Blogs > HNN > THE TURKS LIKE THE DANES PROTECTED THEIR JEWISH CITIZENS DURING THE TEST OF THE HOLOCAUST

May 4, 2005 10:37 am


THE TURKS LIKE THE DANES PROTECTED THEIR JEWISH CITIZENS DURING THE TEST OF THE HOLOCAUST



A few days ago I had the opportunity to watch a sceening of a fascinating documentary called Desperate Hours which described the systematic efforts made by Turkish envoys to ensure that Nazis do not treat Turkish Jews as Jews but as Turks. Moreover, when the Turkish officials felt they could no longer protect their Jewish citizens in Europe, they arranged a rescue train to take them home - to Turkey.

This little known story is reminiscent of the famous Danish one. Both countries put the rights of citizenship first. Non citizens were not treated as generously by either government. The Danes did not protect German Jewish refugees and Turkey set the Struma adrift causing the death of hundreds including a Polish doctor and his wife my parents (then in Nazi half occupied Rumania) had risked their lives to hide and send forth.

Still, in an era when there were few men, the Turks had more than others. The documentary describes:

- How Turkey recruited some of the intellectual elite being forced out of German life to revamp Turkish sciences, architecture, music, medicine, legal education, and art;

- How Turkish diplomats in France and Rhodes, acting on their own without instructions from Ankara, rescued Jews of Turkish origin and even when their citizenship was in doubt;

- How the Yishuv valiantly and daringly used Turkey as a base for illegal immigration to Palestine and the rescue of as many Jews as possible;

- How Monsignor Roncalli (who later became Pope John XXIII), then the Apostolic Delegate in Istanbul, worked with delegates of the Yishuv to get information of the fate of Jews and to rescue the few who could be rescued; and

- How the Brand Mission - the attempt in 1944 to trade one million Jews for 10,000 trucks, and evolved eventually collapsed.




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