In the wake of Turkish leader Erdogan’s insulting Israel for its nation state law, it is worth recalling some history.
Turkey pretends that it has always been tolerant to Jews, welcoming those fleeing from Spain in 1492. But its record id not quite as good as it pretends.
From Yekta Uzunoglu, written earlier this year:
The world seems to have woken up after the events of the last five years and is asking what the real secularity of Turkey is like.
Nearly all of the “analysts” from Europe, but also from a part of the United States, unanimously attribute the “current” situation in Turkey, connected with the Turkish-Islamic ideology in relation to other kinds of religion, to Erdogan, which is a fatal mistake stemming from lack of knowledge of modern Turkish history. On top of that the ignorance is also caused by more than a half of a century of massive propaganda of the West regarding Turkey, but exclusively for the sake of the Turkish membership in Western political and military institutions.
It is impossible to believe that European and US experts really do not know much about the uncompromising and often inhumane attitude of Turkey towards their minorities of different confessions, which has been practiced since the establishing the Turkish “republic” up to the present. To understand the current Erdogan’s policy aimed against the transatlantic civilization, it is sufficient to have look at the modern history of the country and their discriminatory policy of persecution against non-Islamic, non-Turkish minorities.
So let’s take a short look at the modern history of “modern secular Turkey” and first of all the fate of the Jews in Turkey.
It will not be just one short article which cannot embrace all of the atrocities the Jews were exposed to in the “secular, democratic” Turkey, But I can assure you that you will not regret that you have read it.
The Period of Atatürk, chronologically:
May 10, 1934
The main ideologist of Turkish Islamists in Turkey of those days, dominated demonstratively by one party, one nation, one language, one religion and one leader, Cevat Rifat Atilhan. With the aim of attracting greater favour of Nazi Germany, he distributed the Hitlerian Crosses to all students of the University of Istanbul, he passed them out himself, together with his followers, and ordered all of the students to wear them. You should not forget that the University of Istanbul was the most important Turkish university of those days.
May 22, 1934
Some of the Jewish intellectuals were too naive. They wrote an official application addressed to the Turkish government asking to stop the hateful campaign against Turkish Jews, run by the pro-governmental or even governmental magazine “The National Revolution”.
May 25, 1934
The Jewish community in Turkey, in despair and fear of the coming pogroms, approached the Prime Minister Ismet Inönü himself and to the Minister of Interior Affairs Sükrü Kaya and appealed for protection provided by state authorities, against the attacks by crowds, goaded by mysterious forces… The appeal was never answered.
June 14, 1934
The Turkish government responded in a special way, by approving a shameful fascist law aimed especially against the Jews and their properties.
The law begins with a quotation: This law has been approved to make sure that one language is spoken in the country, there is one thought, one and identical feeling and consciousness, especially for the Islamic homeland, and therefore:
a) The areas where Turkish culture represents a minority are nationalized
b) All of the areas and regions, where representatives of Turkish culture could be relocated, are nationalized
c) All of the buildings, facilities, including houses and factories belonging to those who are not Mohammedan, are nationalized. They will serve for our health, culture, politics, army and civil guard.
Section 11 of the same law states:
“Those who do not speak Turkish as their mother tongue have no right to set up new neighbourhoods, new villages, new workplaces, artistic groups or societies, new schools, and they have no right to cede their trade, their professions or companies to their descendants, relatives or people of the same origin.”
June 21, 1934
The Turkish Government issued the Surname Act
All minorities living in Turkey were obliged to accept the Turkish surnames they were assigned etc. They were the Jews, Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Roma, simply all of them. A new wave of forcing minorities to become Turks began and it continues until now. Just exceptionally, a member of such a minority succeeds in making the Turkish authorities to approve the change to the original surname. Well, in recent years some of them may have succeeded in claiming the original surnames back but it happened only due to bribes, but the ban is still in force. The order was not related just to peoples’ names but also to the names of mountains, rocks, streams, animals, plants or even flowers.
Immediately, after the law was passed, a lot of Jews dwelling in the European part of Turkey, i.e. near the borders with Greece and Bulgary, were relocated to the steppes of Central Anatolia, under the pretext of intelligence activities.
June 21, 1934
In the City of Dardanelles, where nearly 1500 Jews lived at that time, attacks were started against Jewish shops. “Unofficial” guards were standing in front of the shops and did not let citizens enter. They placed notices on Jewish house doors, with a threatening appeal saying that the people must leave the city immediately to avoid being murdered.
