TURKEY AND THE HOLOCAUST

By Stanford J. Shaw

Professor of Turkish and Judeo Turkish History

University of California Los Angeles

Turkey remained neutral during most of World War Il because though it entered military alliances with Great Britain and France in 1938, and openly sympathized with them in opposition to Nazi Germany, neither was able to assure it of assistance in case an dpen entry into the war led to a German invasion from Greece. in addition, most Turks vividly remembered the suffering which alI citizens of the Ottoman Empire experienced as a result of the disasters of World War 1, and they did not want to go through that again unless their countrys interests were directly involved. Turkey therefore remained in a perilous neutrality, though suffering considerable economic and financial difficultics as a result of the need to maintain a very large army against the possibility of a German attack from Greece at a time when most of its imports and exports were cut off, until Germanys evident collapse enabled the western Allies to finally give it the guarantees necessary for it to join the war starting on 1 August 1944.

Turkey thus did not remain neutral in World War Il to heip the Jews, but Turkish neutrality in the war put it into a unique position where it was able to provide major assistance to the Jews who were being persecuted, imprisoned and exterminated during the Holocaust. My discussion of this is based largely on examination of the diplomatic records found in the archives of the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara as welI as the Turkish Embassy and Consulate General in Paris, in addition to materials from the German archives that were provided to me by Mr. Serge Klarsfeld of Paris, a major scholar in the field of Holocaust studies.

Turkey provided major assistance to European Jews in two principal ways, by getting its diplomats to intervene on their behalf in Berlin as well as in the various Nazi-occupied countries where it continued to maintain diplomatic representation, and secondly by aliowing Istanbul to be used by the Jewish Agency and by other Jewish organizations set up to assist and rescue East European Jews. In the short time we have today, I will discuss cach of these in as much detail as possible, and then wilI provide more detail in response to specific questions. I have prepared a monograph on this subject entitled, appropriately enough, Turkey and the Holocaust, which I hope wili be out some time later this year, which will provide considerably more information, including English translations of many of the more important documents emanating from the Turkish, French and German as welt as other archives.

First of alI because it was neutral, Turkey was able ta maintain diplomatic representation in Germany as welt as in alt the Nazi-occupied countries. And its diplomats and consuls used their positions to intervene on behalf of Turkish Jews resident in those countries. In Francce, where we have most information, this work was carried out by the Turkish Embassy to Paris, which of course was located at Vichy, as well as the Turkish consulates at Paris and Marseilles, the latter transferred ta Grenoble after Germany occupied much of southern France following Italy's withdrawal from the war tate in 1943. The Turkish diplomats who were most involved in this work, and who went to great lengths to protect Turkish Jews, often at the risk of their own lives, were at the Paris consulate Consul-Generals Cevdet Dülger from 1939 1942 and Fikret Şefik Ozdoğancı from 1942 until 1945, and Vice Consul Namık Kemal Yolga throughout the war. Ambassador Yolga later bacame Secretary General of the Turkish Foreign Service, and is a healthy and alert 80 year old now living in retirement in Ankara. At Marseilles, later moved ta Grenoble, there were Consul Generals Bedi'i Arbel from 1940 until 1943 and Mehmed Fuad Carım from June 1943 until 1945 and Vice Consul Necdet Kent throughout the war.

