THE OPERATIONS OF TURKIFICATION IN THE 20TH CENTURY AND PREPARATORY
PHASE OF THE JEWISH HOLOCAUST IN TURKEY
Excerpts from a research by Roupen R. Kouyoumdjian BSc., MSc.
Member of the Armenian National Committee of Canada
1) Dr. Ayhan Aktar, Varlik Vergisi ve 'TÃ¼rklestirme' Politikalari
(The Capital Tax and and the politics of turquification), Iletisim
Publishers, Istanbul, 2000, page 24.
2) Ibid. pages 19, 41.
3) Ridvan Akar, Askale Yolculariâ"Varlik Vergisi ve Ãalisma Kamplari
(Passengers to Askaleâ"Capitial Tax and forced labour camps), Belge
Uluslararasi Yayincilik, Istanbul, 1999.
4) Ayhan Aktar, op. cit. pages 71-74, 92-93.
5) Ridvan Akar, op. cit. page 204.
6) Ibid. page 243.
7) Ibid, page 5.
8) Ibid, page 185.
9) Ibid, page 186-187.
10) Dr Ayhan Aktar, op.cit., pages 24, 243.
Faik Ãkte, Varlik Vergisi Faciasi, Nebioglu Publishers, Istanbul,
1951. English translation: Faik Ãkte, The Tragedy of the Turkish
Capital Tax (translated by Geoffrey Cox), Croom Helm Publishers, USA,
It is with the goal of providing a retrospective summary and
exploration that we will review the major historical events in Turkey
in the 20th century, their immediate impact and subsequent
The 20th century remains engraved as a bloody chapter in the history
of humanity. Our planet was the site of two world wars, several
regional conflicts, escalation of human rights violations, repetitive
ethnic cleansings, profusive pogroms, many recognized and ignored
genocides, numerous incidents of ferocity and barbarism, at times
frenetic and hysterical, but undoubtedly humiliating and
unacceptable, destructive of all universally recognized concepts of
human dignity accepted throughout time.
Turkey has been one of the countries where its leaders have used this
type of radical bloody method. This is why particular attention must
be paid to Turkey, especially if we consider how the Western powers
have tolerated and blessed their behavior, allowing it to avoid
sanctions it merited, due to the military-economic order and
consequently established alliances.
Nevertheless, we have an undeniable obligation as well as a
historical responsibility to explore the various scenarios and
nightmarish episodes that leave us no room to maneuver in regards to
subjective theory considered superfluous in these circumstances.
* * *
At the beginning of the 20th century, Turkey found itself at the
crossroads of several ideologies that generated political tendencies
comparatively nuanced, but nonetheless all having a totalitarian
dimension which called for the exclusion of âothersâ, undesirables,
as an integral part of their agenda.
In this political debate, with intellectual and religious overtones,
the philosophy around which they were to form a society or country
centered around tendencies construed as Ottomist, pan-islamist, pan-
touranist and Turkist. In this context, we will abstain from
comparing these various tendencies. Nevertheless all these tendencies
converged on a redefinition of the national identity: elimination,
assimilation, cleansing of âundesirable elementsâ was the order of
The operational image already sketched was but a mirror reflection of
the ideological obsessions, which needed to be named.
The debates around the table, be it in the political scene or in the
hallways, made a judicious and opportune choice. The Turkism or the
Turkification was to be the mobilizing symbol of their machinations.
The name given to this regime, as history has shown us, served as a
disguise for the extremist operations already designed and
established. Even the most skeptical took part because the
organizational aspect of Turkism responded to the majority including
the extreme radicals.
The first chapter of this operation involved the integral cleansing
of Anatolia of non-muslim ethnic minorities. On April 24, 1915, the
Armenian people were subjected to the first genocide of the 20th
century. The toll of this butchery was over 1.5 million victims.
âBefore the first world war, 20% of the population inside the
frontiers of Turkey were non-muslims, after the war this percentage
The second stage of this first chapter concerned the citizens of
Greek descent. The expulsion and evacuation of this minority was in
progress from 1918. In 1923, the year the treaty of Lausanne was
signed, 1.5 million Turkish citizens of Greek origin were expulsed
through legislation under the guise of an agreement of reciprocity.
Only the Turkish citizens living in Istanbul were saved.(2)
It is easy to see that in the space of 8 years, from 1915 to 1923, a
total of 3 million Turkish non-muslim citizens were removed from the
map, half through a genocidal act, the rest through expulsion.
