Turkey’s Invitations to Nazi-Persecuted Intellectuals Circa 1933: A Bibliographic Essay on History’s Blind Spot
By Arnold Reisman
Abstract: In 1933, Turkey set out on a crash process of reforming its legal and health care delivery systems as well as its system of higher education using refugees fleeing the Nazis. By way of formal government invitations these people were given a safe haven. For many America was out of reach because of restrictive immigration laws and widespread antisemitic hiring bias at its universities. As other opportunities availed themselves most of these eminent intellectuals came West and helped catapult America’s academe to still greater heights. This paper documents the fact that Anglophone historians are still unaware of this significant chapter of 20th century history and discusses that episode, its legacy turned epochal, and perceptions thereof in Turkey today.
This article is about a little-known chapter in European
Jewish history. It is also about an
unknown chapter of Holocaust history,
the history of science, and the history of Turkish higher education. It
details some significant events that occurred in Turkish history in the 1930s and impacted the world
in ways that could never have been predicted and remain immeasurable. Starting
in 1933 the Republic of Turkey invited a group of central Europeans
unacceptable to the Nazis: Jewish, part-Jewish, and some Aryan intellectuals,
scientists, artists, and medical doctors, who were fleeing persecution in
their homelands to live, work and find safe refuge within Turkish borders.
Turkey wanted to restructure its
educational system, as well as various medical and legal systems, thereby
modernizing while Westernizing its societal infrastructure beyond what it
inherited from the Ottoman Empire.
While Nazi Germany’s 1933 “Law for Reestablishing the Position of Civil
Servants” caused the dismissal of all Jewish professors, it offered Turkey the
unforeseen opportunity to transform the Darülfünun, an Ottoman institution of poor quality, into the University of Istanbul, a
“lighthouse” Western-style research university, as well as supply
other institutions with first class personnel.
The luminaries invited would be
able, and expected, to continue their research and to publish. “Few realize that
the University of Istanbul had the highest concentration of refugee professors
in a single institution anywhere in the world.” According to Norman
Bentwich some 1200 scholars and
scientists were dismissed from German institutions in 1933-1934, 650 of whom
emigrated. Considering that 190 of the 650 (29%) emigrated to Turkey this is a
significant percentage. Of
the 190 who found their way to Turkey a small number came from Austria after the
Anschluss in 1938, and one each from Czechoslovakia and France.
The few who remained in Turkey are buried there. Most eventually came to the US
and catapulted America's science, humanities, and mathematics, to new heights.
Some went to what is now the State of Israel. Émigré Kurt Steinitz built the first artificial kidney
in Eretz Israel. Some of the older
invitees returned to Germany in order to recoup their pension rights. In the
process they helped de-Nazify Germany's post-war universities. Some were elected
to Rektorship positions.
Economist Fritz Neumark served two terms as post-war Rector of the
University of Frankfurt.
In 1932 Albert Malche (1876-1956), a Swiss professor of pedagogy, had been
invited to Turkey by the young republic’s administration to study the
educational system and prepare a report recommending changes. His
Rapport sur l’université d’Istanbul,
submitted on May 29, 1932, was
quickly implemented by the highest echelons of Turkey’s governing elite;
President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938), Prime Minister İsmet İnönü
(1884–1973), and Minister of Education
Resit Galip (1893–1934). Displaced
University of Frankfurt pathologist Dr. Philipp Schwarz (1894-1977) organized
the Notgemeinschaft Zur Emigration
deutscher Wissenschaftler (Emergency Assistance Organization for German
Scientists.) in Basel,
Switzerland, for the express purpose
of identifying the leading names among the displaced intellectuals in each of
the disciplines that, according to Malche’s plan, Turkey needed for its
development.. Rather than immigration, the Turks considered this an invitation
for a temporary stay for scientific, medical, and technical specialists who,
after having accomplished their signed obligations, would leave the country. The
German professors were aware that their task was to become superfluous as
quickly as possible by transferring professorial chairs to the rising Turkish
generation. Their contracts were time-limited, and pension rights excluded.
Accordingly, a select group of scholars from Germany with a record of
leading-edge contributions to various scientific disciplines and professions
found refuge in Turkey, helping to transform its university system and the
entire infrastructure of the new Turkish state. Many created and served as
directors of several medical institutes. Albert Eckstein became Director of
Pediatric Services at the Ministry of Health, Composer Paul Hindemith and opera
impresario Carl Ebert created the Music Conservatory, a school for the
performing arts as well as a symphony orchestra, an opera, and ballet company.
We declared war on the Axis
February 23, 1945.
The National Assembly voted to declare
war on Germany and Japan unanimously during the historical meeting yesterday. We
are party to the United Nations Declaration, we will be going to the San
Francisco world order conference.
The Kemalist Cumhuriyet Daily February 24, 1945
Because Turkey was a neutral nation up to the last weeks of World War II, the
émigrés served as conduits of correspondence between friends, colleagues, and
relatives left behind and those in the free world. Much of this correspondence
provides a personal view of life under Nazism as well as the life of the
For many of the displaced Germans during the 1930s, America was out of reach
because of restrictive immigration laws and widespread antisemitic hiring biases
at its universities. During
the 1920s the University of Breslau faculty was comprised of a large number of Jewish professors,
25% in the Arts, 45% in Medicine and 48% in Law.
The University of Berlin had 45% in
Medicine alone; Gottingen had 34% in Mathematics, and Medicine
respectively, 40% in the Art,
47% in Law and Konigsberg had 7% in
the Arts, 14% in Law, and 25% in Medicine
 while Harvard, Yale, Brown, and
Princeton combined had not a single Jewish faculty member up to and through the
1940s. These American Ivy
League schools had each kept their faculty as
Judenfrei. (Reisman, Turkey’s Modernization, p.312).