These diplomats intervened in various ways ta assist Turkish Jews during the war. First and foremast they kept their Turkish citizenship up to date by registering them and informing the authorities that they were Turkish citizens whenever it was necessary ta assist them against Nazi and Vichy persecution. This was not as easy as it appears. There were about ten thousand Turkish Jews living in France at the start of the war, and about an equal number living elsewhere in Europe at the same time. Some of them had left Turkey as long before as 1921, in the company of the French army that evacuated the country as the result of the Franklin-Bouillon Agreement by which France abandoned its alliance with Britain against the Turkish War for independence and began to assist the Turks to drive the British and others out of the country. They left not because they opposed the Turkish War for Independence-most Turkish Jews supported Turkish integrity, as they had supported Ottoman integrity against the nationalist revolts that took place during the nineteenth century. They left because they were afraid that despite the French withdrawal, the Turks would be unable to win the war against both the British and the Greeks, and that as a result most of western Turkey would be occupied by Greece, which had a tong history of persecuting and massacring Jews, ever since the Greek War for lndependence at the start of the nineteenth century. Most recently the Greeks had burned down the Jewish quarter in Salonica in 1917, and when the city was being rebuilt had refused to allow the Jews to return, instead turning what was left of their houses and land over ta Greek refugees from Anatolia. Many Turkish Jews wanted nothing to do with Greece, and so they went ta France atong with the French army. Other Turkish Jews went to France during the 1920's during the early years of the Turkish Republic, when the future seemed very uncertain as Atatürk was just beginning ta put his reforms into place in the new Turkish Republic, and when residence in France seemed to offer far more comfort and prosperity. By 1940 many of these Turkish Jews in France had married French Jews, had children and even grandchildren who were French citizens, had in fact taken up French citizenship themselves. Some had retained their Turkish citizenship by registering with the Turkish consulates at least once every five years, but others had neglected this, and had as a result lost their Turkish citizenship by terms of a Turkish law passed in 1935 which provided that Turks resident abroad had to register or lose their citizenship. This situatian did not seem important to most Turkish Jews in France because for most af them it seemed far better anyway ta be a French Jew than a Turkish Jew. However when the Nazis came and began persecuting French Jews, and when Turkish diplomats began intervening to exempt Turkish Jews from the anti Jewish laws, these Turkish Jews who had lost their Turkish citizenship suddenly found it was far better to be a Turkish Jew than a French Jew, and they applied in large numbers to have their Turkish citizenship restored. This took time, however, since each application had ta be referred back to Ankara, and in the meantime these Turkish Jews were subjected to increasingly severe persecution unless they could produce Turkish papers. In response to this situation, the Turkish diplomats therefore did two things. Sometimes they provided false papers. They gave Certificates af Turkish Citizenship to Turkish Jews who were in imminent danger of being shipped off to forced labor, or to a cancentration camp, or who were being threatened with eviction from their houses, apartments or shops, or alternately they provided  papers which stated that these persons were 'irregular Turkish citizens, (gayri muntazam vatandaş), whose papers were being regularized in Ankara, but who in the meantime had to be considered and treated as Turkish citizens, with alI the protections invoived. I have looked through the dossiers of alI these people, which still are kept in the archives of the Turkish Consulate General in Paris. The paper work was immense, but somehow the Turkish diplomats who were involved, and in particular consuls Namık Kemal Yolga in Paris and Necdet Kent in Marseilles, worked tremendously hard in order to handle all these cases and to protect those Jews who needed protection by giving thern papers when they needed them most.

Yolga describes how this was done:

A matter which took up a great deal of our time was the situation of our 'irregular' (gayri muntazam vatandaş) feİlow citizens, the term which we applied to those who were unable to secure the Certificates of citizenship (vatandaşlık ilmühaberi) which we provided to those Turkish citizens who regularly registered at the Consulate General while living for long periods of time in France. The area of France which the Paris Consulate General was responsible for included the immediate area of Paris and vicinity, where most of the Turks in France were located. When the occupation authorities began persecuting Jews in France, the regular' Turkish citizens stormed into the Consulate General, at first crowding into the Chancery on the second floor, then filling the staircases which led up from the entrance hall, with the latecorners backing onto the sidewalk along Boulevard Haussmann, as can be seen in the photographs. Initially I would stand on the staircase Landings, later on a chair at the building entrance, giving them information about the procedures that they had to follow and asking them to bring all the documents which they could find which verified their Turkish citizenship. I remernber that on a few occasions the only documents some of them could bring were receipts for taxes paid in Ottoman times. We then gave them documents of 'attestation,' which stated that they had applied to the Consulate General to regularize their citizenship situation and that these requests had been sent to Ankara, They were able to use these documents like Certificates cf Citizenship which, I believe, were accepted for registration with the police. This was our normal procedure  for our 'irregular' fellow citizens.1

