This article explores the policies of Nazi Germany towards the Karaites, a group of Jewish ancestry which emerged during the seventh to the ninth centuries CE, when its followers rejected the mainstream Jewish interpretation of Tanakh. Karaite communities flourished in Persia, Turkey, Egypt, Crimea, and Lithuania. From 1938 to 1944, the Nazi bureaucracy and scholarship examined the question of whether the Karaites were of Jewish origin, practiced Judaism and had to be treated as Jews. Because of its proximity to Judenpolitik and later to the Muslim factor, the subject got drawn into the world of Nazi grand policy and became the instrument of internecine power struggles between various agencies in Berlin. The Muslim factor in this context is construed as German cultivation of a special relationship with the Muslim world with an eye to political dividends in the Middle East and elsewhere. Nazi views of the Karaites’ racial origin and religion played a major role in their policy towards the group. However, as the tides of the war turned against the Germans, various Nazi agencies demonstrated growing flexibility either to re-tailor the Karaites’ racial credentials or to entirely gloss over them in the name of “national interests,” i.e. a euphemism used to disguise Nazi Germany’s overtures to the Muslim world.

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