June 25, 1934
All of the Jews of Dardanelles and the city of Gelibol left the cities and they were allowed to take just personal belongings with them… On the same day, “purely by coincidence”, the city was visited by the Turkish President Atatürk, the Father of all Turks, accompanied by the Iranian Shah Riza Pehlevi… they came as conquerors. And they were greeted by applause and cheering by the fanaticized crowds…
One of the witnesses described the arrival of “the Father of the Turkish Nation” Atatürk, just on the fatal day when the Jewish residents were forced to leave the city, saying:
“… the crowd cheered at Atatürk’s arrival, shouting “May he live forever!” and Atatürk’s car stopped among the cheering crowds, he got out of the car, more self-confident than ever, his appearing put the crowd to the top of ecstasy. Atatürk enjoyed the feeling of being admired, as the person giving wealth to his pears, he walked among them, stopped for a while, and at that moment a citizen broke away and ran towards him. The guards tried to stop him but Atatürk, believing that the man is one of his admirers, ordered the guards to let him come and they had to obey.
The disillusioned citizen knelt down on the ground and raised both arms towards heaven, saying in despair,
“-My Pasha, for the God’s life, are they driving us out of our own city? Where are we to go? What shall we do, oh my God?”
Atatürk understood immediately who the man was and what he expected from him, nevertheless he asked him ironically and in a mocking way, “-Who are you?”
“-My Holy Pasha, I am a local Jew from Dardanelles, Avram Palto.”
“-And who is driving you out? The Government? The Laws? The Police? The Gendarmerie? Go ahead, tell me”!
The Jewish citizen of Dardanelles, who was to lose all his property on that day and to leave his own city, replied in despair,
“No, my Almighty Pasha, the people are driving us away!”
And Atatürk started laughing and then said with a strict look,
“Well, if they are the people, nothing can be done, if the people wished, they could drive away even myself,” and he returned to his car where there was his guest, the Shah of Iran.
June 29, 1934
The US Ambassador Robert P. Skinner reported to his Minister’s office in Washington saying, “all of the Jewish residents of Dardanelles, Silivri and the European parts of Turkey have been expelled to places outside their region, the Turkish Government keeps giving no respond to our inquiries regarding the exile, Turkey is probably also ready to send troops to the area.
The Jews were expelled from the Cities of Dardanelles and Silivri, on June 25, 1934. On June 28 the expulsion continued. They were being expelled from cities in the European part of Turkey, having high Jewish population, the cities Edirne, Keşan, Uzunköprü, Babaeski, Lüleburgaz and Kırıklareli (they are Turkish names for towns that used to be ancient in the past).
They had to leave some cities within 24 hours, somewhere within two days, and, exceptionally, in the case of Uzunkprü, they had three days available… They were leaving with personal belongings only and they left behind everything that many generations had built up, hoping that their lives, their existence would be tolerated in exchange for the superhuman devoted work…
The pogrom was described by Hayim Begar in his book of memories like this:
„Every time I walked home from school I was attacked and beaten up so much that I was bleeding. They greeted me, ‘Salam al, Jew!’ I greeted them in their manner, but they continued beating me and ’a box with nails’ used to be added…”
June 2, 1934
The hysterical crowd in the city of Edirne where the Jews used to live for centuries, attacked the Jewish shops, workshops, doctors’ offices and they beat up everyone they met. The ones who were rich and owned cars set for a journey immediately, in the direction to Istanbul, those who were less well-off walked towards the Greek or Bulgarian borders… And what about the ones who were not strong or courageous enough to leave the city? The bakeries stopped selling bread to them, they could not buy food even if they had money, they could not get water, and some of them tried to contact the authorities after all, but they were driven away and got a frightful advice to leave the city like the other had done…
The story of Rabi Kiriklareli is one of the scary, monstrous events that came down to our times.
The crowd, goaded by the state, motivated by robbing “wealthy Jews”, attacked all of the Jewish shops, including many doctors’ offices, and then even the house of the local Rabbi Moshe Finza. They stripped him naked, shaved him with a razor, tied him to a rope and walked with him around the square through the crazy crowd, whoever could beat him. In the meantime, a part of the state-controlled bandits raped his wife and daughter and stole everything the Rabbi had at home and they left him somewhere on the ground when he could not walk after all the beating. And they caught some Jewish girls in the streets and cut off their fingers to get gold rings. In the evening all of the 400 Jews that were still left there were sent to the station. They found out that there was a train with 16 carriages waiting for them since the morning to deport them to Istanbul. And the city was finally “clean”… Let me add the information that trains for Istanbul used to have only four carriages at that time but on that day there were 16 carriages and the train was even waiting from morning till late evening at the station…
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