The Muslims Of Auschwitz: Tales of Tragedy And Heroism

Parman Romonov and Kaim Abdijew were Soviet prisoners of war captured by the Nazis. Their dates of birth and death are recorded, but nothing else – they are among a small number of Muslims who met their end at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp, and little is known about them. Some seventy-five years ago, the huge Auschwitz camp in south-west Poland was liberated from the Germans by the Soviet Red Army. Among those starved, gassed and slaughtered in this and other Nazi camps were Muslims from North Africa and central Asia.
The deaths and the many others here were “crimes against humanity”, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, told world leaders as they gathered to mark the anniversary.”That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children,” he said.
Of the 1.3 million people, mostly Jews, who were detained in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex until 1945, 1.1 million never made it out alive. A dearth of records, however, has made it difficult to establish exactly how many of the detained were Muslims. “We know very little because very little documentation survived,” says Pawel Sawicki of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. “But from the shred of information we have, we can find two groups of Muslims among the prisoners. The names look far more linked with the Arabic culture than Russian.”
Some seemed to be Soviet prisoners of war while others were arrested by the Nazis in France, and were from the North African colonies. Some records recovered by the Soviets suggest that 53 of 400,000 registered Auschwitz prisoners were Muslims. The “Death Books” recorded by the Nazis at Auschwitz listed five prisoners as Muslims, but omit records from several months in between 1940 and 1941.
Much of the research on Muslim concentration camp prisoners was conducted by the now deceased German historian Gerhard Hopp, who wrote about it in his 2005 book Germany and the Middle East: 1871-1945. Mr Hopp’s research estimates that at least 1,000 Muslims were detained by the Nazi regime. “Arabs were never among the ‘privileged’ inmates, but they are today among the forgotten victims of the Nazis,” Mr Hopp wrote in 2002.
The subjection of Muslims under the fascist wave of Second World War wasn’t limited to Nazi-occupied territory. In Croatia, a fascist regime established a camp to murder as many as 12,000 Bosnian Muslims, Croats and other suspected opponents. In Russia, hundreds of Tatar Muslim prisoners of war, believed to have been mistaken as being Jewish due to their physical appearance, were executed by the SS in 1941.
Numerous examples of Arab and Muslim rescue efforts during the Holocaust have been recorded. Muslim majority Albania was the only European country to rescue all of its Jews and save more that came through the border. In Tunisia, Si Ali Sakkat, a former mayor of Tunis, sheltered dozens of Jews who had escaped a labour camp.
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