a prisoner of war camp established in eastern Germany to house Muslims.

The Muslim soldiers who were arrested by the Germans were placed here. The detainees, about 5,000, were reportedly treated very well at this camp. They lived in ‘relative luxury’, had access to religious books, were able to fast during Ramadan, and had visits from imams who delivered lectures and sermons. It was at this camp that Germany’s first purpose-built mosque was built, designed to resemble the Dome of the Rock.

Recruitment Poster - image kindly provided by the National Army Museum

British Empire Recruitment Poster – image kindly provided by the National Army Museum

The main intention behind Halbmondlager was to switch the allegiances of the Muslim soldiers from Britain to Germany. The rhetoric in use was one of ‘jihad’ against the infidels. Up to 3,000 of the detainees were indeed recruited into the German Army to fight around the Middle East. As a general operation, though, the camp was not as much of a success as the Germans had hoped it would be.

Sources: Florence Waters, ‘Germany’s Grand WWI Jihad Experiment’, The Telegraph (10 August 2014).