How Ataturk saved 30 German-Jewish dons

 Ataturk’s Turkey welcomed 30 German-Jewish professors fleeing the Nazis. A new film, Haymatloz, tells their story. Report on Qantara.de:

Kurt Heilbronn, a psychotherapist, …moves back and forth between
Germany and Turkey. His father, founder of the Istanbul Botanical
Garden, was a respected plant geneticist in Germany before the Nazis
chased him out in 1933. Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern-day
Turkey, offered him a professorship in Istanbul.


Ataturk actively pursued a sweeping university reform in the late
1920s, with the aim of turning Turkey into a modern country – no matter
the cost. The German professors who fled Nazi Germany were welcomed with
open arms and helped build Turkey′s university system.

Ataturk outlawed Arabic letters and introduced the Latin alphabet.
Young Turkish students were to receive a sound education, just like
their fellow students in the West. Women, who were no longer required to
wear a veil, flocked to the universities, says Eren Onsoz, director of
the documentary “Haymatloz”.

German Jewish academics forced to emigrate to Turkey in the 1930s (source: mindjazz pictures)

 German Jewish academics forced to emigrate to Turkey (Photo: mindjazz pictures)

The families of all five of the film′s
protagonists managed to flee persecution by the Nazis in 1933. Many
decades later, these Jewish emigrants′ children reminisce about their
childhoods, about growing up in Istanbul or in Ankara – and what awaited
them in post-war Germany, where Jewish returnees were anything but
welcome.

The film highlights a chapter of German-Turkish history that has
largely been forgotten, telling the stories of five German emigrants who
worked as professors at Turkish academies, universities, ministries and
in public office. In Turkey, they weren′t labelled as Jews, but rather
regarded as the “Germans”. They taught generations of Turkish students.


After Hitler seized power, Jewish scientists and professors were no
longer allowed to hold official positions. Many fled to Switzerland,
where they turned to the Emergency Association of German Science Abroad,
founded in Zurich in 1933 by a German emigrant, Philipp Schwartz. The
association helped more than 2,600 persecuted academics escape and find
posts at foreign universities. In the winter semester of 1933/34,
Istanbul University hired 30 Jewish professors.

The families of all five of the film′s protagonists managed to flee
persecution by the Nazis in 1933. Many decades later, these Jewish
emigrants′ children reminisce about their childhoods, about growing up
in Istanbul or in Ankara – and what awaited them in post-war Germany,
where Jewish returnees were anything but welcome and where no one spoke
about the fate of the German Jews.

Click here to see film trailer 

Susan Ferenz-Schwartz, Egon Bagda, Kurt Heilbronn, Enver Hirsch und
Elisabeth Weber-Belling say they don′t really feel at home anywhere.

“We would have ended up in Auschwitz, too,” says Susan Ferenz-Schwartz, averting her eyes. “That was the only alternative.”

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