The Turkish consuls at times went to the Concentration Camps or actually onto the trains shipping Jews to Auschwitz and the other death camps to deliver passports and other papers proving that they were Turkish citizens in order to get thern released. Ambassador Necdet Kent, then Vice Consul at Marseilles, describes how he intervened to rescue Turkish Jews who were being shipped off to the East for extermination:

One evening, a Turkish Jew from Izmir named Sidi lscan, who worked at the Consulate as clerk and translator, (he has also passed away, may God give him rest) came to my hause in a state af cansiderable excitement. He told me that the Gerrnans had gathered up abaut eighty Jews and had taken them to the railroad station with the intention of loading them onto animal wagons for shipment to Germany: He could hardly hold back his tears. Without stopping ta express my grief, I immediately tried to calm him and then took the fastest vehicle available to the Saint Charles railroad station in Marseilles. The scene there was unbelievable. I came ta animal wagons which were fiiled with people who were sobbing and groaning. Sarrow and anger drove everything else from my mind. The most striking memory I have of that night is a sign I saw on one of the wagons, a phrase which I cannot erase from my mind: 'Enough fodder for twenty large animals or five hundred people should be loaded on this wagon.' Within each wagon there were as many as eighty people piled on top af one another. When the Gestapo officer in charge of the train station heard that I was there, he came to me and with a very cross manner asked me what I was looking for. With as much courtesy as  I could force myself to sommon, I told him that these peaple were Turkish citizens, that their arrest had been a mistake, and that is should be remedied at once by their release. The Gestapo officer said that he was carrying out his orders, and that these people were not Turks but were just Jews. Seeing that I would get nowhere if my requests were not carried aut at once, by making threats which could not be implemented, I returned to Sidi Iscan and said, 'Came on, lets board the train ourselves,' and pushing aside the German soldier who tried ta block my way, I boarded one of the wagons with Sidi Iscan beside me. This time it was the turn of the Gestapo officer to cry and even plead. I couldn't listen to anything he said, and amidst the crying giances of the Gestapo officer, the train began to move. Since it was a long time ago, I cannot remember too well, but I remember that the train came ta a stop when we came either to Arles or Nimes. A number of German offlcers ciimbed onto the car and immediately come to my side. I received them very coldly. I did not even greet thern. They told me that there had been a mistake, the train had left after I had boarded, the persons responsible would be punished, as soon as I Ieft the train I could return Marseilles with a car that would be assigned to me. I told them it was not a mistake, that more than eighty Turkish citizens had been loaded onto this animal wagon because they were Jews, that as a citizen of a nation as well as the representative of a government which felt that religious beliefs could not cause such treatment, ther could be no question of my leaving them alone, and that was why I was there. The officers said they would correct whatever mistakes had been made and asked if all those in the wagon were Turkish citizens.

All the people around me, women, men, and children, stood petrified while they watched this game being played for their lives. In the face of my refusal to compromise, and as a result of an order received by the Nazi officers, we all descended from the train. After a time the Germans left us alone. I will never forget what followed. The people who has been saved threw their arms around our necks and shook our hands, with expressions of gratitude in thier eyes. After sending them all on thier way to their homes, without even glancing at the Mercedes-Benz which the Nazis had provided for us, Sidi Iscan and I rented an automobile which ran on wood and returned Marseilles. Ihave rarely experienced in my life the internal peace which i felt as Ientered my bed towards morning of that day. Ihave recieved letters from time to time over the years from many of my fellow travelers on the short train ride of that day. Today who knows how many of them are still in good health and how many have left us. I remember the all affectionately, even those who may no longer remember me...2 

The Turkish consuls also were constantly applying to the German and French authorities to exempt Turkish Jews from anti-Jewish laws introduced by the German occupying authorities and in imitation, sometimes even more severe, by the Vichy government of unoccupied France. The Turkish claims for exemption were always based on the same principle, quoted over and over again. To quote but two examples:

First of all, on 2 November 1940 the Turkish Consulate General in Paris sent the following note to the German Embassy:

To the Embassy of Germany:

The Cansulate General of Turkey at Paris, basing itself on the fact that the Turkish Constitutianal Law makes no distinction between its citizens regardless af the religion to which they belong, has the honon of asking the German Embassy to give instructions to the competent department that the decision that has begun to affect certain merchants of Turkish nationality, because of the regulation of 18 October 1940, be reconsidered. 3

