Alan Simons examines how Republic of Turkey saved Jewish livesHistorians in the News
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 fascilitated 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.”
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.”
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...
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