10 August 2008

A German farce in Palestine

It’s amazing what you can find when you are looking for something else. I had been looking for some information on Harold Cole, perhaps the worst British traitor of WWII and I found this – a BBC report on the release of intelligence files regarding German wartime plans for subversion in Palestine,

In 1944 the Germans planned to make existing tensions between Jews and Palestinians a great deal worse and planned. With the support of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (a piece of vermin who was in exile in Berlin and who had been involved in the raising of Muslim SS divisions in Bosnia and Albania) to arm Palestinian villagers and incite them to rise up against the Jews.

A small commando team of two German officers and three Arabs was formed in Berlin in early 1944. Their leader, Colonel Kurt Wieland, an Arabic speaker who knew Palestine, had several meetings with the Mufti and they agreed a plan: drop by parachute, establish a base, gather intelligence and radio it back to Berlin; and recruit and arm Palestinian supporters with Nazi gold.

The plan went very, wrong Before the team flew out, the Mufti's people meddled in Colonel Wieland's careful plans, changing his equipment without telling him. Their first flight was abandoned but when they were on their way, in October 1944, the pilot lost his way and flew too high when they began their jump. They had planned a landing north of Jericho but instead landed south, lost their radio equipment and became separated. Colonel Wieland and his two companions hid in an Arab village, in a cave and a ruined monastery. They found no support for any Arab uprising and were captured a week later. The other two men were never found.

It does not surprise me that the Germans tried to exploit tensions in Palestine but the timing of this intervention would have no affect whatsoever on the outcome of the war. I would have thought that it would have (from a German perspective that is) been far more effective had it taken place earlier (say 1941) when Britain was at its lowest ebb. Germany had already stirred things up in Iraq by supporting a coup by Rashid Ali. The British invasion or Iraq diverted forces that might have been better served in North Africa. Having to deal with an uprising in Palestine at the same time might have led to a British defeat in North Africa and the subsequent loss of oil supplies from Iraq and Iran... On the other hand it could have been the same farce it was in 1944.

Personally I am glad it was as ineffective as german attempts to put spies in Ireland or to raise a British SS formation.


BenefitScroungingScum said...

What a fascinating piece of history! BG

Brian said...

Very interesting post. May I add a few more snippets? Adolf Eichmann visited Palestine in 1937. And don't forget the pro Nazi Nasser (connections with Odessa)and Sadat (gaoled for pro-Nazi links in WW2) in Egypt and how the founders of the Ba'ath Party were inspired by the Nazi Party.
David Pryce-Jones wrote "In Islamic society so far, institutions instead concentrate power in the hands of whoever can seize and hold it." Very similar to the Nazi way of doing things.

CherryPie said...

Very interesting find!

SecondComingOfBast said...

Great story. That would make a good movie, the three men wandering the Palestinian countryside, hiding in first one place and another, trying and failing to win support. Probably the reason they failed was that by that late date the Palestinians could plainly see the writing on the wall.

jams o donnell said...

Benefitscoungingscum, cherie Glad you find this interesting

I knew about Eichmann's visit to Palestine before the war and some of the less savoury links between the Nazis and the Middle East. On the other hand some muslims did go out of their way to help jews during the war. Several are comemorated as righteous among the nations.

At the time it took place Pagan it could not have affected the outcome of the war one jot. Perhaps the palestinians did see the pointlessness of rising then.

Sean Jeating said...

Would be interesting to read the memoirs of the missing two. :)

jmb said...

Interesting serendipitous find.

jams o donnell said...

I'd like to find out more about this Sean. It's my sort of story.

I was delighted to come across it jmb

Bengbeng said...

I humbly offer u an award at my blog .

beakerkin said...


The record of the Mufti is well known. Yet we have created a cartoon version of the history of the area since WWI.

We would not put up with an imbecile claiming that Blacks were happy under Jim Crow. Yet, a naked opportunist like Galloway can claim Jews lived peaceably under Islam. Moreover, claiming oppression was worse elsewhere is not logical.