The German repties generally accepted the Turkish argument, as for example, that of 28 February 1941:

Despite the general regulations..., the German Embassy is ready to support individual requests for exemptions of Jews by the Turkish Consulate General when they have Turkish nationaiity.4

The French government of unoccupied France based at Vichy in many ways was more devious and difficult. After a law introduced by the Vichy government on 16 June 1941 requiring alI Jews in unoccupied France, including Turkish citizens, to register themselves and their property, with the threat of their being sent ta concentration camps for refusal to da so, the Turkish Ambassador ta Paris (Vichy) stated ta the French Foreign Ministry:

The Embassy of Turkey has the honor of informing the Ministry af Foreign Affairs that is Govermnent, having been informed of the text of law no. 2,333 of 2 June 1941 which, under menace af penal sanctions, orders the inscription of Jews on a special register along with a declaration which they must make regarding their properties, feels that the measures which it dictates are also applicable to Turkish citizens af Jewish origin established in France. Turkey itseif establishes no discriminatian among its citizens according to race, religion or anything else and therefore feels with uncase such discrimination imposed by the French government on those of its citizens who are established in France, so that the Turkish gavernment can only reserve entirely its rights in what concerns those of the latter who are of the Jewish race.5

The French government at Vichy in response insisted that a Jew was a Jew regardless af his nationality, as in the note from the French Foreign Ministry to the Turkish Embassy at Vichy on 8 August 1941:

The Ministry has the honor of informing the (Turkish) Embassy that in establishing thernselves in France, the individuals in question have implicitly agreed to submit themselves to the legislatian of the country in which they are guests. This pninciple has sufficient force that the meaures regarding people of the Hebrew race apply to all Jews regardless, both those who are of French allegiances as well as those who are nationals of foreign countries.6

The United States Embassy at Vichy advised American citizens in France to accept this argument on the grounds that it did not discriminate among Jews7, but Turkey absolutely refused to agree on the grounds that it violated the treaties signed between Turkey and  France according to which the nationals of Turkey were to enjoy the same civil rights in France that French citizens enjoyed in Turkey, and also discriminated among Turkish citizens of different religions. To quote the Turkish reply to this message, dated 9 September 1941:

While it is natural enough for foreigners to accept the laws of a country in which they live, in accordance with the strenuously expressed view of the French Foreign Minister that a foreigner who has settied in a country can be assumed ta have accepted the attachment of his state and future to that country's laws, your answer must be that we reserve our rghts in regard to a law which discriminates among Turkish citizens of different religions.8

The Turkish consulates in Paris and Marseilles therefore regularly protested against laws issued both by the Nazi occupying authorities and the Vichy government, laws which required those who were unemployed to join forced labor gangs; which prevented Jews from having telephones or radios in their houses; which requied that Jewish businesses be Aryanized by being turned over to non Jewish administrators or sold to Aryans; which caused the arrest of Jews on the most minor sort of pretexts, with their apartments and businesses turned over to French administrators or sealed, with their contents appropriated, and the like. In these cases the Turkish consuls wrote official letters and made personal contacts with the German Ambassador in Paris Otto Abetz, with French and German police officials, concentration camp commanders, S.S. and Gestapo officers and the iike, and though there was a good deal of staliing, ultimateiy they received the answer that if they could document that the Jews in question were in fact Turkish citizens, they would be released, under the condition that they be repatriated to Turkey as rapidly as possible. At times the Turkish consuls actuaily went to the concentration camps-most of the Jews in France were sent to the concentration camp at Drancy, in the outskirts of Paris, from which they were sent on to Auschwitz for extermination after a month or two. As a matter of interest, the Drancy prison camp was in fact a large apartment development on the outskirts of Paris which was transformed into a prison by the French police. After the war it was returned to its original purpose, and still remains an apartment complex under the name La Muette.

Both consuls Namık Kemal Yolga and Necdet Kent have described experiences when they boarded the trains taking Jews from Drancy to Auschwitz and iiterally refused to leave until the Germans released the Turkish Jews who were on board.