During the 1930s an offer from a major
American university to someone outside the country served two purposes, one of
which was helping to secure a visa.
It has become customary and
habitual, both in Germany and in Turkey, to designate the collective change of
locale of scholars, artists, experts, researchers and technicians who were
“transported” from Germany to Turkey in 1933 and the following years by words
such as ‘seeking refuge’, ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’. However, these words or
expressions suffice to describe neither the extraordinary change in the life of
these people nor Turkey’s approach to this subject.....[They] do not explain the
essence of this very special event.
Until recently this important episode of the Shoah, in which Albert Einstein
(1879–1955) played a role, has scarcely been noticed by historians outside of
Turkey, least of all in the English language literature. The first, fairly
comprehensive account of this migration was published in German by Widmann, in
1973 and translated into Turkish in 1988 but never into
English. In 1980 one of the émigré professors, economist Fritz Neumark
(1900–1991), published his German-language memoirs, which were translated into
Turkish in 1982 – not into English. A
well documented exhibition of archival materials dealing with this migration at
Berlin’s Vereins Aktives Museum resulted in a well illustrated catalogue,
Haymatloz which, too, was never
translated into English.
Norman Bentwich (1883-1971) was first to discuss
this episode in 1936, briefly yet significantly. Referring to the
Notgemeinschaft deutscher Wissenschaftler
im Ausland he wrote:
The most remarkable success was with the Turkish authorities. It persuaded them
to engage for the reconstructed University of Istanbul no less than 56 German
scholars, including technical assistants. They were engaged mostly for five-year
periods, but it is hoped that the appointments will become permanent. In the
Faculty of Medicine 10 professors, in the Faculty of Science
8, in the Faculty of Law 7, in the Faculty of Philosophy 2 were
appointed; and 13 younger men were appointed as lecturers. The scholars, is
[sic] developing research institutes, which may
give an opening for the engagement of further scholars from Germany or
from those who left Germany.
Bentwich also published a “little book . . . written at the suggestion of the
Society for the Protection of Science and Learning” in 1953. Though much of both books are quoted
and cited on other issues by historians of science and those concerned with the
Holocaust, this particular episode of history has remained unnoticed. Thirty years later Stanford J. Shaw was the next to
discuss it in English and provide biographical details about fifty-four members
of this diaspora. It was almost a decade later that Frank Tachau contributed an
important chapter discussing these émigrés and their multi-faceted impact on
Turkish science, medicine, law, and education. He also provided statistics on
the émigrés’ distribution by age, field of specialization, etc. Mark A. Epstein
provides a good discussion of this episode. He begins his chapter: “With one
notable exception [here the reference is to Shaw, Turkey and the Holocaust]
only specialists on Turkey appear to have given much thought to the fact that
about 10 percent of the twelve thousand or so
academics who lost their jobs after the Nazis came to power went to Turkey–a
surprisingly high percentage given the other possible destinations.” In 2001 Walter Laqueur with
Judith Tydor Baumel co-edited The Holocaust Encyclopedia.
In Barry Rubin’s chapter entitled “Turkey” three paragraphs address this episode
in general terms without mentioning individuals.
Recently both Emily Apter and Kader Konuk respectively wrote
about Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach who according to Konuk “played a leading
role in building up the Faculty for Western Languages and Literatures at
İstanbul Üniversitesi and had a seminal
influence on the formation of German philology, shaping the canons of both
Gürol Irzik and Güven Güzeldere published an interview with the widow of
philosopher Hans Reichenbach. Harry G. Day evaluated
contributions by biochemist Felix Haurowitz (1896–1987) to the development of
chemistry at Indiana University. Ute Deichmann mentioned
chemist Fritz Arndt and biochemist Felix Haurowitz as having emigrated to Turkey and Laura Fermi
provided limited commentary on twelve of the émigrés. In his web-based
autobiography, Arthur von Hippel (1898–2003), the father of nanotechnology,
dedicated a chapter to his own tragicomic experiences in Turkey, including some
anecdotes involving two colleagues—ophthalmologist Joseph Igersheimer
(1879–1965) and dentist Alfred Kantorowicz (1880–1962). Louise S. Grinstein
and Paul J. Campbell provide a good discussion of applied mathematician Hilda
Geiringer (1893–1973). Thus far there is only one
book in English that is fully dedicated to the subject at hand, my own
Turkey’s Modernization, published in 2006..
After the book was published I presented some new evidence—notably, a
letter from Einstein to Turkish Prime Minister İsmet İnönü (1884–1973) and
İnönü’s response to Einstein which subsequently surfaced in Turkey but had not
been part of the Einstein archives collection.
Letter signed by
Albert Einstein to Prime Minister İsmet İnönü, dated September 17, 1933, first
published in Hürriyet on October 29, 2006. The hand-written Turkish
annotation appearing top right (Teklifin mevzuatõ kanuniyeyle telifi mumkun
degildir) indicates that Prime Minister İnönü transferred the letter to the
Maarif Vekaleti, Ministry for National Education on October 9, 1933. The
other annotations are attributable to Reşit Galip, the sitting Education
Minister: "Bunlarõ bugunku seriata gore kabule imkan yoktur" (this proposal is
incompatible with clauses [in the existing laws]); and: "Şu andaki şartlar içinde kabul
etmek imkansızdır" (it is impossible
to accept it due to prevailing conditions).
These notes, which echo in Prime Minister İsmet İnönü,s answer to
Einstein, indicate that at the outset the proposal was rejected by the Ministry.