The 2nd chapter of this operation was consummated through the
adoption of a special law concerning âCapital Taxesâ
The application of this law was a sordid operation demonstrating the
shabbiness of the government in regards to its minorities.
A special commission mandated by the government would have
jurisdiction and decisional power to establish this infamous tax (or
surtax) in regards to the goods (property) of the individual. The
powers given to the arbitrator led to injustices beyond the call. The
outrageous sums had no logical basis in regards to the financial
potential of the individual. In this inhuman process, non-muslim
ethnic groups were particularly hard hit.
A delay of 2 weeks was given to the victims of this tax to make
payments. Confiscations, auction of goods at ridiculous prices were
the next steps. For those who could not meet the financial burden of
this tax, deportation to a concentration camp in the east of the
country (Erzurum-Askale) was called for. In brief, 5 to 6 thousand
people were deported, including the old who died because they were
unable to survive the harsh conditions. The choice of the date is
revealing of the privileged values of the government.(3)
This bludgeoning law (adopted on the 11th of November 1942, No. 4305)
which theoretically targeted all goods in the country was another
humiliating episode for the âTurkish Republicâ with its segragative
character and law, leaving no doubt on the real intentions of the
government in regards of keeping the advancement of its mandate for
the turkification of all its territory. The Armenian genocide of 1915
assured the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians coupled with the
expulsion of 1.5 million Greeks; this bludgeoning law constituted
another brutal blow to minorities (Jews, Armenians, Greeks) in order
to destroy them economically. Certain Turkish authors have referred
this tax as being a form of âeconomicâ genocide.
The preferred target of this economically devastating law was the
city of Istanbul, where non-muslim minorities were compressed due to
the violent measures of successive governments; Armenians escaping
the genocide, Istanbul Greeks who avoided the expulsion, and Jews.
It is interesting to note how the Jews, who were dispersed in the 6
cities of Thrace (Northwest region of country), came to be compressed
in Istanbul. An analysis of this âeconomicâ genocide, brings to light
a new dimension regarding the complicity of the Turkish government in
the preparatory phase of the Jewish Holocaust.
At the beginning of the 1930âs, the two countries allied during the
first world war (Turkey and Germany) were both governed by regimes
which were totalitarian in nature, centralized, with Turkism and
Nazism as the fundamental objective. The principal element was the
elimination of the undesirable elements, coupled with expansionism.
References put at our disposition a series of documents and
statistics (from the British and American archives) that prove
unequivocally the complicity and the culpability of the Turkish
government in the events of 1934, during which tens of thousands of
Turkish citizens of Jewish origin were victims of systematic
violence, harassment, pillaging, rape, pogroms; they were forced to
flee their native cities (Kirklareli, Loleburgaz, Edirne, Babaeski,
Uzunkopru, Canakkale, Geliboluâ"i.e. Northern Turkey, Thrace Region)
abandoning all their property and goods, uprooted and gone as
refugees to Istanbul.(4)
The written and oral press let pass under silence these horrifying
events of capital importance, the archives are clear of commentary,
inaccessible or simply expunged by government order. The bulk of
information we have gathered is from the archives of the United
States and Great Britain, thanks to the research of Dr. A. Aktar.
A comparative study of the two regimes points out their affinities,
their synchronicity and parallels which are striking.
Here are the events which show clearly the complicity of Kemalist
Turkey with Nazi Germany.
While on June 30, 1934, Hitler erases his opposition with a bloody
purge (the Night of the Long Knives), in Turkey, the anti-Semite
movement reaches its culminating point (from March to June 1934).
Several cities with substantial amounts of Jewish communities are
rocked by violence, organized pogroms with the support of the
government. More than 10 000 citizens of Jewish origin are obligated
to flee to Istanbul, where all 3 ethnic groups gather unknowingly
waiting for the guillotine cut under the guise of the legislation of
1942 (Capital Tax)
What is the principal reason the government used this strategy of
regrouping the victims of these successive atrocities in Istanbul?
The response is furnished for us in the contents of a report from the
9th Bureau (responsible for Minority issues) of CHP, the single party
dominating Turkish politics (the multi-party system did not begin in
Turkey until 1946).
