Wartime ambassador’s actions focus of debate

Historians in the News

The heroism of a Muslim Turkish ambassador who saved Jewish lives in Na­zi-occupied France was the subject of a sharp but friendly debate between a Jew­ish researcher and Turkey’s con­sul gen­eral in Toronto.

The encounter, which took place recently at Temple Sinai Congregation du­ring Holocaust Education Week, pitted Ar­nold Reisman against Levent Bilgen.

Reisman, the author of An Ambass­ador and a Mensch: The Story of a Turkish Diplomat in Vichy France, claimed that Behic Erkin’s decision to rescue some 3,000 Jews of Turkish ori­gin was personal and altruistic, but at variance with official Turkish policy.

“It’s my position, in all friendship and respect, that there was not a policy by the Turkish government to help Jews,” said Reisman, a professional engineer who survived the Holocaust in Poland and immigrated to the United States after World War II....

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