TURKEY AND THE HOLOCAUST: How Turkish diplomats saved Jewish lives

SPECIAL REPORT

by Alan Simons

Five years ago, I had the honour of interviewing and writing about the distinguished American scholar and author Arnold Reisman. Reisman was just putting the finishing touches to his latest book, Shoah: Turkey, the US and the UK. The book, he explained to me, addressed the little known role the Republic of Turkey played in saving Jewish lives before, during, and for three years after WWII.

As we know, unfortunately much has happened during the last five years with respect to Turkey’s congenial relationship with Israel and Jews in general. Nevertheless, there are many in the Turkish secular Muslim community today that still have much in common with the Diaspora. And there continues to be a curiosity as to Turkey’s role in saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

Reisman, a Holocaust survivor, died in 2011 from complications of quadruple bypass surgery. He was 78. He served as a visiting professor in Turkey, Israel, Hawaii and elsewhere. He wrote about 300 articles and 24 books, several about Turkey’s relationships with Jews and one about Turkey’s conflict with Armenia.

Namik Tan, at that time Turkey’s ambassador to the USA  said of him, “Through his remarkable work, Professor Reisman… brought people of diverse backgrounds closer together and enlightened many.”

Bearing in mind the time we Jews are now living in, I thought it appropriate to republish the original article I wrote on Reisman and his book Shoah: Turkey, the US and the UK.

 “An overlooked part of history that will help shift the paradigm . . . “

SEPTEMBER 2, 2009 –  Arnold Reisman is a distinguished American scholar and author. His latest book, Shoah: Turkey, the US and the UK,” due to be published late September by BookSurge and available on Amazon, addresses the little known role that the Republic of Turkey played in saving Jewish lives before, during, and for three years after WWII.

Reisman explains that the job of the historian is to write about history. By reproducing a multitude of archival documents and testimonies, most of which have been unexamined by historians, he articulately sheds light on “an overlooked part of history that will help shift the paradigm which has prevailed for over half a century in the relevant literature.”

He acknowledges that although Turkey facilitated the transport of Jews from Europe to Palestine, they could have done more as a place of refuge and as a transit country. Nevertheless, Reisman says Turkey did more than historians, educators, and the media have reported. In fact, he is emphatic in his argument that Turkey did significantly more than the US and the UK in saving Jewish lives during the Shoah (Holocaust).

In a systematic manner, Reisman sets out to give us documented evidence of how Turkey’s diplomats and consuls in several German occupied countries used their diplomatic status to intervene on behalf of Jews. In addition he explains that, “In spite of veiled threats, Turkey steadfastly refused Nazi pressure to deport its own Jewry to Eastern Europe for extermination,” and at the same time, “continued to assist European Jewry to escape from the Holocaust and in most cases go to Palestine.”

Behiç Erkin

Behiç Erkin

He adds, “While six million Jews were being exterminated by the Nazis, the rescue of some 15,000 Turkish Jews from France, and approximately 20,000 Jews from Eastern Europe might be considered relatively insignificant in comparison. To those who were rescued and their offspring. . .  Turkey’s attitude showed that, as had been the case for more than five centuries, Turks and Jews continued to help each other in times of great crises.”

Reisman informs us that, “France was one of the countries where Turkish diplomats worked to save Jews. About 10,000 of 300,000 Jews living in France at the beginning of World War II were Jews from Turkey. Turkish diplomats serving in France at that time dedicated many of their working hours to Jews. They provided official documents such as citizenship cards and passports to thousands of Jews and in this way they saved their lives.

“Behiç Erkin was the Turkish ambassador to Paris when France was under Nazi occupation. In order to prevent the Nazis from rounding up Jews, he gave them documents saying their property, houses and businesses, belonged to Turks. He saved many lives in this way.”

Necdet Kent

Necdet Kent

And in Marseille, Reisman sites the courage of Necdet Kent, who served as Turkey’s Consul-General from 1941 to 1944.  He tells us that at enormous personal risk, he intervened to save around 80 Jews who had been forced to board a wagon on a train heading for a Nazi concentration camp.