In summation, three significant German works were never translated into English;
there are ten mentions in biographical notes, three paragraphs in but one
encyclopedia, and two chapters in books on expanded issues. Other than the book
and follow-on papers by this author and several coauthors, there are five works
providing coverage for a small subset of the émigrés.
There are moreover significant
published anthologies, monographs, etc, in which one would expect to find
information about this subject. Unfortunately they diffuse only a deafening
silence. Raul Hilberg's (790 page)
magnum opus, The Destruction of the
European Jews which, in 1961,
prepared the ground for the field of Holocaust studies, never mentioned Turkey’s
role in saving so much Jewish intellectual capital. In 1964 Princeton University Press published Political Modernization in Japan and Turkey, a book which represented work commissioned by the Social Science Research Council
under a grant from the Ford Foundation. In a thirty-page, highly-documented
chapter discussing “Education in Turkey,” including higher education from the
days of the Ottomans through the 1950s, Frederick W. Frey, a
Princeton PhD, Rhodes Scholar and the author of
Turkish Political Elite, a professor
at MIT and “member of the senior staff of its Center for International Studies,”
never mentioned the role played by the German émigré professors in the evolution
of Turkish higher education.
Moreover, “[i]n May 1991, an
international and interdisciplinary group of scholars convened at the
collegium] in Berlin to discuss the impact of forced emigration of
German-speaking scholars and scientists after the Nazi takeover in 1933.” The result of that conference is the
cited and referenced book. In its foreword, Donald
Fleming critically reflects on the established historical paradigm, e.g.,
“Germany had been intellectually punished for yielding to the Nazis and America
intellectually rewarded for their political and civic virtues.” The book’s
(10-page, double-column, small-print) index has only one entry for Turkey. Page
10 mentions Turkey along with Palestine and Latin America in reference to
studies documenting problems encountered by émigré academics.
H.A. Strauss provides a
compendium of “Archival Resources” and organizations that were set up worldwide
to aid Jews persecuted by the Third Reich. While the book specifically addresses
The Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, founded in
New York City, it never mentions either the
Notgemeinschaft or the work of Philipp
Schwarz. “Turkey” does not appear in its 21-page detailed index.
The 1948 book by S. Duggan
and B. Drury The Rescue of Science and
Learning: the Story of the Emergency Committeee In Aid of Displaced Scholars is significant in
terms of what is omitted. Philipp Schwarz is never mentioned. The only
acknowledgment of a displaced scholar in Turkey appears on page 49 regarding
Hans Rosenberg: "He became Director
of the Observatory in Istanbul, and died in that city."
According to historian Walter
Laqueur “since the 1960s a number of comprehensive [Holocaust] histories have
been published in the English language.” The 1990 four-volume
Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, “presents the history of the
Holocaust topically, with approximately 1,000 entries of diverse size and scope.
The encyclopedia has emerged as a central reference work for students of the
subject.” Searching all the relevant key words and names
in its index and browsing through the pages, nothing was found on this rather
significant migration of intellectuals.
Also according to Laqueur, “in The
Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry [Leni
Yahil] has tried to integrate the scholarship of the
1970s and 1980s into a one-volume history of the Holocaust.” The book’s 800 small print pages do
mention Turkey in several contexts but this life-saving migration of Europe’s
eminent intellectuals is not mentioned.
The online Holocaust Encyclopedia produced and maintained by the United
States Holocaust Museum
makes no mention of Turkey as a destination for Jewish intellectuals in a
section entitled “Escape to Neutral Countries”. Turkey is discussed only in the unrelated “ Voyage of the Struma” section. The
same is true in the museum’s printed
Historical Atlas of the Holocaust.
The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United
States Holocaust Memorial Museum,
moreover, makes no mention of this migration.
Given Walter Laqueur’s
reputation as a historian of note, his statement that “[d]espite the legion of
books that have appeared about Nazi Germany, no single comprehensive history of
the German Jews during the war has been written,” is worth mentioning. However
he follows that assertion with: “Marion A. Kaplan’s
Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life
in Nazi Germany (1998) is the most
serious contribution to date of German Jews under Nazi regime.” Saul Friedlander, in
Nazi Germany: and the Jews: The Years of
Persecution (1997), has woven together the history of the persecution
through 1939 and its effect on the Jews in a masterful fashion. Read together
these two books approach a comprehensive picture of the situation of German
Jewry up to the outbreak of the war.” Neither book, unfortunately,
provides any mention, much less discussion, of the German intellectuals’
by-invitation migration to Turkey. The same is true among “the legion of books
that have appeared about Nazi Germany.” One of these was penned by the most
acclaimed Holocaust historian, Yehuda Bauer. His
A History of the Holocaust dedicates
two pages to Turkey. Oddly, the discussion involves only the “Genocide of the
Armenians,” while the rest of the book deals strictly with the Shoah.
 Although many pages
are dedicated to rescue efforts nowhere is this safe haven
mentioned and Bauer’s Rethinking of the
Holocaust follows the same
pattern. “To mark the centenary of
Mustafa Kamal’s birth” an international symposium “on Ataturk and the
modernization of Turkey …was held at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for
the Advancement of Peace of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in October 1981” involving “scholars from six countries.” The proceedings of that conference
make no mention of this high thrust engine of Turkey’s modernization; nor does
this migration with its monumental impact on Turkey’s history get honorable
mention in Landau’s 2004 book on the subject.
Lucy S. Dawidowicz’s highly
documented 450 page book The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 is silent on this subject. In
the literary arena, Emily Apter, “’Invention’ of Comparative Literature,
Istanbul, 1933” focused on the works of émigrés Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach. She laments:
There are few traces of of the Istanbul chapter of literary history in the annals of
comparative literature; there are scant references to the intellectual
collaborations among émigrés colleagues and Turkish teaching assistants
at the University of Istanbul in the 1930s, and there are really no full
accounts of what happened to European philological pedagogy when it was
transplanted to Turkey.
