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Berlin Mosque survives the Second World War
The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement has cause to remember Berlin at the end of the Second World War and express gratitude to Almighty Allah that its Mosque situated in Berlin survived the terrible, wholesale destruction of the German Capital during and, especially, towards the end of the war.
In the archives of the organs of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, some reports of that period are to be found, from which we quote below.
In The Light, its English organ, dated 1 September 1945, a news item is reproduced from a newspaper, Dawn, New Delhi, of 14 August 1945, under the heading:
BERLIN MOSQUE HAS SURVIVED WAR
It reads as follows:
Berlin, August 12 — The Berlin Mosque, which Muslim missionaries from India built in 1927, has survived the war though it has suffered considerable damage and its dome has been knocked in, writes Reuter’s Berlin correspondent.
The Mosque, which stands in Briener Strasse in the Wilmersdorf part of Berlin now in the British zone, has its minaret intact from where the Muezzin calls the faithful to prayers.
Six zealous women have worked five weeks repairing the damage to make the Mosque fit again for congregational prayers. Amina Mosler, a middle-aged Muslim German woman, who looks after the Mosque these days, said: “Although the Mosque suffered a good deal of minor damage from blast during bombings it remained in a reasonably good condition until the end of April  when street battles were fought. SS men dug in the Mosque garden and Russians were attacking from the Wilmersdorf cemetery. The Mosque was hit by handy shells. When the fighting ceased there were 14 dead SS men lying in the Mosque.”
Amina described how they had been working on repairs for the past five weeks and said:
“One of our difficulties is money as our bank account has been blocked by Russian authorities, and so far we have not been able to clear it.
“During the war we had as many as 6000 Muslims in our community but many went away or went home towards the end, and there are only a few hundred now. We meet to pray on Saturday evening and Sunday, as Friday is a working day, and owing to transport and other difficulties people find it hard to come. We have arranged a room in our house for prayer until such time as the Mosque has been fully repaired.
“When fighting ceased around the Mosque we hung out a huge red flag with the words ‘Britain Indian property’ on it and we have not been molested in any way. Our printing shop, where we printed religious books, has been almost entirey destroyed.”
Speaking of German Muslims Amina said: “We lost nearly a dozen of our best young men during the war, most of them dying on the Russian front. A particularly keen Moslem Amin Wolff, who was killed in Italy, wrote a brochure on faith not long before he died.”
She did not see any Indian prisoners of war but added: “I understand that some were imprisoned near our other Mosque at Schwatzinoen* near Heidelberg, and that they were able to worship there. I saw some Muslims from Turkestan and other areas who had been in the Russian army and had been captured by the Germans and then joined the German army. I tried to persuade those I saw not to fight for the Nazis and to show them the unpleasant side of Nazism, but I am afraid it was not much good in most cases as they were carried away by what they thought was the ideal.”
— The Light, 1 September 1945, p. 4
*Schwetzingen is meant.
Upon receipt of the above news, Maulana Muhammad Ali, Head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, wrote an article in the Movement’s Urdu journal, Paigham Sulh, under the heading Congratulations to the Jama‘at (the word Jama‘at refers to the Lahore Ahmadyya community). He wrote:
Berlin has been destroyed. It met with such destruction that makes the destruction of London, Warsaw and Stalingrad pale into insignificance. Fire from the skies rained down upon it day and night, and thousands of tons of bombs were dropped on it, and this went on for two or three years. In the end a nation bent on revenge attacked it, a nation that had suffered untold loss, and whose cities, industry and agriculture had been utterly destroyed by German forces, and it reduced the buildings of the city to rubble. Those who saw it said that neither London nor Warsaw nor yet Stalingrad was destroyed; if any place was destroyed it was Berlin. But a correspondent of Reuter from this ruined city informs us today that the Berlin Mosque is still standing.
A poor Jama‘at built a house of God in this city. The Jama‘at did not do it for purposes of show and display. Who was going to go there to see what we had built? This Jama‘at had donated its money towards building the House of God and prayed humbly: ‘Our Lord, accept this little effort from us’. I remember that scene when there was a handful of women present at our annual gathering and the appeal came from our missionary in Berlin that there were no funds left to erect the minarets. I immediately appealed to this small group of women and Allah opened their hearts so much so that many thousands of Rupees were raised by a few women of a small Jama‘at. So today I congratulate my Jama‘at, that Allah the Most High has shown the manifest sign that He has accepted their sacrifice, and today Reuter’s correspondent has informed the world of what we had no power to do: that God saved His house in the ruined city.…
Today God has shown the world that whatever He wishes to protect, He can keep it safe even in the raging fire.… He saved it in the burning fire as His Hand is with this Jama‘at and with the man who set this Jama‘at on this task.
My friends, come and fall in prostration before God that He showed such a magnificent sign for us sinners and unworthy people, a sign of His power, and a sign that He exists. This is nothing but His mercy. We were not worthy of it, but His recognition of effort has no bounds, and thus He valued so greatly just a small effort by us.