âWe will force them using all means possible to leave their home
cities. This deportation must be funneled to Istanbul to limit their
demographic growth and avoid their spread. It will facilitate our
implementation of a global solution and its executionâ.(5)
â"At the beginning of 1934, precisely on May 10, the distribution of
swastikas by student associations at the university level had begun.
â"One of the significant dimensions of the operational chronological
synchronicity between Turkey and Germany is shown through the
presence of German officials in the guise of assistant professors
(high school level), accompanied by their colleagues in the Turkish
army, whose ultimate purpose was the promotion of nazism.(6)
â"A clandestine agreement with Nazi Germany to prevent Jewish
immigration to Turkey.
On December 15, 1941, the ship âStrumaâ with 761 Jewish passengers
fleeing the Nazi invasion arrives in Istanbul and asks for
authorization to cross the Bosphorus. Anchored in the port, the ship
is made to wait until February 24, 1942 when its request is denied.
Famine, lack of water and dysentery take their toll on passengers.
The ship is forced to turn around and head back. In the Black Sea,
the ship is torpedoed by a submarine. The result is 760 victims and 1
survivor, Mr. David Stollar. 24 hours after this tragedy, the Prime
Minister of the era, Refik Saydam, makes the following declaration.
âTurkey cannot be the destination of undesirable refugeesâ
â"In 1942, Hitler officially called for the extermination of the Jews
of Europe. On November 11 of the same year, S. Saracoglu, the Prime
Minister of Turkey, adopts the law of âCapital Taxâ to destroy
economically the 3 minority groups, namely the Jews, Armenians and
Greeks, who were already regrouped in Istanbul.
â" The invasion of Poland on the 1st of September 1939 signaled the
start of the Second World War. Turkey maintained an artificial
neutrality, nonetheless it watched with an attentive eye the
progression of the German forces in Russia. The defeat of the Germans
at Stalingrad and the surrender of their army on this front (February
2, 1943) squashed the dreams of Turkish diplomacy that was waiting
for the proper moment to conquer Armenia and the rest of the Caucuses
in an effort to relaunch its expansionist plans.
Since 1930, the regimes of the 2 allies of the First World War were
comparable; totalitarian, centered on nationalism and expansionism.
The two regimes had the same plan of action, were different in
timing, but notably similar in schedule, synchronization and
chronology. The masking of the plan, along with the complicity of the
media, completed the process of criminal xenophobia until the end of
the Second World War. It is in this context that the preliminary
phase of the Jewish Holocaust was hatched in Turkey with the
complicity of the Turkish Government.
The following illustration provides the opportunity to view the
harmonious relationship which existed between the regimes. A
comparative analysis is very persuasive and includes the following
âThey (the Jews) monopolize all the financial transactions and the
commerce. Their natural impertinence and their fortunes create
jealousies. This antipathy is cultivated by them and incites hatred.
This digs an abyss between the head of the household and his guest.â
(Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler)
âAgainst those who profit from the hospitality offered by this
country and become wealthy, while at the same time abrogate their
responsibilities at this critical moment, the law will be applied
with full forceâ. (Speech by Sukru Suracoglu, Prime Minister of the
Republic of Turkey, cited in Cumhuriyet Daily, January 21, 1943)(7)
During the sombre period where this special law was applied
vigorously, the 9th Bureau of CHP, in charge of minority issues,
published an internal report.
It is important to note once again how successive Turkish governments
were vigilant in executing their sordid plans in the short and long
term. Here is a resume of this famous report with emphasis on its
recommendations and schedules.
The section concerning the Armenians.
âThose who still remain in Anatolia must be evacuated at all cost. We
must stop their growth and create situations to force them to
emigrate to Istanbul. When the time (future) comes, it is necessary
to find a global solution for all those concerned (minorities).
According to this report âArmenians are not assimilable and those who
survive must be encouraged to depart (emigrate)â.
The section concerning the Greeks.
âThe Greeks no longer represent a dangerâ(especially after the
expulsion of 1.5 million Greeks in 1923), but there were those who
were forced to move to Istanbul. The recommendation of the report is
very clear. âOn the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul by
the Ottoman forces, not one Greek should be left in the city.â
The section concerning the Jews.
In the first section of the report, judgments in regards to
the âhumiliatingâ history of the Jewish people, citing the fact that
for 2000 years this people had neither a country or an ancestral
homeland are made. Nomadic, this people is completely devoid of
nationalistic pride and honour. The only objective for this people is
money and influence.