“One day a man came into the consulate and told Kent that Turkish Jews had been rounded up and were being put on the train. Kent went immediately to the train station, boldly approached the German guards and demanded that these Turkish citizens be released. When the guards refused to comply, he got into the wagon with them. A German officer ordered him to get off but Kent refused to leave unless they let his Turkish citizens off as well. Angrily, the officer said no, you can go with them and closed the door. After three hours of extreme cold and filth, the train arrived at the next station.  Obviously realizing a possibly explosive international incident had to be quickly diffused, the German officer who opened the door to the wagon apologized profusely and allowed Kent to leave and take all the people in the wagon with him, never looking at papers, never checking to see if they were Turkish citizens or not.  Kent called his office in Marseille and ordered that vans be sent to pick up all the people and return them to Marseille.”

Reisman also points out that Turkey’s role in saving Jews began long before the start of WWII. He writes:

“In 1933 a select group of scholars from Germany with a record of leading-edge contributions to various scientific disciplines and professions were forced to leave their homeland found refuge in Turkey, helping to transform its university system and the entire infrastructure of the new Turkish state. The invitation extended by Turkey to the persecuted Jewish scholars saved the lives of more than 190 prominent émigrés. Albert Einstein played a role in these invitations when on September 17, 1933, he wrote to Turkish Prime Minister İsmet İnönü (1884–1973). Einstein pleaded with the Turkish Prime Minister to allow ‘forty professors and doctors from Germany to continue their scientific work and medical work in Turkey.’ ”

Selahattin Ülkümen

Selahattin Ülkümen

In 1943, Reisman tells us that Turkey also attempted to help the Jews of Greece. “The Turkish consuls at Athens, Salonica and Gümülcine as well as on the islands of Midilli and Rhodes provided the same sort of assistance that the Turkish consuls did in France.

“They organized boats to carry Jews to safety in Turkey and intervened with Germans to exempt Turkish Jews from persecution and extermination. The most exceptional example is Consul Selahattin Ülkümen in Rhodes. He pressured the Nazis into sparing the lives of the Turkish Jews on the island and was subsequently imprisoned by the Nazis after his consulate was bombed and his pregnant wife killed by the Germans.”

In 1989, Yad Vashem held a ceremony in Israel honouring Selahattin Ülkümen as Righteous Among the Nations from Turkey. 

There’s a Turkish proverb: Bir kahvenin kirk yil hatiri vardir. (A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship). One only wishes that there comes a time over a cup of coffeeShoah:Turkey, the US and the UK will help to extend a hand once again in friendship between all Jews and the Republic of Turkey.

__________________________

Arnold Reisman received his PhD in engineering from UCLA and prior to his death in 2011 was a retired professor of operations research from Case Western Reserve University. As an independent scholar he authored Turkey’s Modernization: Refugees from Nazism and Atatürk’s Vision (Washington, DC: New Academia Publishers, 2006). Two companion books by Reisman, Classical European Music and Opera: The Case of Post-Ottoman Turkey, and Rejection and Acceptance: The Impact of European Culture on Turkey: 1933- 1950, are both available through numerous online sites.

(Photo credits: Behiç Erkin-Facebook; Necdet Kent-Tallarmeniatale; Selahattin Ülkümen-Rodas)

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

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Global bigotry and hatred. It has to stop now!

From the publisher of jewishinfoNews. The following article was originally published by Gatestone Institute and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on April 23, 2014. Based upon the current pro-Hamas and blatant antisemitic riots, as well as the ferocious unbalanced media reporting taking place in many parts of the world, we believe it appropriate to republish Douglas Murray’s article one more time.

Who are the Victims and Who Are the Victimizers?
How Do You Protest if the Protestors are Muslim?

by Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray

One year after the bombs went off at the Boston marathon, Brandeis authorities were so intent on avoiding the issues those bombs had raised, that they would rather point the finger at a critic of the radical ideology than do anything to criticize the ideology. 