Nora Levin’s highly
documented book (768 pages), the subject of several printings, contains
extensive discussions of rescue efforts. The chapter entitled “The Struggle to
Leave Europe” begins: “With the exception of the panic exodus of 1933, Jewish
emigration from Germany up to the end of 1937 had been fairly well orgainzed.” Yet its 23-page
double-columned index containing many entries for rescue efforts mentions
neither Turkey, Istanbul, the Notgemeinschaft Zur Emigration deutscher Wissenschaftler, nor its founder Philipp
All of the above omissions
are also true in the case of Saul Friedlander’s encyclopedic work. In this case, however, there are some
other signifcant omissions. The names of philosopher
Hans Reichenbach, Turkologist
Wolfram Eberhard, and the renowned theatrical producer and opera director
Carl Eber, all of whom helped to make UCLA (Friedlander
is a professor of History at UCLA) the great institution it is, are never
So, in 2008 there is still
ample justification for saying, “although the emigration of German scholars and
writers to other European countries and particularly to the United States has
been fairly extensively studied, the long-term sojourn of many noted academics,
artists, and politicians in Turkey has received scant critical attention.”
What Was the Intellectual Caliber of Those Turkey Saved for Posterity?
The word “philosophy” denotes a fairly well defined and established discipline.
It also applies to a paradigm in other bodies of knowledge such as “philosophy
of science,” “philosophy of economics,” and even the “philosophy of art.” Thus a
change of an established paradigm in any field of knowledge is tantamount to a
change in the philosophic approach within and across that field. It is well
known that paradigm shifts in any discipline are not established easily.
Philosopher of science Karl Popper claims that it takes a
Max Planck (1858 - 1947) stated: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by
convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its
opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with
Arguably, individuals offering new paradigms or paradigm shifts can be thought
of as philosophic innovators or reformers in that field. According to Albert
Einstein, "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities.
The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to
hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."
Given the well documented “natural drift” toward academization or
narrowing of disciplines and professions and given the difficulty of such
innovation being appreciated by the respective establishments, it is
mind-boggling to note the number of innovators–breadth expanders/cross
disciplinary bridge builders–and applied scientists among those invited during
the 1930s by the Turkish government to help create its infrastructure.
Among individuals who easily so qualify are:
Philosopher/mathematician Hans Reichenbach
Mathematician/philospher/ applied scientist
Richard von Mises (1883-1953),
William Prager (1903 – 1980, and
Hilda Geiringer (1893 – 1973)
Astronomer E. Finlay
Archeologists Benno Landsberger(1890 -
1968) and Hans
Güterbock(1908 - 2000)
Zoologist Kurt Kosswig(1903-1982)
Wilhelm Röpke(1899 –1966)
Economic sociologist Alexander Rüstow (1885
Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky( 1897 – 2000), and
Bruno Taut (1880-1938)
City planner and first mayor of post war Berlin
Ernst Reuter (1889–1953)
Public dentistry innovator
Alfred Kantorowicz(1880 – 1962)
Ophtalmologist Joseph Igersheimer
Rudolf Nissen(1896 – 1981)
Erich Auerbach(1892-1957), Andreas Tietze, (1914-2003).
The Albert Einstein archives at Princeton and the Hebrew University yield one
indication of the caliber of the people involved. The fact that Einstein
personally knew, and maintained a personal correspondence with, at least sixteen
of the émigrés to Turkey speaks to the level of their intellects. Moreover,
quite a few were at all times in personal correspondence with one or more of
over a dozen Nobel laureates because they had been colleagues in both the
renowned Vienna Circle and the Berlin Circle prior to 1933. Although none of the
émigrés ever achieved Nobel laureate fame, many had direct working relationships
with those who did. Some examples are: Hanz Reichenbach
worked with Albert Einstein, Neils
Planck, Max Born, and
Russell; Felix Haurowitz with Linus
Pauling; E. Finlay Freundlich with
Albert Einstein; Max
von Laue and Erwin
Schroedinger; Richard von Mises with Neils Bohr
and Albert Einstein; Benno
Landsberger, and Hans Güterbock were Enrico Fermi’s colleagues and friends at
the University of Chicago; Philipp Schwarz was instrumental in bringing James
Frank and Max
Born to Turkey as consultants; Wilhelm
Liepmann corresponded with Einstein; and, of course, von Hippel was James Frank’s son-in-law and had worked with Neils Bohr in Denmark. According to Albert Einstein’s hand-written correspondence, one of the
émigrés, E. Finlay Freundlich, was the first to show that the relativity theory
was borne out by empirical observations.
Nobelist Enrico Fermi’s wife, Laura, a prolific writer about the history of science, mentions no fewer
than twelve of the émigrés by name in her
Illustrious Immigrants that had been
published in 1968 by the prestigious University of Chicago Press.
Given the scientific eminence of
some of the émigrés it is
interesting to note that with the exception of Laura Fermi, this episode in
Jewish history is not found in histories and encyclopedias of
science, nor of scholarship, except for
some entries placed there by this author in the much maligned but often referred
Although without documenting it,
Mark E. Epstein recognized this blind spot in 1998. He offered the following
This part of history fell behind what I perceive as a curtain of prejudice
toward Turks and perhaps more broadly toward Muslims.
