Turkey -- Turkey and the Holocaust: Turkey's Role in Rescuing Turkish and European Jewry from Nazi Persecution, 1933-1945 by Stanford J. Shaw
Zurcher, Erik J., The Middle East Journal
Turkey and the Holocaust: Turkey's Role in Rescuing Turkish and European Jewry from Nazi Persecution, 1933-1945, by Stanford J. Shaw. New York: New York University Press, 1993. xiii + 305 pages. Bibl. to p. 330. Appends. to p. 424. $50.
This new book by Stanford Shaw consists of two separate studies. The larger one (of over 200 pages) is about the role played by the Turkish diplomatic service in saving Turkish Jews in occupied France, and in the puppet state of Vichy. The other is a much smaller one (of about 50 pages) on the attempts by Jewish organizations based in Turkey to save Jews from Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In the first part, titled "Turkey's role in rescuing Jews from the Nazis," Shaw relates how the Turkish government and its representatives in France consistently opposed German and French persecution of Jews with Turkish citizenship. The position of the Turkish diplomats was that since Turkish law did not allow discrimination on the basis of creed or race, such discrimination of its citizens in a foreign country was also unacceptable. In taking up this position, Turkey went further than most countries, which accepted that in German-occupied Europe, and in the German vassal states, the law of the land should prevail. The Turkish diplomats often worked quickly and managed to intervene successfully. If the Jews concerned could be shown to have valid Turkish citizenship papers, they were usually surrendered to the Turkish authorities on condition that they be repatriated to Turkey forthwith.
Although the number of people concerned was small within the context of the holocaust as a whole, or even of the Jews of France, it was still much larger than is generally known. According to Shaw, there lived in France about 10,000 Turkish Jews (over 3,000 in the Paris region alone), most of whom had migrated to France after World War I. There was also a significant group of people of Turkish-Jewish extraction, who had been naturalized as French citizens. When the situation of the Jews in France grew rapidly worse, many of these tried to recover their Turkish nationality. After initial hesitation, the Turkish consuls in France often offered assistance to these people. Shaw does not specify how many people were saved by repatriation to Turkey, but one can infer that the number probably lay somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000.
Shaw has documented his story extensively. Indeed, about half of the text consists of reproduced documents (in translation). While over 90 percent of the text deals with the situation in France, there is a five-page passage at the end on "Turkish assistance to the Jews of Greece under Nazi occupation." Here Shaw's chronology seems to be shaky. He states that "after Turkey joined the Allies ..., German planes bombed the Turkish consulate
" (p. 253). "During the next six months the forty-two Jewish Turks ... were subjected to constant harrassment by the Gestapo" (p. 254), but "finally early in January 1945
the German commander
ordered the remaining Jews to go to Turkey" (p. 254). Since Turkey declared war on Germany only on 23 February 1945 and since the war ended slightly over two months later, Shaw's account would appear to be inaccurate.
The second; part of the book, titled "Istanbul activities in rescuing European Jews from the Nazis," deals with the much better known story of how Jewish (Zionist) organizations based in Istanbul tried to save people by bringing them out of Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe and transferring them to Palestine. While Turkey allowed immigration and settlement of European Jews only "if their employment was needed by the departments and institutions of Turkey" or "if their economic utility was recognised by the authorities" (p. …