Is not the Palestinian leadership a viable negotiating partner with whom peace is just about to be achieved? How do you protest if the protesters are Muslims? Who are the victims and who are the victimizers? After all, “victims” cannot victimize, can they?

When we see a global bigotry and hatred such as this, we should identify it as such and demand, in the name of all that is decent, that it stop.  .

The great Western disease of today — there could be quite a competition for that one — is probably denial. Denial now runs right through the Western way of looking at the world. It is just unfortunate for us that it does not run through the rest of the world in the same way.

Take three recent examples, one in America, one in Britain and one absolutely everywhere.

One year ago, two young male immigrants to America — to whom America had given absolutely everything — repaid the favor by planting bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Their victims included an eight year old boy. This atrocity was carried out because the young men had absorbed the grievance culture and violent radicalism of a form of Islam, a strain of thinking that has not gone wholly undocumented in recent years.

Yet from the moment the bombs went off, most of the media tried as hard as possible to avoid the subject. After the whiny early stages (“Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American,” as Salon so beautifully put it) there followed the obfuscation. Had the bomber of the Boston Marathon been someone who, say, had once attended a Tea Party rally, every columnist, and wider society, would be asking how such an atrocious ideology could come up from its wake. Intense scrutiny and introspection would be the order of the day.


The wish of Salon.com columnist David Sirota on April 16, 2013.

But when the perpetrators turned out to be the Tsarnaev brothers, attention not only failed to focus on the kind of milieu from which the brothers had sprung, it actively turned away. So much so that, one year later, when Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a noted critic of the ideology the Tsarnaevs had absorbed, was due to speak and be honored just up the road from the finish line, she was disinvited.

The message underlying Hirsi Ali’s mistreatment can hardly be overstated. One year after the bombs went off, Brandeis authorities were so intent on avoiding the issues those bombs had raised that they would rather point the finger at a critic of the radical ideology than do anything to criticize the ideology. As evidence, take Professor Jytte Klausen, author of a sloppily researched book on the Danish cartoons controversy who not only called for Hirsi Ali’s disinviting, but also took the opportunity to smear her as a woman who was supposedly a liar and somehow “anti-immigrant.” Incidentally this is the same Professor Klausen whose book was itself subjected to censorship when Yale University Press refused to publish it — a book about cartoons — with images of the cartoons in it. But onwards.

In Britain, The Independent reported the strange case of Andrew Moffat, a schoolteacher in Birmingham and author of “Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools.” He felt forced to resign after a group of mainly Muslim parents at Chilwell Croft Academy, in Birmingham, said that they were not happy with their children being taught by a gay man because he might make them think being gay was all right. So off goes Mr. Moffat. Some Christian parents had complained as well. If only there had been more of them. Then everyone would know what to do.

But what to do when the main offense comes from Muslim parents? The answer is simple. Give up. If they had been Christian fundamentalists, all might have been fine. There might have been a celebrity campaign against the “militant” Christians, some protests outside the school, and Mr. Moffat could have remained in place and become a defiant hero. But it was Muslims, so instead he had to go. Because how do you protest if the protesters are Muslims? Who are the victims and who are the victimizers? After all, “victims” cannot victimize, can they? Can they?

All this culture of denial in America and Britain is disturbing. But it is small stuff compared to the greatest form of denial. That is the one which now, strangely, finds itself being spearheaded from America, and has, like some super-blockbuster film, gone global. This is the idea, as the Middle East “peace” talks inexplicably fail to come up with a lasting and durable peace, that the radical opinions of the Palestinian leadership may not be a factor. Is not the Palestinian leadership a viable negotiating partner with whom peace is just about to be achieved?

How many people who read their daily papers know what the Palestinian leadership actually says, or does? How many would even have heard of a routine and commonplace event, such as the recent interview with the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s Olympic Committee and Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub?