[A] Muslim country, Turkey was simply beyond the comfortable reach of
Europe-oriented scholarship. For the most part, we do see East through the
historical eyes of the Europeans, hence as an infidel, threatening, morally
Turkish enlightened self-interest and a measure of generosity toward individual
Jews and German non-Jews seems to be viewed by many non-Islamicists and
non-Turkologists as curious exceptions within a larger picture
[Th]ese motivations and actions are seen as crass and self-serving, despite the
fact that the Turkish record is far more admirable than most [countries].
Since Turkey remains a relatively distant
place, on the other side of an historical divide between Christianity and Islam,
it receives short shrift at best.”
suggested that “Turkey’s role in helping European Jews during the Holocaust has
been largely ignored or deprecated in studies and conferences on the subject, if
for no other reason than that of the
number of individuals involved. “The disinclination of some Askenazi
Jews today, along with a number of non-Jewish groups who for their own reasons
wish to supress all mention and recognition of Turkey’s important role in
assisting Jews during the Holocaust ...is a cause to regret”
The continuing discovery of historical compendia that exclude any mention of
this fascinating, and significant, historical episode which impacted several
countries, is astounding. Here are
three somewhat paraphrased responses from knowledgeable people in this area who
were surveyed on this subject by this author:
This piece of history is a blind spot, I guess, because it will otherwise haunt
the “barbaric Turk” image, which has very much been of help, and is still in use
to create, fuel and mobilize the "modernistic other."
I think the reason for the blind spot is unfortunately the perception of Turkey
in Europe, which recent developments regarding the European Union show have not
changed very much.
A correspondent who chose to remain anonymous said: “Clearly your research has
highlighted an important neglected period in history. Ignorance of it may indeed
be part of suspicion towards the Islamic world (despite Turkey’s secular
Arguably one could add to these
explanations the fact that Holocaust
scholarship has been overwhelmingly about
Ashkenazi (East and Central European Jews’) experience and Jewish writers
on the subject tend to be Ashkenazi. Turkish Jewry, on the other hand, has been
predominantly Sephardi. Notwithstanding the fact that this historical episode
involved intellectuals at the very pinnacle of their disciplines with many
having Ashkenazi lineage, the locale was Turkey, a Muslim country, and the
association was made with the Sephardi community. One could also argue that many
of the émigrés never looked at themselves as Jews. Mathematician
Richard von Mises and radiologic
physicist Friedrich Dessauer converted to Catholicism; others had
their children baptized and, although some have expressed gratitude to Turkey
for having been saved from extermination, others felt a sense of shame. They
were ashamed because they were brilliant leaders in their respective fields,
known all over the world for their contributions to knowledge. Yet when it came
to saving their lives, the “civilized” world wanted no more Jews and a poor
underdeveloped Muslim country
invited them and their families.
The latter is evidenced in the fact
that only a few of the émigrés have ever mentioned that they spent time
Post-war PhD students at
America’s best universities were astounded to learn, when being interviewed by
this author, that their beloved mentors had never said anything about their
years in Turkish exile.
The majority of Holocaust/genocide
historians are squarely behind the Armenians’ side of the dispute and are
uninterested in any acts on the part of Turkey which are favorable to that
country’s history. And, Turkey is
not within the radar screen seen by historians of science and of technology. All
of these explanations are plausible but the list, it appears, is still not
Memories of the émigré professors and appreciation for their contributions to
Turkey’s modernization linger on in and among educated Turks at home and abroad.
This topic is of particular relevance set against the current backdrop of
Turkey’s tug of war; her sustained efforts to enter the European Union while
struggling to remain a secular state within a democratic framework and having a
mostly traditional Islamic population with hostile theocracies as neighbors.
Recently several symposia were devoted to keeping the memories alive. One
conference organized by the Turkish Academy of Science (TÜBA) addressed “The
Evolution of the Concept of University in Turkey (1861-1961)” (November 18,
2006). At the meeting, the “university” concept during a 100-year time span was
discussed with focus on Atatürk’s university reforms, the realization of which
was attributed to the émigrés from Germany. On April 7, 2006, the University of
Istanbul conducted a symposium on the 1933 University Reform. The conference
opened with a welcoming speech by Dr. Mustafa Kaçar, Dean of the Çapa Medical
Faculty, who reiterated that “Turkey owes a great debt to the émigrés. They did
great work here, although some jealous colleagues tried to denigrate them.” He recounted a story about the émigré
Ernst E. Hirsch, which was told by Kamran İnan, a former minister of foreign
affairs, in his memoirs.
“When Kamran Inan was at the Political Sciences Faculty of Ankara University, he
was a Hirsch student. One day Hirsch asked him whether he was interested in
politics. Inan, who was a very good student, replied that he was interested in
academic subjects only. Upon this Hirsch said: ‘Once we did the same thing. We
were interested in academic work only. We were wrong. Lucky for us that a
country like Turkey, which the plague could not contaminate, existed.’”
Reiner Möckelmann (b. 1941), Germany’s recently retired Consul General in
Istanbul, organized a symposium at the Consulate on November 29, 2005, focusing on contributions to
Turkey’s legal system by the émigré contingent of legal scholars.
Recently Turkish media published a number of articles on the larger subject of
the émigré professors. On the front page of Hürriyet, a high-circulation,
Turkish daily, on October 29, 2006, the Republic’s 83rd anniversary. The
headline by Murat Bardakçı read: “A Request from the Great Genius to the Young
Republıc.” The article concerned
Einstein’s appeal to İsmet İnönü to accept 40 German intellectuals who are ready
to come and work for one year at no pay, and then juxtaposed Turkey’s current body
politic and its preoccupations with those prevalent during the early ideological Republican years:
Now, here is the difference between the Turkey of the time when the Republican
regime was only 10 years old and the Turkish Republic now aged 83. The first one
is a young state with great promise for the future from which Einstein requests
jobs for his friends; the other is where the daily agenda is shaped only by
discussions about parks restricted to women, and wearing of the “cübbe” [a loose
kimono-like garment originally worn only occasionally] by sect members, or whether shaking
women’s hand is sinful or not....