The second section of the report is concerning its
recommendations. âStop all Jewish immigration, while provoking
incidents within the country with the goal of creating a Jewish
exodus, keep them away from all government activity, be it financial
The recommendations of this report were realized to the letter. Other
historic events which occurred after the application of the special
law of 1942 (Capital Tax) confirmed the Machiavellian agenda which
This loyalty to the operational aspect of the plan had the desired
results. Humiliated and intimidated, while searching for a viable and
permanent solution to their situation, 40 000 Turkish citizens of
Jewish origin fled Istanbul once the state of Israel was established
While most Muslim nations refused to recognize the State of Israel,
Turkey was the first Muslim nation to do so, following in the
footsteps of the United States.
The reasons behind their political strategy are clearly
opportunistic. This provides a diplomatic way of âapologizingâ to the
state of Israel for its treatment of Jewish citizens, and at the same
time appease the Western powers for its links and partnership with
Nazi Germany. Finally this strategy provided Turkey with the
opportunity to enter into NATO, a particularly privileged status,
which permitted it to secure preferential credits and at the same
time get closer to the Western powers.
The recommendations of the 9th Bureau of the CHP were religiously
respected. Thus, for those of the Greek community, the recommendation
was as we recall, that at the 500th anniversary of the conquest of
Istanbul, no Greek was to be left in the city.
At the beginning of the 1950âs the political relations between Turkey
and Greece were excessively strained due to the Cyprus issue. The
consequences of this tension were extremely dire for the remaining
minorities in Istanbul, notably the Greek community.
The explosion of a bomb in Salonica (Greece), coupled with an
assassination attempt at the ancestral home of Mustapha Kemal, the
founder of the Turkish Republic and First President, exasperated a
hostile environment and led to the events of September 6-7, 1955:
pillaging, rapes, destruction of minority property in Istanbul. The
late intervention of the army ended the riots. The damage was
irreparable. Several years later, the troubling revelations made
under the guise of testimony in front of the civil-military courts
(the judges were named by the military junta) showed that the bombing
was the work of a man of Turkish origin in service to government
This was the beginning of another period of exodus for all
minorities, most particularly the Greeks. The recommendations
stipulated in the report of the 9th Bureau were executed to the
letter albeit 2 years later than called for (1955 instead of 1953).
The official end of the Greek community in Istanbul was consummated
in 1964 when the government adopted a special decree forcing the
expulsion of Greeks from Istanbul.
In general, the stages of this demographic erosion, caused by
premeditated incidents, can be resumed in the following manner:(10)
Year % of non-muslim minorities of the total population
1914 20 %
1918 2.5 %
1935 1.98 %
1945 1.56 %
1955 1.08 %
1980 0.1 %
Nevertheless, the turkification project for the entire country is
still not complete. For a pureblooded turkist, the ideal image is a
homogenous country where all the remaining Muslim non-turkish
minorities such as the Kurds, Lazes, Tcherkesses... etc. are either
exterminated or assimilated.
* * *
Inaugurated under the cover of an academic movement, pan-touranism
became politicized, even hyper-politicized, during the First World
War. It manifested itself in a course of action which was well
defined. It also formed alliances waiting for its moment of action.
The horrors of 1915 (the physical extermination of the Armenian
people, as well as the liquidation of their geo-political rights)
must be reviled as the sinister program of the government of Talaat
(the Young Turk government). This program was much more than
an âacademic and culturalâ turkification.
The Young-Turks, half pan-islamists, half pan-touranists, still in
the concepts of Ottomanism, limited themselves to cleansing Turkey of
Armenians and partially Greeks. Nonetheless, the total Turkification
of the country became the ultimate project of successive governments
throughout the 20th century. These governments were unrelenting in
their march forward, and agonized entire groups. With patience, they
executed each stage of the plan. The Germanophile Ittihadistes
succeeded through opportunism to turn national patriotism into
The 20th century may have provided for a period of national
renaissance, but it did not signify a spiritual renaissance, or a
conversion to principals which were more progressive, with higher
humanitarian ideals â" like some people naively believed it would be.
We leave to your judgment the evaluation of this renaissance and the
naming of this âoffspringâ of Western âimpotenceâ, which through
their role as quiet accomplices assisted in the massacre and
annihilation of innocent people.