Interviewed on official Palestinian television, Rajoub said that the Palestinians have nothing to lose, because they “live under a racist and fascist occupation.” Asked by the interviewer if he expected things to get worse, he replied, “Sir, we have nothing to lose. What’s worse? Do you think we are living in Sweden and have something to lose? We are living under a racist and fascist occupation. I’m telling you, if Hitler had come [here], he would have learned from them how to oppress humans and learned from them about concentration camps, extermination camps.”

Sometimes it is in America, sometimes in Britain, but always in the rest of the world whenever it considers Israel. Always it is the same strange response: denial. A denial to admit the realities of what is happening worldwide. A denial to face up to the reality that the Palestinian Authority [PA], meant to be the “partner” for peace, seems incapable of giving up on the culture of violence, death and anti-Semitism which has always been its trademark. A denial in the face of the continuous, daily, over-flowing quantity of evidence that, in 2014, the PA seems no closer than their forebears were in 1948 to recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. “Surely this can’t still be the case, can it?,” people ask. So they ignore the bombs and the murders, such as that outside Hebron last week, and they ignore the incitement and terrorist-praising by the PA. All of which adds up to an outright denial of that responsibility which simple honesty surely demands — that when we see a global bigotry and hatred such as this, we identify it as such and demand, in the name of all that is decent, that it stop.

Douglas Murray, a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, is also director of the Centre for Social Cohesion.

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

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A sombre message from the Jewish community of France

In France, as in Israel, the defence against fanaticism is a necessity.

by Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France 

The following is a translation of the original message, in French, that can be read in its entirety >here<

Roger CukiermanLike many in France, I have family and friends who have on several occasions run into underground shelters. I think of them, as I think of the civilian population of Gaza who have been bombed for several nights. As a child hidden during the Second World War, I do not have selective compassion. And I want to believe that this is also true for the vast majority of French and especially those among us who are Jewish or Muslim.

If the facts are known, it is essential to put them into perspective. The news from the Middle East is once again having serious repercussions in France, [that included] demonstrations and assaults against two synagogues in Paris.

When one takes a step backward, one cannot but be struck by the selective indignation of the people who took to the streets to express their solidarity with the Gazans, but remained silent about the plight of Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans, Christians, Nigerians who are under the yoke of Boko Haram …

When one takes a step backward, one cannot but be struck by the inability of these people to express their support or opposition without hate or violence.

Everyone can, of course, have their opinion and belief about the policies of the Israeli government and even suffer from focusing their attention solely on Israel and obscuring [information about] other countries in the region. Anyone who has set foot in Israel, or read Israeli newspapers, knows that the political debate is everywhere and in Israel, as in France, citizens are critical of their government.

What is at stake in the protests that occurred this past weekend in France, as in the “Day of Wrath” event last January, are not part of the political debate…

Behind the corruption of solidarity, there is hate. This hatred is today against the Jews.It started against synagogues in inconceivable violence, as it evoked [to many] the darkest hours in the history of Europe during the 20th century. And hatred, which today is against the Jews, by tomorrow will be aimed at other groups [living] in our national community.

When one takes a step backward, one cannot but be struck by the rise of fanaticism and extremism. No country is immune.

In Europe, fanaticism killed in Montauban, Toulouse and Brussels. Fanaticism also killed in Oslo and in Utøya, Norway. Fanaticism could have killed elsewhere if the terrorists had not been put out of harm’s way before they acted out.

In Europe, young people are becoming fanatical and sent to the jihad in Syria, Afghanistan, Mali. Those who return to Europe are [time] bombs, bursting with hatred for all those who refuse Sharia violent totalitarism.  They want to deprive us of our freedom…

If fanaticism is universal, it is clear that it has been successful for quite some time in some branches of Islam [especially] among the rich Middle East producers of oil and gas who generously fund murderous folly in mullahs and imams who refuse pluralism, who want to impose their way of life and who are opposed to the right of each individual to decide their lifestyle, sexuality and religion.