This article rekindled renewed interest in the 1933 émigrés. Within a week of
the Bardakçı article, Melih Aşık published an article in Milliyet, another mass-circulation newspaper, which compared the attention given by
Turkish media to the Einstein letter with the ignorance of this episode outside
An article by Ilhan Selçuk, December 19, 2006, also appearing in the
Cumhuriyet was titled “Is the harem
going up to Çankaya?”
Selçuk discussed the contributions made to Turkish civil law by
Andreas B. Schwarz.
This discussion was continued in an article published in yet another large
circulation Turkish daily.
The article states that in 1933 about
50 scientists, close to 1000 German (Jews) in total, began taking refuge in
Turkey. Mustafa Kemal [Ataturk]
was in the process of having the “University Reform” implemented. In rebuttal to those who think that “all Mustafa Kemal accomplished was of native origin,” the reform was prepared by
Malche. Darülfünun was
abolished, along with some of its teachers, and Istanbul University was founded.
Refugees such as
Neumark, Hirsch, and Hindemith established faculties and made laws. They trained
great numbers of good students. This was “a
wonderful country where the Western
plague of fascism had not penetrated.”
It can be rightfully stated that the émigré professors first introduced Western
law as a university level curriculum in Turkey, writing the necessary textbooks.
Some of the German professors, like Hirsch, received Turkish citizenship as an
expression of gratitude by the Turkish government. Honorary doctoral degrees
were later bestowed upon several others.
Given that almost every intellectual discipline was represented in this
migration and the representatives were all at the intellectual pinnacle among
their peers worldwide, it is a glaring omission that Anglophone historians have
overlooked this historic epoch.
Without a doubt, all of the
émigrés had made major contributions to knowledge in their respective fields
prior to being exiled. Some like Reichenbach, Auerbach, Von Mises, Rüstow,
and Röpke, made contributions to knowledge while in Turkey and all continued to
be paradigm shifters after leaving Turkey.
The Turkish nation, including members of its diaspora, remember and continue to
acknowledge the émigrés’ impact on Turkish society. There is a plethora of writings documenting the
gratitude still felt for the
émigrés’ contributions. There are also a few memoirs written
by the émigrés themselves and
by their progeny who were old enough at the time to remember.
There are legions of graduate
students, past and present, who read books and papers authored by the
émigrés. Those who later
became professors taught and are teaching future generations, still using
materials the émigrés
created, as is the case with the Mimesis that
Erich Auerbach wrote while in Turkey,
the younger generation being largely ignorant until now that had it not
been for Turkey these materials would not exist.
Lastly, this was not the
first time that Turkey had invited Jewish intellectuals being expelled by
governments in their homelands. In 1492, when the king of Spain forced all Jews
who did not convert to Christianity to leave, Sultan Beyazid II welcomed them
with open arms. The sultan is supposed to have said "the king of Spain's
loss is my gain." That
migration brought the first printing press to the Ottoman Empire as well as
personal physicians who served the court for several generations.
In this case the Nazis’ plans to rid themselves of Jews, beginning with intellectuals with
Jewish roots or spouses, became a windfall for Atatürk’s determination to
modernize Turkey. The select group of Germans and later Austrians with a record
of leading-edge contributions to their respective disciplines came to Turkey to
transform Turkey’s system of higher education and the new Turkish state’s entire
infrastructure, with the Reichstag’s understanding. Occurring before the
activation of death camps, this arrangement, served the Nazis’ aim of making
their universities, professions, humanities, and their arts Judenrein,
cleansed of Jewish influence and free from intelligentsia opposed to fascism.
Because the Turks needed the help, Germany could use this situation as an
exploitable chit on issues of Turkey’s neutrality during wartime. Thus, the
national self-serving policies of two disparate governments served humanity’s
ends during the darkest years of the 20th century.
Composer Paul Hindemith in Ankara 1936
Composer Paul Hindemith on the way to Istanbul from Berlin
A “Yekke” group outing in the countryside
A group outing in the countryside
Dr. Albert Eckstein in the countryside while collecting public health data,
All photographs courtesy of Arnold Reisman
About the Author
Arnold Reisman received his
BS, MS and PhD degrees in engineering from UCLA. After 27 years as professor of
operations research at CWRU, Reisman retired in 1994. He is a fellow of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science. His most recent book is
Turkey’s Modernization: Refugees from Nazism and Ataturk’s Vision. Two other
books on Turkey are due out in late 2008.
This article was motivated by research done for Arnold Reisman, Turkey’s Modernization: Refugees from
Nazism and Atatürk's Vision
(Washington, DC: New Academia Publishers, 2006). Subsequent references to
this work are to be found in the text.
Istanbul Darülfünun was abolished by
the University Reform Law No. 2252 passed on May 31, 1933, and Istanbul
University was founded on August 1, 1933. 157 of the 240 professors of the
Darülfünun were relieved of their duties and were retired.
 Mark. A. Epstein, “A Lucky Few: Refugees in
Turkey,” in M.A. Berenbaum and A.J. Peck (eds.),
The Holocaust and History: The Known, The
Unknown, The Disputed, and The Reexamined (Washington, DC: United States
Holocaust Museum and Bloomington, IN:
Indiana University Press, 1998), p. 536.
 Norman Bentwich,
The Rescue and Achievement of Refugee
Scholars: The Story of Displaced Scholars and Scientists, 1933-1952 (The
Hague, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1953), pp. 1-2.