I might add here that the situation of Turkish Jews in the Drancy camp and other concentration camps was not easy, because they were scorned and persecuted, not only by the Germans and the French police that guarded the camps, but also by the French Jews, who somehow felt superior to the foreign Jews, and who used their numbers in the camp and domination of the Jewish camp bureaucracy to arrange that when the Germans called for a thousand Jews a week to be shipped East, that most of these were foreign Jews. i have put together an account of the situation at Drancy written by people who were there: 

There were there Frenchmen, Poles, Turks and the ilke. I was chief of the room, and I never succeeded in being able ta place myself between the yiddishists and the hispano-turcs, who constantly intrigued for a few more bits of bread. They lived by nationality, by groups, by compatriots, Each looked after only his own interests and not those of his neighbor....

The internees dep/ored that there was little solidarity among thern. The most striking manifestation of this seemed ta be the frequent discussions which opposed some to others, in particular French and foreign Jews. The French Jews reproached the foreigners for being the cause of their misfortunes, and the latter complained about France. Perhaps it is necessary to lay the responsibility at the door of the French Jews, many of whom came to the camp saying that they were superior Jews and that they would be released be fare the others. But one must recognize that their bitterness was justifled, particularly when they were war veterans who had performed their duty for their country and who could not understand how they could be treated differently than their fellow citizens....

The French and foreign Jews interned in the camp formed two hostile groups: the French Jews affirmed that their being there was the fault of the foreigners and they hoped for a special treatment by the authorities which never came... 

The French Jews believed that they would be freed soon, and they did not want to be seen in solidarity with the foreigners..

The French Jew believed that it was because of the former that he was in the camp, he spoke of the foreign Jew with disdain...

Their deception brought even more bitterness when they saw that the Germans made no distinction between Jews and Jews..

The foreign Jews in turn reproached the French Jews for the attitude of France. This led to interminable discussions that ended in tumult and dispute....9

When Turkish Jews were ordered to join French and other foreign Jews in forced labor gangs, the Turkish government advised them not to report and sent protests to the French government which usualiy led to  the Turkish Jews being exempted. To quote a report from Turkish  Ambassador Behiç Erkin (Vichy) ta Ankara dated 15 December 1942:

I have wired the French Foreign Ministry by telegram asking that Turkish Jewish subjects not be included in the decision recently publised in the newspapers by the Prefecture of Marseilles that all foreign Jews who entered France since December 1933 and who are without work or in need be gathered in foreign worker groupe ... 10

At the same time Erkin sent the following unstructions to the Turkish Consul Generai in Marseilles, Bedii Arbel:

Jewish citizens whose papers are in order cannot be subjected to forced labor, and if such situations arise, it is natural that we should provide them with protection. The prefects of police should be reminded of the relevant instructions and it is necessary to intervene with the competent authorities when necessary.11

Turkish diplomats in France also spent a good deal of the time organizing train caravans to take Turkish Jews back to Turkey. This actually was encouraged by the Vichy government and by the French authorities in German occupied France as the oniy way to make sure that Turkish Jews would not be subjected to the anti Jewish laws applied to French Jews, because the Nazis were increasingly unhappy about the exemptions. To quote a French Foreign Ministry note to the Turkish Embassy at Vichy on 13 January 1943, after the French had finaliy accepted the Turkish argument that it was illegal for them to discriminate among Turkish citizens of different religions:

To avaid the appiication of these measures to Turkish citizens, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be disposed ta look favorably on the return of the interested parties to their countries at origin.12

