Popular Articles

Historically, Turkish people have been raised with no idea about the plight of Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

In January of 2011 the first officially sanctioned Holocaust memorial in Turkey was held at Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul; in 1986, 22 Jews were murdered there by Palestinian terrorists aligned with Abu Nidal (Photo: jewishrefugees.blogspot.com)

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

It would be too optimistic to say that the Turkish people has an understanding about the Holocaust. This has never been an important subject to be studied and understood in Turkey. Thus it has always been misinterpreted and usually been used as a pivot to antisemitic rhetoric empowered by various conspiracy theories.

The general opinion about the Holocaust has been defined by a vague approach on the realities caused by the Nazi movement. The official historical account does not include this period of time, perhaps because of the fact that Turkey has not been involved in the Second World War.

To give a simple example: The history curriculum at high school level ends in 1938, the year marking the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. To go beyond that date might mean to embark in a series of endless debates that would lead to undesired judgements about the aftermath of the Atatürk period. Thus, a couple of lines at the very deep end of the history textbook has been judged enough for that topic, till today !

Therefore, the average Turkish person has been raised with no idea about the happenings during WWII and the formation of the new world order after that episode, meaning the Cold War, where Turkey has always been one of the main objects. 

That was the case till recent years, when books in Turkish, that went through the atrocities committed by the Nazi ideology and further, started to appear more and more. It has to be admitted however that, neither the impact of these books nor the many movies launched, have been enough for the task of unveiling the meaning of the Holocaust.

One can say that the first official encounter of Turkey with the Holocaust studies has been the international convention held in Stockholm, from the 27th to the 29th of January 2000, under the auspices of then the Prime Minister of Sweden, Göran Persson. Turkey was among the 46 governments represented in that gathering, with a delegation headed by the Ministry of State, Şükrü Sina Gürel. Present were also Daniel Navaro from the Jewish Community of Turkey and Shalom, the community’s weekly newspaper.

Obviously, the positive impact of the Oslo accords on the Israeli – Turkish relations and the decade long lobbying activities of the “Quincentennial Foundation of Turkish Jews” (found to celebrate the 500th year of the admission of the Sepharadic Jews to the Ottoman Empire) helped the Turkish Government, then headed by Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, to come to the decision to attend the said convention in Stockholm.

“The Holocaust ( Shoah ) fundamentally challenged the foundations of civilisation. The unprecedented character of the Holocaust will always hold universal meaning.”

The Article 1 of the Stockholm Convention confirmed the unique character of the Holocaust. “The magnitude of the Holocaust, planned and carried out by the Nazis, must be forever seared in our collective memory…”  

All articles, stressed the importance of research and education, putting a special emphasis on ethnic cleansing, antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and the Holocaust denial. The outcome of the convention gave Turkey, the only Islamic (though secular) country attending the meeting, a new perspective. This perspective was enriched by the 9/11 attacks that promoted a strong feeling of Islamophobia, not only in the US, but in Europe as well. Actual racism disguised into Islamophobia, gave Turkey an enhanced “raison d’étre” in the task she was about to board.

That’s why Turkey willingly signed the UN resolution dated November 1, 2005… Starting from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the resolution number 60/7 , “reaffirms that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice…”

On that occasion, the 27th of January, the very date that the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in 1945, had been accepted as the annual “International Day of Commemoration” in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Get thej.ca a Pro Israel Voice by Email. Never miss a top story that effects you, your family & your community

It would be relevant to state that the first half of 2005 witnessed many bilateral talks between Turkey and Israel : In January Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gül ( later to become the President of the Republic ), in March Justice Minister and the government spokesman Cemil Çiçek ( for the inauguration of the Yad Vashem Memorial ) and then later in May, Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdoğan visited the Jewish State.

Obviously, the booming political and commercial relations between the two important countries of the Middle East, would not only pave the way to Turkey in signing the UN resolution, but also would enhance her role as an acceptable intermediary for Israel, to settle the hostilities with Syria and Lebanon, then at the remote control of Damascus. Though the clashes between Israel and Hezbollah seen during this period created some problems, it was far from being a determinant on the relations.

All these made the Holocaust more and more visible at the academia. Scholars started to work on the Nazi ideology and the atrocities during the III. Reich. Seminars were exchanged, books were published… That 6 million Jews were exterminated by Hitler and his staff; that many German Jewish professors expelled by the regime were invited to Turkey to build up universities ; that Turkish ambassadors in Europe helped Jews from Turkey to flee from persecution, were interesting chapters to be discussed.

On May 1, 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said his government views antisemitism as a crime against humanity. (Photo: mfa.gov.il)

Turkey joining the IHRA in 2008 as an observer is also an important step to be noted. As the only Muslim country at that time, this obviously was an important decision taken by Prime Minister Erdoğan government. A delegation headed by an ambassador was representing Turkey at the IHRA conventions. Scholars and representatives of the Jewish community in Turkey also were part of the delegation.

Regular commemorations organised under the auspices of the Turkish Foreign Ministry and with the contribution of the Jewish Community are being held as from 2011. However, these activities usually remain behind closed doors… Attendance is usually limited to state representatives, local governors and mayors, academicians, students, journalists and members of the Jewish community. Extremely formal content always gives the impression of a game that should be played with no fail, but also with no result, or perhaps better said, no real aim.

To say that the Holocaust and its outcome are known by the public in general, is still quite impossible. The negation of the Holocaust, as a result of a complete blindness and lack of interest exists in Turkey, and serves as a tool on antisemitic discourse. That should be treated however as a separate article, to better give its actual reasons, extent and manifestation.

Marsel Russo was born in Istanbul and was raised in a secular Jewish family. He holds a Chemistry degree and an MBA. His deep interest in the Jewish history of the 20th century, as well as other topics, has appeared since 2005 in Shalom, the weekly newspaper of the Jewish community of Turkey.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

Click an icon above to share, email, or save this article

Read More

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

Breaking News

Recent

Features

News

Current Events

Opinions

Politics

Religion

Culture

Memoriam and Obituaries

PodcastS

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Subscribe Now

Receive the latest in community & international Jewish news direct to your inbox

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

About Us

Advertise with us

contact 

© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved

Previous
Next