The article by Zeyno Baran and Onur Sazak should be properly read as a confession as it details the
outburst of anti-Semitism in Turkey over the past several years, although it is intended to mask the
real face of Turkey. Anti-Semitism in fact has a history in Turkey as can be seen by Rifat N. Bali in
his book, “The Varlik Vergisi Affair” which documents the hideous treatment of the Jewish, Greek, and
Armenian communities in Turkey during the Second World War. Mr. Bali not only reproduces anti-
Semetic illustrations and posters inside the book which resemble propaganda posters within the Third Reich, but reprdoced additional evidence affirming the racist nature of the Kemalist State.
Among the documents reprinted by Mr. Bali is a letter sent to the State Department by the American
Jewish Committee in 1947 which strongly protested the treatment not only of Jews, but mistreatment
of Greeks and Armenians as well. The effort by Ms. Baran and Mr. Sazak to whitewash Turkey’s record
is bound to fail considering that the authoritarian and racist nature of the Kemalist State is being exposed.
The Republic of Turkey was founded over the corpses of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Christians who
were systematically slaughtered under the direction of Mustafa Kemal Pasha and his associates upon
their “victory” in Asia Minor.
The present Turkish government is a State sponsor of terrorism, a fact that can be affirmed for official
support given to groups such as the now defunct “Hizbullah”, who were responsible for the slaughter
of sixty three Kurds who were discovered in a mass grave in 2000. In addition, the Turkish security forces
have supported the infamous Grey Wolves who in 1996 with the active support of then Foreign Minister
Tansu Ciller slaughtered several Greek Cypriot demonstrators. Since 1993, there have been six attempts
to assasinate his holiness Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. In July 2007, Turkish Army
officers were arrested for conspiring to murder the Ecumenical Pariarch and the Patriarch of the Armenian
Apostolic Church in Constantinople.
The Turkish treatment of non-Muslim and non-Turkish populations is appalling, and the American public
is being done a disservice through the distortions and propaganda emanating from Turkish apologists over
several decades. Anti-Semitism in Turkey is despicable and should be condemned by all decent
people. In addition, the civilized world should also recognize the injustices that have been perpetrated
against the Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Assyrian, and Kurdish populations in Turkey. Sanctions long
ago should have been imposed on Turkey over the ethnic cleansing perpetrated against its Christian
populations, and over the external aggression directed against the peaceful and democratic Republic of
The Weekly Standard
How a Turkish diplomat saved 20,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
by Zeyno Baran & Onur Sazak
02/16/2009, Volume 014, Issue 21
Turkey’s reaction to the recent Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has scared many of us who believed that anti-Semitism could never take root in our country. The mass protests outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, the defacing of a synagogue in Izmir, the anti-Semitic graffiti and newspaper articles have raised a frightening prospect. It is tragic that a country that had been the savior of so many Jews–first during the Spanish Inquisition and later during World War II–has been transformed into one whose Jewish minority lives in fear. This eruption has been building. For several years this decade, for instance, Hitler’s Mein Kampf was a bestseller in Turkey. Such facts make all the more important the appearance in 2007 of The Ambassador, Emir Kivircik’s biography of his grandfather, Behic Erkin, the courageous Turkish diplomat who saved 20,000 Jews in France from the Holocaust. Too few have heard of his gallantry or his righteous actions during one of humanity’s darkest times.
Behic Erkin fought in both World War I and the Turkish war of independence. He was the Ottoman army’s expert on railroads, and his logistical gifts proved critical during World War I, earning him five medals from the German government. The Iron Cross First Class was awarded to him personally by the German commander Liman von Sanders, and it would prove instrumental in Erkin’s later effort to save Jewish lives.
Erkin was a close friend of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, who entrusted him with the transportation of troops
and ammunition to the front lines during the war of independence. Atatürk’s confidence in Erkin was complete. “If you agree to transport our troops to the battlefront, I assure you I will win this war,” the Turkish leader said to Erkin. After the formation of the republic, Erkin served in parliament, representing Istanbul, and later as minister of transportation and development. He was appointed Turkey’s ambassador to France on August 1, 1939–a month before Nazi Germany declared war on Poland. From this perch, Erkin witnessed the complete collapse of the Allies on the continent. Paris fell on June 15, 1940. In July, Marshall Philippe Pétain declared himself president of what became known as the Vichy republic and pledged his government’s collaboration with the Germans on all issues, including the fate of his fellow Jewish citizens. (The Turkish embassy moved to Vichy, though Erkin kept a consulate open in Paris.) Early on, Erkin sensed that something was not quite right. A census conducted solely among the Jews living in France in July 1941 troubled him deeply. He recognized it as part of a broad campaign by the Vichy government to confiscate Jewish-owned properties and businesses.
He determined to oppose the subjugation of the Turkish Jews living in France. On July 31, 1941, the Turkish embassy asked the Vichy government to exempt those Jews who were Turkish citizens from anti-Semitic legislation:
The Republic of Turkey does not discriminate among its citizens on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or other elements. Moreover, the Republic of Turkey is concerned about the laws by which the French government is forcing our citizens to abide. Therefore, we hereby inform [the French authorities] that we reserve all of our rights with regard to our Jewish citizens.