 P. Schwarz,
Notgemeinschaft Zur Emigration deutscher Wissenschaftler nach 1933 in die Türkei (Marburg: Metropolis-Verlag,
 M. Walsh,
Witness to History
(Uckfield, UK: Historical Review
 Harvard had two. Neither were at Harvard College
and both were hired during the 1920s prior to James B. Conant’s becoming
president in 1932. See
Turkey’s Modernization, p. 312.
Murat Katoğlu, “Were German Scientists
and Experts Refugees?”
Haymatloz-Özgürlüğe giden yol,” (Istanbul:
Milli Reassürans T.A.Ş., May 1, 2007).
H. Widman, Exile und Bildungshilfe: Die Deutschsprachige Akademische
Emigration in die Türkei nach 1933 (Bern: Lang Verlag, 1973), translation:
(Ankara: Atatürk Reformu, 1988).
Zuflucht am Bosporus: Deutsche Gelehrte, Politiker und Künstler in der
Emigration 1933–1953 (Frankfurt: Knecht,  1995); idem,
Boğaziçine Sığınanlar, trans. Şefik Alp Bahadır, (Istanbul: Ercivan Matbaası, 1982).
Vereins Aktives Museum (Berlin: 2000), volume 8. The word
haymatloz is a Turkish transliteration
of the German heimetlos.
 N. Bentwich,
The Refugees from Germany April 1933 to
(London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1936), pp. 182-83.
 Published in 1936, this was a prophetic statement
indeed. Ultimately the head count exceeded 190, with many coming from Austria
after the 1938 Anschluss and at least one each from Czechoslovakia and occupied
 N. Bentwich,
The Rescue and Achievement of Refugee Scholars
and Scientists 1933-1952 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1953), pp. 18, 42, 53-56.
S. J. Shaw,
Turkey and the Holocaust (London: Macmillan Press, 1993), pp. 4–14 and
F. Tachau, “German Jewish Émigrés in Turkey,” in A.
Levy (ed.), Jews, Turks, Ottomans: A
Shared History (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2002), pp. 233–46.
 Unfortunately, the “twelve thousand” number must
be in error. Other places in Epstein, A
Lucky Few (e.g., p. 540) it is shown to be “twelve hundred.” Other sources corroborate the lower
figure, making ten percent closer to the mark, inasmuch as the best count of the
émigré professors number is 190.
 Epstein, A
Lucky Few, p. 536.
 Co-editor Walter Laqueur is a close relative of
August Laqueur, a physiotherapy professor invited to the University of Ankara
among those saved by Turkey.
 E. Apter, “Global Translation: The ‘Invention’ of
Comparative Literature,” Critical Inquiry,
Vol. 29, No. 2 (Winter 2003), pp. 253-81.
 K. Konuk, “Jewish-German Philologists in Turkish
Exile: Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach,” in A. Stephan (ed.),
Exile and Otherness: New Approaches to the
Experience Nazi Refugees (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2005), pp. 31-47.
 G. Irzik and G. Güzeldere (eds.), Turkish
Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science (Boston: Kluwer, 2005),
 G. H. Day,
The Development of Chemistry at Indiana University 1829–1991.
Biographical Memoirs Vol. 64
(Washington, DC: National Academies Press, National Academy of Sciences, 1994).
Also see A. Reisman, “Exiled in Turkey from Nazi Rule, Eminent Biochemist Felix
Haurowitz Became Indiana’s Adopted Son,”
Journal of the Center for the Americas,
Vol. 4, No. 1 (2007),
 U. Deichmann, “The Expulsion of Jewish Chemists
and Biochemists from Academia in Nazi Germany,”
Perspectives on Science,
Vol. 7, No. 1 (1999), pp. 1-86.
Illustrious Immigrants (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), p. 67.
Arnold Reisman, “Public Health Dentistry Pioneer: Alfred Kantorowicz in Exile
from Nazi Rule,” Journal of the History of Dentistry, Vol. 55, No. 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 1-13.
 L. S. Grinstein and P. J. Campbell,
Women of Mathematics (Westport, CT.:
Greenwood Press, 1987). A page on the life of Hilda Geiringer contributed by
this author appears on
Arnold Reisman, “Jewish
Refugees from Nazism, Albert Einstein, and the Modernization of Higher Education
in Turkey (1933-1945),” Aleph: Historical Studies in Science & Judaism, Vol.
7 (2007), pp. 253-81,
 Raul Hilberg,
The Destruction of the European Jews
(Chicago, Quadrangle Books, 1961).
 F. W. Frey, “Education in Turkey,” in R.E. Ward
and D.A. Rustow (eds.), Political
Modernization in Japan and Turkey (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1964), pp. 205–35.
 M. G. Ash and A. Sollner (eds.),
Forced Migration and Scientific Change: Émigré German-Speaking Scientists and Scholars After 1933
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
 H. A. Strauss,
Jewish Immigrants of the Nazi Period in
the USA, Vol. 1, Archival Resources (New York: K. G. Saur, 1979).
 S. Duggan and B. Drury,
The Rescue of Science and Learning: the Story of the Emergency Committee In Aid of Displaced
Scholars (New York: Macmillan, 1948).
 I. Gutman, editor in chief Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (New
York: Macmillan, 1990).
W. Z. Laqueur and J. Tydor Baumel, The Holocaust Encyclopedia,
(accessed April 2007).
 L. Yahil,
The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States
Holocaust Museum, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/ (accessed April 2007).
 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Historical Atlas of the Holocaust
(New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1996), p. 196.
 M. Berenbaum,
The World Must Know: The History of the
Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1993).
 M.A. Kaplan,
Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1998).