In mid 1943 the Nazi occupying authorities, inspired by Adoip Eichmann, finaliy issued an uitimatum to Turkey and to the other neutral countries that they would have to repatriate all their Jewish citizens by May 1944, and after that all those who remained would be treated just like French Jews. Most of the neutral countries agreed to this right away and evacuated their Jews in time. Turkey was unable to do so because with the Mediterranean closed to shipping, the onoy way to send their Jews back was by train, and whioe the Nazis issued group visas for the Jews being evacuated, the various semi independent countries along the road of the train were not that anxious to help Jews escape. The worst of these were Croatia, Serbia, and Bulgaria, which caused all sorts of difficuities. But finaily the Turkish diplomats were able ta organize some four train caravans during 1943 and eight more caravans in 1944 which altogether transported some 2,000 Jews back to Turkey. Other Turkish Jews were helped to flee from occupied France and Vichy France, where they were subjected to constant persecutian, to the areas af southern France under Italian occupation, where they were treated much better, until Mussolini fell and Italy was occupied by the Germans in the middie of 1943, at which time the Jews who had taken refuge there were largeiy exterminated. Other Turkish Jews in France were helped ta flee across the Pyrannees into Spain, where they were giyen refuge, or across the Mediterranean to North Africa, where they were interned but not persecuted, except in Algeria, where the French colons were even more anti-Semitic than were the Germans. They abolished the Cremieux law af 1879 which had made Jews equal French citizens, and herded Jews into concentratian camps, at times deporting them to Germany for extermination.

In 1944 when the Vichy government, which at times was even more anti-Semitic than the Nazis who occupied Paris and the rest pf France,was thinking of deporting alI 10,000 Jews living in its territory to the East for extermination, Turkish Foreign Minister Numan Menemencioğlu intervened in Vichy, stating that such an act would be considered unfriendly by Turkey and would cause a major diplomatic incident, convincing Vichy to abandon the plan and saving these Jews as well from almost certain death.

I have not been able to find the original correspondence on this matter either in the Turkish or French archives. However the matter is well documented. First of all, the American Ambassador at Ankara, Laurence Steinhart, wrote the head of the Jewish Agency office in Istanbul Chaim Barlas on February. 9, 1944:

It has been a great satisfaction to me personally to have been in a position to have intervened with at least same degree of success on behalf former Turkish citizens in France af Jewish origin. As I explained to you yesterday, while the Vichy Government has as yet given no cormmitment to the Turkish Governrnent, there is every evidence that the intervention of the Turkish authorities has caused the Vichy authorities to at least postpone if not altogether abandon their apparent intention to exile these unfortunates to almost death by turning them over to the Nazi authorities.13

This is confirmed in the memoirs of Steinhart's German counterpart, the well known Franz von Papen, who however emphasized his role in the affair:

I learned through one of the German emigré professars that the Secretary of the Jewish Agency had asked me to intervene in the matter of the threatened departation to camps in Poland of 10,000 Jews living in Southern France. Most of them were farmer Turkish citizens of Levantine origin. I promised my help and discussed the matter with M. Menemencioğlu. There was no legal basis to warrant any official action on his part, but he authorized me ta inform Hitler that the deportation of these former Turkish citizens would cause a sensatian in Turkey and endanger friendly relations between the two countries. This demarche succeeded in quashing the whole affair.14

Finally, one of Barlas's associates at the Jewish Agency office in Istanbul Dr. Chaim Pazner, stated to the Second Yad Vashem International Historical Conference on Rescue Attempts during the Holocaus, held in Jerusalem in April 1974:

In December 1943, Chaim Barlas notifled me from Istanbul that he had received a cable from Isaac Wiessman, representative of the World Jewish Congress in Lisbon, that appraximately ten thousand Jews who were Turkish citizens, but had been living in France for years and had neglected to register and renew their Turkish citizenship with the Turkish representation in France, were in danger of being deported to the death camps. Weismann requested that Barlas contact the competent Turkish authorities and attempt to save the above mentioned Jews. Upon receiving the telegram, Barlas immediately turned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara, submitted a detalled memorandum an the subject, and requested urgent action by the Turkish legation in Paris. Upon being notified of the above, I promptly contacted Marc Jarblum, who was working in Geneva at the time, since the case invalved Jews who lived in France. Jarblum immediately contacted his co-workers in France. We later received word from Istanbul and Paris that, with the exception of several score, these ten thousand Jews were sayed from extermination 15