Democracy cannot accommodate people who hate and want to destroy those who do not think like them. It must defend itself. It is a necessity, an imperative.

This applies in France, as in Israel. This applies in all countries, including the future Palestine, where individuals’ love of humanism, justice and ethics face the fanatics.

And when these fanatics resort to rain rockets and missiles against civilian populations, one cannot put one’s faith in avant-garde technology… It is necessary and vital to defend ourselves and defend democracy. This is the State of Israel.

The fight against fanaticism, extremism and terrorism is a noble fight. This is not a war of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is even less a war between Israelis and Palestinians, or a war between Jew and Arab. No, this is a fight for the values ​​that are the foundation of our nation: freedom, equality and fraternity. This is the condition of “living together” in a peaceful society.

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

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An open letter to all Muslims

Why do so many of you have such hatred for others? Why do so many of you, after 1,390 CE years since the Battle of Badr, continue to believe you cannot have honour and pride without a sword in your hand? 

by Alan Simons

O

I say this to you with all the sincerity I can muster. I can’t help thinking of the famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction… The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

As a Jew, I continue to shake my head in bewilderment at the reluctance of moderate, hard working and decent Muslims to stand up and be counted against hate, against intolerance, against terrorism, against racism and for good measure while I’m at it, against the vile cesspool of antisemitism.  I ask myself what does it take for you, as Muslims, to vigorously express yourselves openly, as individuals or as a community, against these concerns without losing your dignity or honour? 

Why do many of you find it so much easier to demonstrate against all that is Jewish, yet lack the courage of openly demonstrating against the abhorrent acts of brutality initiated by your fellow Muslims who are slaughtering thousands through sectarian violence, bombings, the kidnapping of women and children and, as we learnt today, ISIS has ordered female genital mutilation for women in Mosul, Syria.

Since this past Monday, an overnight suicide bombing in a Shi’ite district of Baghdad killed 33 people. In Syria, ISIS ordered Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death. Many of them have fled. Mosul’s Christian population before last month’s militant takeover by ISIS was around 5,000, now only 200 are left. In the Gaza Strip, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm yesterday that 20 rockets found hidden in a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip had gone missing. In Libya, at least 12 people have been killed and 60 injured in the Benghazi’s Buatni district. And let us not forget, last week 700 Syrians were killed in two days of conflict and two bombings in Nigeria killed at least 42 people in the latest violence blamed on Boko Haram Islamists.

I ask you, is your fear of being shamed, of having to admit these atrocities are committed by other Muslims so powerful that to openly convey your thoughts to non-Muslims might affect whatever power and influence you personally have in your community?

As the Islamic spiritual scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan so eloquently put it: “Not all Muslims become involved in acts of violence. Yet all might be held culpable. This is because that section of Muslim–in fact, the majority–who are not personally involved, neither disown those members of their community who are engaged in violence, nor even condemn them. In such a case, according to the Islamic Shariah itself, if the involved Muslims are directly responsible, the uninvolved Muslims are also indirectly responsible.”

Let me remind you of what Tarek Fatah, the Pakistani-born Canadian writer and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress has said: “Any nation, any society, any country that is created on the basis of a hatred towards the others, will soon run out of people that it can hate or groups it can decimate and it will devour itself.”

For me, I can tell you proudly, we Jews no longer suffer from what is called a victim mentality.  So, learn from our tragedy. Learn that you can still have honour and respect without the sword. Learn, before your own fanatics devour you, your family and your community.

As you approach Eid al-Fitr be gracious and reach out to non-Muslims. The concepts of your hospitality, charity, spirituality and community can be shared by all, irrespective of one’s religion, race and nationality. During the next few days extend your hand out to non-Muslims by inviting them in to your home for iftar.  According to a hadith, Prophet Muhammed said, “Charity is a proof of faith” and “The best charity is that which is given in Ramadan.” Make it so.

And so it is. Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair! Shalom.