— Translated from Paigham Sulh, 22 August 1945, p. 4
The following item is written in The Light by Dr. S.M. Abdullah, who at the time of writing was the General Secretary at the Centre of the Movement in Lahore. He had served as Imam of the Berlin Mosque during the 1930s, leaving shortly before war broke out in 1939. After the war, he was again placed in charge of the Berlin mission, while also serving as Imam at the Woking Mosque in England.
Berlin Mosque Intact
It is nothing less than a miracle that the Berlin Mosque, which was built by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam, Lahore, in the year 1927 has survived the ravages of the war. Berlin has been destroyed, ruined and bombed in a manner unprecedented in the history of the world. That the Berlin Mosque where actual bombing, shelling and fighting has taken place should have escaped destruction is a clear sign of the hand of the Almighty God working behind the scene. It also shows the purity and sincerity of the purpose with which the handful members of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement are working for the noble and sublime cause of the propagation of Islam in Europe. It also shows the enthusiasm and devotion to Islam with which these new converts are imbibed. Six zealous women have worked five weeks repairing the damage to make the mosque fit again for congregational prayers and that at a time when there were no funds available and when they themselves stood in need of every possible help to keep soul and body together. This shows their ardent zeal and devoutness for Islam, the religion they profess.
Let such our Muslim brethren as oppose our humble efforts and services to the cause of Islam pause and ponder over their attitude. Can they not see the hand of God working with and helping this Movement? Let me assure my brethren in Islam that this Movement which was founded by the Reformer of the present century is bound to succeed as it aims at the establishment of the universal truth of Islam.
Let our brethren in faith come forward and join us in pushing forward the cause of Islam in the world, especially in Europe, which needs it most at the present juncture of world history. Islam as represented and interpreted by the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement is the only panacea for all the existing and prevailing evils of the present-day world.
To the members of the Ahmadiyya Movement, the news of this Providential protection of the Mosque has come as a fresh message of hope and cheer. It has filled them with conviction that this Mosque is destined to play a distinct role in the spiritual reconstruction of Berlin that now lies torn and bleeding, materially as well as spiritually. The German people stand rudely shaken and disillusioned — just the mood of mind to receive the message of universal human equality that Islam is. That is what the Hand of Providence has preserved the Mosque for.
Dr. S. M. Abdullah
Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-i-Islam, Ahmadiyya Buildings, Lahore
— The Light, 18 September 1945, pages 4–5
A little later, two news items were published in The Light in its issue of December 1945 (p. 1) under the headings The Berlin Mosque and Missionary for Berlin. The first mentions some of the damage to the Mosque during “the war that was fought even within its sacred precincts”, it reports that with Berlin being divided into East and West “the Mosque is situated is under the British Army of occupation”, and it ends by saying that the Mosque “gave physical and spiritual shelter to hundreds of prisoners of war from the Allied countries throughout the trying years of the war.” The second states: “The Anjuman is also very anxious that normal activities should be resumed at the Islamic Mission Berlin as soon as possible. For this too it has to look up to the good offices of the British military authorities in occupation of Berlin Dr. Sh. Muhammad Abdullah, M.Sc., Ph.D., missionary in charge who had to quit Berlin ar the outbreak of war is already packing.”
In 1947, the following report appeared under the heading Imam back in Berlin:
Dr. Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah, M.Sc., Ph.D., Imam of the Mosque, Berlin, it will be recalled, had to quit Germany at the outbreak of war. At the termination of war, this Anjuman was anxious that the activities at the Mosque should be resumed as early as possible. Military occupation, food condition and general dislocation of life in that once Naziland, however, made the prospects of reopening the Mosque and its allied missionary activities extremely gloomy. Even in December last, when the Anjuman decided to take the first step in this direction at any cost and sent Dr. Abdullah to England to study conditions from that quarter, the prospects were none too bright either. It was a leap in the dark and it was almost a settled fact that for sometime to come the Imam will have to mark time and keep himself occupied with some sort of missionary work in England.
God, however, comes to the help of those who move in His way. Dr. Abdullah has been afforded every facility to visit Berlin by the authorities of British occupation. Life in Berlin being still in military control, he has been invested with the Honorary rank of a full Colonel which will enable him to enjoy all the facilities associated with that position.
— The Light, 8 February 1947, p. 3
Underneath this is a report headed Berlin Mosque’s S.O.S., which is reproduced below:
Maulana Muhammad Ali, Head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, has issued an appeal for funds for the repair of the Berlin Mosque, which was damaged in the last phase of the war when Nazi resistance took the form of street fighting. When after victory the Allied forces entered Berlin, the Mosque was found littered with the dead bodies of Nazi youth.
According to the estimate received from a Berlin architect the repairs will cost Rs. 92,000, prices and wages having risen four times compared to pre-war rates. The appeal gives two photographs — one showing the Mosque as it originally stood, the other in its present damaged condition. Should this S.O.S. from this House of God bestir the heart of any son of Islam and he would like to see this sole beacon of Light Divine in the dark heart of Christian Europe restored to its original dignity, he may send his contribution to the Financial Secretary, Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam, Lahore.