Speaking of the Jewish Agency, we must mention sornething of what Turkey did to help East European Jews flee from persecution in countries such as Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria. Right from the start of the war, Turkey permitted the Jewish Agency to maintain a rescue otfice at Tepebasi in Istanbul under the direction of Chaim Barlas, one of the Agencys leading officials. in addition, other Jewish organizations in Palestine sent their representatives that set up shop in Istanbul. Many were sent by kibbutzim that wanted to rescue their members who were being subjected to increasing persecution. First of alI they had to Iearn what has going on. For this purpose they sent their own agents from Istanbul to these countries to gather information. They used the Turkish post office to send letters to these countries and to receive responses. They sent packages of clothing and food to help out when needed. In alI of these activities the Turkish Ministry of Finance provided them with the hard currency needed to meet their expenses. They organized train caravans and steamship trips to carry out as many refugees as could leave. In this they were vigorousiy opposed by the British, who feared correctly that most of the refugees would go on to Palestine. Turkey as a matter of fact made this a condition. it could not handle large nurnbers of refugees-people were already starving as a result of wartime shortages. There was considerably more suffering in Turkey than in Great Britain and the United States, which also refused ta accept large numbers of Jewish refugees. But Turkey did allow the Jewish Agency and the other organizations to bring these people through the country on their way to Palestine, sending them illegally in small boats from southern Turkey the British refused to allow them to go to Palestine officially. And when the British were successful in preventing some of these refugees going to Palestine, the Turkish governrnent did allow them to remain in Turkey far beyond the Iimits of their transit visas, in many cases right until the end of the war. 

I might add here in passing that while the Vatican did very Iittle to help the Jews being persecuted in Europe, this was not the case with the Vatican's represernative in Istanbul from 1935 until 1944, Monseigneur Angela Roncalli, who later becarne Pope John XXIII. Roncalli was a very unusual person. When he first came ta Turkey even before the war he taught his parishioners, including many Greeks and Armenians, that they should follow the precepts of Christian charity and love in dealing with Turks; that they should forget the hatred and bigotries of the past and work together with the Turks to build a new and modern Republic. Roncalli learned Turkish himself, and recited the Christmas mass in Turkish at times in Istanbul, greatly pleasing the Turkish people and populace, who had become increasingly disgusted with the insistence of Christians living in Turkey to continue using Greek, Italian, French or Armenian in preference to Turkish, unlike the Jews who had emphasized the use of Turkish instead of French and Ladino since the mid 1930's. During the war Roncalli went much further than this. He got the Sisters of Sion order of nuns to use their own private network to help the Jewish Agency pass communications, clothing and food to Jews in Hungary in particular. Other Vatican couriers going from Istanbul to Eastern Europe did the same thing as the result of Roncalli's orders. He event got them to send false Certificates of Conversion to Hungarian Jews to save them from the Nazis. A remarkable person indeed.

In conclusion, I would like to speak briefly about Turkey's role in helping the Jews of Greece during the war. Just as was the case in the areas of southern France occupied by the Italians, so also in Greece, during the time it was under ltalian domination early in the war, Greek Jews did reasonably well. Even after German troops entered Greece to help the Italians, the Italian troops protected Greek Jews from the Germans. It was only after Italy fell out of the war and the Germans took over during the summer of 1943 that the Jews were subjected to increasing persecution and to transportation to Auschwitz. In many ways once Germans took over the situation of Jews in Greece was worse than anywhere else in Europe, because while many Frenchmen and Dutchmen and Germans and the like helped Jews in many ways to escape the persecutian, at times concealing them for months and years on end, or taking Jews into their families as Christians, the Greeks did none of this due to their long history of pervasive and virulent anti Semitism. The only Greeks who in any way helped Jews were the partisans fighting against the Nazis, who did assist Jewish groups who were spiriting Jews out of Greece, either across the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean to Turkey or Palestine, or by Iand across the Maritza river into Turkey. The Turkish consuls in Greece, at Athens, Salonica, Gümülcine and Midilli as well as Consul Selahattin Ulkümen at Rhodes provided the same sort of help that the Turkish cansuls did in France, alsa organizing caravans to carry Jews to safety in Turkey and intervening with the Germans ta exempt Turkish Jews frorn persecutian and exterminatian. The most outstanding example of this came with the case of Selahattin Ulkümen in Rhodes, who got the Nazis to spare alI the Turkish Jews on the island as well as their relatives and friends, and who as a result was imprisoned by the Nazis after his cansulate was bombed and his pregnant wife kiiled by the Germans. The Turkish guards generally allowed Jews coming across the border on foot or swimming across the Maritza to enter Turkey even though most of thern had no papers at alI. Camps were set up for these refugees near Edirne, and ultimately they were allowed ta pass on to Istanbul and, for most of them, by small boot from southern Turkey to Palestine.

