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What did Hitler want from Central Asia?

The World War II missed the republics of Central Asia with its battles, but affected the economical and human resources. On the wave of demolition of common Soviet past, you can hear here and there more and more opinions stating “that was not our war”. What were Hitler’s true plans in Central Asia?

There is a strong opinion about the thought that the Third Reich planned on creating a puppet country called “The Great Turkestan”.

In the autumn of 1941 to lead the Turkestan Legion which was filled with volunteers out of Soviet captives the Third Reich invited Mustafa Shokay, the ex-leader of the Kokand autonomous region who at that moment was an immigrant in Germany. Shokay quickly understood that the Germans were interested in the Turkestan Legion only as in cannon fodder and refused to cooperate. He was right.

Hash mark of the “Turkestan Legion”

On the 22nd of December, 1941, Hitler signed a decree which says about the creation of Turkestan Legion and on the 27th of December, 1941, Shokay mystically dies in a hospital in Berlin. Another Uzbek immigrant called Vali Kayum was invited by the Germans to lead the Legion. On the 14th of November, 1942, the Turkistan National Committee was formed under his guidance – a puppet organization with a goal to create an ideological base for the legionnaires.

Turkomans-soldiers from Turkestan Legion. Photo belongs to the German state archive.

According to the words of historian Gilyazov (1), Germany promised the legionnaires to create an entity called “The Great Turkistan” under protectorate of Germany itself. Aside from Central Asia, it would include Bashkiria, Volga region, Azerbaijan, Northern Kavkaz and Xinjiang.

One of the soldiers of the Legion, a Kazakh who surrendered to the Soviet army told during interrogation that Vali Kayum visited their unit and spoke to them:

“The Germans are our friends; they will help us to free the Turkistani people from Russian pressure. The German troops are already near Stalingrad and when they take it, they will continue to pursue the liberation of Turkistan. I will be a khan and you will be my soldiers.” (2)

In reality, Hitler had others plans concerning Central Asia, not like the propaganda said.

On the 2nd of April of 1941, seven months before Turkistan Legion was even created, Hitler appointed Rosenberg responsible for event planning on the East. On the same day, Rosenberg presented Hitler a memorandum #1, which aside from others, contained the following suggestions: (3)

G) Russian Central Asia or Russian Turkistan.

We can assume that after the Soviets will lose the war in Europe we can eliminate the Moscow tyranny in Central Asia as well. These lands are populated by various people, mostly Turan or Mongol type which are committed to Magomed. For long years they are in a national-confessional opposition to Soviets and for a long time oppose the Russian tyranny, but couldn’t end it up until now. Doing so now with the help of Germans and thanks to the Soviet recklessness is not such a hard task. These lands are the cotton storage for Russia with yearly yield of 400-500 thousand tons of cottons, according to Bolshevik statistics. Establishment of the Germans in Central Asia would mean a great moral support for Iran and Afghanistan.

After reading memorandum #1, Hitler remarked Rosenberg that he is not willing to garrison the German army into the Central Asian republics of USSR and thus considers the creation of “The Great Turkistan” meaningless. This conversation was logged by State Secretary Kerner.

After that, Rosenberg presented memorandum #2 in which not a single reference Turkistan’s fate was mentioned. This memorandum was approved by Hitler as a plan of USSR territory breakdown; it was later attached to The Nuremberg Trials’ accusatory documents’ list as proof of aggression planning.

Most likely, Hitler wanted to postpone the decision about the fate of Central Asia up until that moment when the victory over USSR would be obvious. Fortunately, it didn’t happen at all.

_ _

(1) Gilyazov I.A. Panturkism, panturanism and Germany // Ethnographical review. 1996. #2. p.98

(2) Sockov L.F. Unknown separatism: on the service of SD and Abwehr – Ripol classic, 2003

(3) Archive IfZ München. Nürnberger Dokumente 1018-PS

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4 Comments »

  • Thank you Christopher, this is thought provoking indeed. The primary source evidence is intriguing. In contrast to the USSR, Nazi Germany was not a multicultural society, so we can only speculate as to Hilter’s plans for the multi-ethnic peoples of Central Asia. Perhaps issues of economics and resources would have been significant for him, for example, access to the regional oil and gas supplies? Do you have any information about the number of Soviet Central Asian Muslims who were sacrificed fighting for the USSR and Stalin against the Nazis? I have always found researching the Soviet Central Asian casualty numbers problematic and difficult to ascertain. I do remember a BBC Radio 4 production in 2011-2012 about the Central Asians and Muslim Bosnians of the Wehrmacht (German Army). In fact the Bosnian Muslims, whilst training in France, were one of the few German Army detachments to rise up against their German officers! There is a story, if true, that it was an ethnic (Muslim) Tatar who is to be seen raising of the Soviet flag over the captured Reichstag (German Building) building of 1945. (Most probably a staged photograph taken by the Soviets.) For newcomers to the subject of the Second World War in Central Asia and how this affected local Central Asian society see the book chapter by Alex Calvo ‘The Second World War in Central Asia: Events, identity, and memory’, in S. Akyildiz and R. Carlson (eds)Social and Cultural Change in Central Asia: The Soviet Legacy, Routledge: London, October 2013.

    Reply

    Schwartz Reply:

    @Sevket Akyildiz, re: casualty figures, see Eisenstein’s comment below. I think the current data that exists is probably affected by how Soviet and later nationalist authorities do the accounting. Perhaps ask C. Peter Chen about his data sources for WW2DB profiles on the Central Asian republics:

    - Kazakhstan = 660k
    - Kyrgyzstan = 120k
    - Tajikistan = 120k
    - Turkmenistan = 100k
    - Uzbekistan = 550k

    Re: the Bosnian mutiny (?), wow, I didn’t know that. What I did know was that Bosnia was the site for Nazi Germany’s propaganda radio station into the Middle East. Was this detachment in France the same “Handzar” recruited by the SS?

    Reply

  • Eisenstein says:

    Thank you for comment, Sevket.
    Actually, statistics about number of Muslims on USSR side is not exist. In official statistics Soviet soldiers were not divided by ethnicity and religion. There is open statistic about casualties of each Central Asian quasi-Soviet republic, but it means all soldiers, who were recruited in these countries.
    And two soldiers, who raised Soviet flag over Reichstag was Egorov (Russian) and Kantaria (Georgian).
    Thank you for info about Alex Calvo book!

    Reply

  • Hi, Christopher, yes, as far as I know these Bosnian Muslims were recruited by the SS! But they rebelled whilst undertaking training and killed their officer in France! I am not sure if the BBC Radio 4 production is still available. Probably not. And thanks for the approximate WW2 causality figures. It was a good idea to insert the photographic evidence too. Interesting!! Clearly the true causality figures are shaped by what the Soviets wanted to reveal, and why. Thank you too, Eisenstein for clarifying the Reichstag flag issue. There are so many little stories about WW2 involving the Soviet Central Asians which form part of the bigger grand narrative to defeat the Nazi’s.

    Reply

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