1930s - 1941
After the First World War, at the time of the Great Depression in Europe, and with the development of infrastructure projects of the country between 1930 and 1941, many young and talented German civilians considered Persia (Iran) as their land of opportunity. Settling all around the cities and in the rural areas, including the territories of pastoral nomads, they eventually established a large expatriate community.
By the late 1930s Germany, through its German civilian expatriates in Persia, had progressively extended its control in many areas, including the economy. They thus established a political bridgehead ready to be put into action if war broke out in the near future (O'Sullivan 2014:16).
After the First World War German strategic interests in Persian raw materials and industrialisation intensified. This should be considered the beginning of German deployment of “regular and covert agents for the gathering of intelligence and the establishment of contacts and networks, in preparation for war, invasion, and occupation” of Persia (Ibid: 14).
Nowadays students of this field find it quite impossible to understand whether the presence of German civilians in Iran between the two wars was an improvised action that happened in a pragmatic way, based on the infrastructure development projects of Reza Shah (1878-1944), the king of Iran (r. 1925-1941); or if indeed it was a carefully crafted project based on pre-coordinated policies designed by the Nazis. However, what we know for certain is that the clear influence of the Nazi Party on German expatriates in Persia created a sense of Nazi ideology and sympathy also among Iranians, especially those working for governmental institutions.
The majority of the German civilian expatriates in Persia came to the country as top-rate scholars, engineers, technicians, architects, and trader-salesmen.
By December 1937, the German expatriate colony of Persia had evolved to the point that Baldur von Schirach (1907-1974), the head of the Hitler Youth Party (Hitlerjugend), planned to visit Persia in order to establish a Nazi youth movement.
German-Iran Relations from 1930 to 1941. © P. Khosronejad.
Railroad construction in Iran between 1937 and 1941. Photographs: Rudolf Girschik
(R36358). Girschik Collection. © P. Khosronejad.
German civilians of Persia (Iran) from 1936 to 1941. © P. Khosronejad.
O'Sullivan, Adrian. (2014). Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran) the Failure of the German Intelligence Services, 1939-45. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dr. Pedram Khosronejad | Adjunct Professor
Religion and Society Research Cluster | Western Sydney University
Fellow | Department of Anthropology | Harvard University