Friday, August 03, 2007

Jews suffered discrimination under Ataturk

In the second of his Front Page articles on the plight of Jews under Turkish rule, Andrew D Bostom focuses on discriminatory measures implemented by Ataturk's government against non-Muslims. The Jews also suffered from Turkey's flirtation with Nazi Germany before and during the Second World War.

"During the summer of 1934 a paroxysm of antisemitic violence took place within this general atmosphere of Turkish Muslim xenophobia. Hatіce Bayraktar summarizes the events which ravaged the Jewish community of Eastern Thrace:

"The persecutions, euphemistically referred to as the “Thracian events” (Trakya Olaylari), started at the end of June 1934 in the district of Çanakkale, a region in northwestern Asia Minor that also included the Gallipoli peninsula and the Dardanelles.[ i.e., in the Çanakkale Province on the southern (Asiatic) coast of the Dardanelles (or Hellespont). Çanakkale, is also a town and seaport in Turkey. Çanakkale Province is the second province (the first one is Istanbul) in Turkey that has lands on two different continents (Europe and Asia).

"Menacing letters were received, Jews were physically beaten and their shops were boycotted. The wave of antisemitic attacks rapidly spread northward and, within a couple of days, almost all of Turkish Thrace was in an uproar. In the small town of Kriklareli, located close to the Bulgarian frontier, that attacks escalated into a pogrom: during the night of July 3—4, the homes of Jewish inhabitants were raided and their properties looted. Thousands of panic-stricken Jews fled to Istanbul. An official statement spoke of 3000 refugess, comprising about a quarter of the 13,000 Jews in Eastern Thrace and the adjacent Anakkale district, though the real number may have been even higher. After a delay of several days the Turkish government finally reacted and issued orders to the local authorities to quell the riots and sent military units to the sites of unrest."

Discriminatory taxation of non-Muslims constituted another black mark against the Ataturk regime:

"When Şevket Adalan took the tax assessment lists for Istanbul to the capital, the Turkish government, while approving our proposed system of classification (Muslims/non-Muslims) set new tax rates for the Greeks, Armenians, and Jews. Instead of being two or three times more, as we suggested, non-Muslim taxes were to be five to ten times the amounts levied on Muslim Turks with corresponding estimated wealth [emphasis added]…What appeared so glaring in the new assessment lists was the difference between the tax rates imposed on Muslim Turks on the one hand and the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish minorities on the other. But the greatest surprise that Adalan brought from Ankara was the order to include private salary earners and peddlers in the Capital Tax. Both my colleagues and I [had] envisaged the Varlik tax as a tax on capital…Such a tax could not have been collected from salary earners who were themselves victims of the inflationary conditions and had already witnessed a dramatic drop in their standard of living. According to instructions from Ankara, we had the power to exempt sections of the salary-earning group from the tax. As a result Adalan and I agreed to exempt all the Muslim Turkish salary earners and concentrate solely on the non-Muslims. Our suggestion met with the approval of Ankara.

This tax discrmination even extended to Turkish Muslims of Jewish ancestry (Donme):

…"On the verbal instructions of Ankara, a new class of taxpayers, the Donme class (D) of Jewish converts to Islam) was instituted, which was taxed at rates double those for Muslims (M). After a thorough examination of the available data some Donme Turks were taken out of the lists and placed in the class of extraordinary taxpayers. At a stroke our system began to be permeated by Hitler’s hysterical racist attitudes.

Turkish alignment with Nazi Germany also meant that Jewish refugees from central Europe were banned from entering Turkey:

Frank Weber has summarized Turkey’s unenviable record of treatment of its small Jewish minority during the years leading up to World War II, following the 1934 pogrom against Thracian Jewry:

"Ataturk… would not permit the immigration into Turkey of central European Jews whose futures were endangered by the rising tide of Hitler’s own antisemitism. In some cases, his government contemplated deporting Jews back to central Europe, even though they had been domiciled in Turkey for years. The Turks never carried out these expulsions, but Inonu, when he came to power, absolutely refused to alter Ataturk’s restrictions on Jewish immigration.

"Even when Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader, promised that each Jewish immigrant would bring a capital of three thousand pounds sterling, the new president would not change his mind. Instead, he allowed the Turkish press to circulate wild rumors about the Jews, who were accused, among other things, of selling olive oil adulterated with machine oil to simple Turkish consumers. Inonu cited Hitler’s antisemitism in support of his own, and announced that one of the goals of his new government would be the elimination of the Jewish middlemen from the Turkish economy.

"World War II flirtation with Nazi Germany included the signing of a Turco-German “friendship and non-aggression pact” on June 18, 1941. At about the same time, the Turkish government began conscripting all Christian and Jewish males between the ages of 18 and 45 into heavy labor battalions (amele tabulart). (Author Alexis) Alexandris notes the hardships incurred, and fears aroused among the minority communities by those discriminatory mobilizations, which were disbanded for unclear reasons by mid-1942: …these men were sent to special camps in Anatolia each containing about 5000 men. There, the men were instructed to engage themselves in non-combative capacities such as road building.

The concentration of all non-Muslim males in such camps aroused great apprehension in minority circles in Istanbul. Their fears were intensified when reports of harsh conditions and high mortality rate reputed to have prevailed in the camps reached Istanbul. On December 8, 1941, however, those men between ages 38 and 45 were allowed to return to their homes. The rest spent another six months before they were eventually released. It is reasonable to assume that the whole operation was a device engineered to get the minorities out of the strategically sensitive area of Istanbul and the Straits. There is also some evidence to suggest that the Turkish government suspected a number of non-Muslims, almost all Armenians, to be involved in “fifth column” activities against Turkey.

"Bernard Wasserstein recounted the horrible fate of 767 Jewish refugees from Romania escaping the Holocaust aboard The Struma—a rotting, 75 year-old yacht whose desperate human cargo was denied refuge by Turkey, when the vessel stalled at Istanbul."


2 comments:

Albert said...

The Septembers of Shiraz:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/05/books/review/05mess.html?_r=1&ref=review&oref=slogin

Albert said...

Part one of link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/05

Part two of link:

/books/review/05mess.html?_r=1&ref=review&oref=slogin