Thus despite constant pressure from the Nazis, who wanted Turkey to return all the Jews who had fied there to refuge, and from the British, who wanted Turkey to refuse to admit the refugees, or to return them if they had already arrived in the country, and in any case not ta allow them to pass on to Palestine, Turkey steadfastly refused these demands and continued to assist European Jewry escape from the Hliocaust throughout World War Il and in most cases to go on to Palestine.

Of course while six million Jews were being exterrninated by the Nazis, the rescue of some three thousand Turkish Jews from France, and even of some 100,000 Jews trom Eastern Europe appears ta be relatively insignificant in comparison. But it was very significant to the people who were rescued, and above alI it showed that, as had been the case for more than five hundred years, Turks and Jews worked together and helped each other in a time of great crisis.

 

1) Namık Kemal Yonga to Stanford J. Shaw, 5 July 1991, translated by Stanford J. Shaw. see appendix 3 of S.J.Shaw, Turkey and Holocaust, for the complete statement
2) Statement of retired Ambrassador Necdet Kent to Quincentennial Foundation, Istanbul, translated by Professor Stanford J. Shaw. The complete translated statement can be found as Appendix 4., in S.J.Shaw, Turkey and the Holocaust 
3) Turkish Consulate General (Paris) to German Embassy (Paris) no. 605, 28 December 1940. Archives of the Turkish Embassy (Paris), file 6127.
4) German Embassy (Paris) to Turkish Consulate General (Paris) no. 1334, 28 February 1941. Archives of the Turkish Embassy (Paris), file 6127.
5) Turkish Embassy to Paris (Vich to French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Vichy), no. 924/6127, 31 July 1941. Archives of the Turkish Embassy (Paris), Dossier 6127 no.339 H.T. 13/11-8-41
6) Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Vichy) to Turkish Embassy (Vichy) no. 15722, Vichy, 8 August 1941. Archives of Turkish Embassy (Paris), no. 269/6 339 H.T. 13, Dossier 61 27/296/6.
7) Maynard Barnes, First Secretary of the American Embassy, to Turkish consul General (Paris), 17 October 1940. Archives of Turkish Embassy (Paris), file 6127.
8) Turkish Embassy to Paris (Vichy) to French Foreign Ministry, 9 September 1941. Archives of Turkish Embassy (Paris) file 6127
9) Maurice Rajsfus, Drancy; Un camp de concentration tres ordinaitre, 1941-1944 (Paris. 1991) pp72-75, 226-227.
10) Turkish Embassy to Paris (Vichy) to Turkish Foreign Ministry no. 1667-1054-6127, 15 December 1942 Archives of Turkish Foreign Ministry (Ankara) and Turkish Embassy (Paris).
11) Turkish Ambassador to Paris (Vichy) to Turkish Consul General (Marseilles), no. 44-17, 27 January 1944. Archives of the Turkish Embassy (Paris), no. 27/1/4417/169.
12) French Ministry ot Foreign Affairs (Vichy) to Turkish Embassy to Paris (Vichy) no. 101, 13 January 1943. Archives of Turkish Embassy (Paris) and Turkish Foreign Ministry (Ankara).
13) Laurence Steinhardt to Charles Barlas, Ankara Palace Hotel, 9 February 1944, Quoted in Charles Barlas, Ha Atsala Iyimet a seci, (Tel Aviv, 1975), supplement 8. Laurence Steinhardt archives, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
14) Franz von Papen, Memoirs(London, 1952), p. 522.
15) Rescue Attempts During the Holocaust: Proceedings of the Second Yad Vashem international Historical Conference, Jerusalem, April 8-11, 1974 (Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 1977), p. 649.

 

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