 S. Friedlander,
Nazi Germany: and the Jews: The Years of
Persecution (New York: Harper Collins, 1997).
 W. Z. Laqueur and J. Tydor Baumel The Holocaust
Encyclopedia, p. 727.
 Y. Bauer, A
History of the Holocaust (New York:
Franklin Watts, 2001), pp. 65, 66.
 Ibid., pp. 307-31 and 338-56.
 Y. Bauer,
Rethinking of the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).
 Jacob M. Landau (ed.),
Atatürk and the Modernization of Turkey (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1984).
 Jacob M. Landau,
Exploring Ottoman and Turkish History
(London: C Hurst & Co. 2004).
 L. S. Dawidowicz,
The War Against the Jews 1933-1945
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975).
 Apter, “Global Translation,” p. 258.
 N. Levin, The Holocaust: The Destruction
of European Jewry 1933 – 1945 (New York: Schocken Books, 1973), p. 124.
Nazi Germany and the Jews
(New York: HarperCollins, 1997).
 A. Seyhan, “German Academic Exiles in Istanbul,”
in Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood (eds.),
Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2005), pp. 274–88, on p. 277.
K. Popper, The Logic of Scientific
Discovery (New York: Basic Books, 1959).
 History shows that only a "revolution" will
redirect the course of many academic disciplines. T. Kuhn, Structure of
Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).
 Abbott, a sociologist who
epistemologically studied several professions, concluded that academization
leads a discipline to self-destruction. A. Abbott, The Systems of
Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labour (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1988).
 One could argue that most if not
all of the 190 invitees were paradigm shifters. They were handpicked by their
peers in the first place and selected by the Turkish government’s most senior
ministers from a larger list provided. It was this author’s judgment call based
on the accumulated evidence as to who should be included in this paper. Having
said that it should be noted, if but parenthetically, that a recent statistical
analysis of all invitees and the family they brought with them shows the
incidence of familial linkages to be higher than would have been expected had
the choices been made strictly on merit from a random pool of candidates. See B.
H. Küçük and A. Reisman, “Family Connectivity of Refugees from Nazism
(1933-1945) Who Were Invited to Help Westernize Turkey’s Higher Education: A
 Arnold Reisman, Turkey's Modernization:
Refugees from Nazism and Atatürk's Vision (Washington, DC: New Academia
Publishers, 2006), pp. 468.
 L. Fermi,
Illustrious Immigrants (University of
Chicago Press, Chicago, 1968).
 Epstein, A
Lucky Few, pp. 536, 537.
 The late Stanford Shaw an eminent Ottoman
historian, who was Jewish, has been
somewhat vilified for being among that school of historians who question whether the loss of over a million Armenian
lives during WWI and the ensuing war of independence was due to a deliberate
genocide. Moreover, in his Turkey and the
Holocaust he cites the number of Jews saved by Turkey during WWII to have
been 100,000. This author has not
been able to find any source to substantiate this number. Most estimates fall
between 16,000 and 20,000. See Reisman, Turkey’s Modernization, p. 511.
 Shaw, Turkey
and the Holocaust, p. xi.
Cimen Gunay-Erkol, PhD Candidate, Universiteit Leiden, TCMO Turkish Studies.
Leyla Neyzi, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Sabancı
University, Istanbul, Turkey.
C. Kleinholz-Boerner, Friedrich Dessauer
1881-1963. Bibliographie eines nichtärztlichen Röntgenpioniers. Inaugural
Dissertation aus dem Institut für Geschichte der Medizin der Freien Universität
Berlin. 1968, pp. 7-21. Also, Klaus Tuchel, "Friedrich Dessauer as Philosopher
of Technology: Notes on his Dialogue with Jaspers and Heidegger," in Paul Durbin
(ed.), Research in Philosophy and Technology, Vol. 5 (Greenwich,
CT: JAI Press, 1982), pp. 269-80. Also see A. Namal and A.
Reisman, “Friedrich Dessauer
Transferred Leading-Edge Western Radiology Knowhow to the Young Turkish Republic
While a Refugee from Nazism,” [European Association for the Study of Science and
Technology] EASST Review
 A.N. Erdem,
Siyasetin Yollarinda [On the Roads of Politics] (Istanbul: Otuken Yayinlari,
 Reiner Möckelmann,
Discussionsabend im Generalkonsulat am
29.11.2005. Exil und Bildungsreform: Deutche Rechtsprofessoren in der Turkei ab
1933. Generalkonsulat der Bundesrepublik Deutchland in Istanbul.
 See M. Bardakçı, “A Request From the Great Genius
to the Young Republıc,” Hürriyet,
October 29, 2006.
 The location in Ankara of the
official president’s residence is called Çankaya. “To go up” is used when
talking about going there since it is on top of a hill in otherwise flat Ankara,
aside from the Citadel. “Çankaya” in Turkish means more than that, since it is
where most reform decisions were made by Atatürk and his friends. For example,
there is a phrase “the Çankaya spirit,” meaning progressive thought. Neumark
also refers to “getting to understand the spirit of Ankara” in his memoirs (p.
170). Incidentally, the building was designed by Viennese architect Clemens
(1886-1983), who was in Turkish exile from 1938 to 1954, at which time he
returned to Austria.
 Umur Talu,
“On University Reform,” Sabah, October
 See Cimen Gunay-Erkol and Arnold
“The Founders of Turkey’s System
of Modern Higher Education: An Anthology of Testimonials from First, Second, and
Third Generation of Students,” working paper, 2007.
 Most of these are discussed or fully captured in
Reisman, Turkish Modernization.
 See Reisman,
Turkey’s Modernization, pp. 9, 12, 440 and 484.