Not only Hitler was think­ing of the new Tur­key

Turkish Review - - REVIEWS - PROF. VAMIK D. VOLKAN

Ste­fan Ihrig, a Polon­sky Fel­low at the Van Leer Jerusalem In­sti­tute, con­cludes his book with a psy­cho­log­i­cal ob­ser­va­tion: “Our na­tional, so­ci­etal, and per­sonal views and dis­courses about the ‘Other’ are much more about us than about any ac­tual ‘Other’; they are de­pen­dent on time and place, on fears, ex­pec­ta­tions, plans, and dreams” (230). The “Other” in this book is the shared men­tal im­age of the Turks, es­pe­cially that of Mustafa Ke­mal Atatürk, in the minds of Ger­mans, par­tic­u­larly Adolf Hitler’s, af­ter the end of World War I.

Fol­low­ing the June 28, 1919, Treaty of Ver­sailles, Ger­many was blamed for start­ing World War I and forced to ac­cept what be­came known as “War Guilt.” It had to make ter­ri­to­rial con­ces­sions and pay repa­ra­tions to some coun­tries that had be­longed to the Entente pow­ers, also known as the Al­lies. Ger­many was hu­mil­i­ated and be­came poor, although ob­vi­ously this sit­u­a­tion be­gan be­fore the Treaty of Ver­sailles when Ger­many was de­feated in World War I. By the end of this war, on Nov. 11, 1918, an es­ti­mated 9 mil­lion per­sons had been killed and 25 mil­lion oth­ers had been wounded. Ger­many it­self had lost 2 mil­lion sol­diers. Un­der such des­per­ate and des­o­late cir­cum­stances, an eth­nic, na­tional, re­li­gious or po­lit­i­cally ide­o­log­i­cal large group searches for a sav­ior, a charis­matic leader, a role model. If the large group is “lucky,” a repar­a­tive leader ap­pears and helps to raise the large group’s self­es­teem with­out de­struc­tive re­sults. If the large group is “un­lucky,” its mem­bers find some­one who hu­mil­i­ates and even de­hu­man­izes another group so that in com­par­i­son, his or her peo­ple can hold on to the il­lu­sion of su­pe­ri­or­ity and ex­ag­ger­ated self-es­teem. The lat­ter type of charis­matic leader is a de­struc­tive one.

The Ot­toman Em­pire, an ally of Ger­many in World War I, was also a loser in the war. The Treaty of Sevres, signed on Aug. 10, 1920, carved up the Ot­toman Em­pire and rel­e­gated it to a small ter­ri­tory in Ana­to­lia. The treaty also took away the em­pire’s man­age­ment of fi­nances and econ­omy -- in re­al­ity, what­ever was left of it -- from the Turks and handed it over to the Al­lied forces. No such pun­ish­ment was in­cluded in the Treaty of Ver­sailles. There were also very harsh mil­i­tary re­stric­tions. The “Sick Man of Europe” was re­stricted to a small bed and fed by un­sym­pa­thetic care­tak­ers.

How­ever, on May 19, 1919, while the Treaty of Sevres was be­ing dis­cussed, Mustafa Ke­mal left İs­tan­bul with some of his com­rades. They landed on what was then an unas­sum­ing lit­tle Black Sea port, Sam­sun. This was the sym­bolic be­gin­ning of the Turk­ish War of In­de­pen­dence and the “birth” of a sav­ior. In­deed, Mustafa Ke­mal con­sid­ered this day his birth­day. He did not know the ex­act day of his ac­tual birth, and he de­clared it to be May 19 to a writer com­pos­ing a bi­og­ra­phy for a for­eign en­cy­clo­pe­dia. He be­came the first pres­i­dent of the new Tur­key in 1923. In 1934 he as­sumed the name Atatürk (Fa­ther Turk) and May 19 as his le­gal birth­day. He died on Nov. 10, 1938.

In a psy­chobi­og­ra­phy of the founder of mod­ern Turkey2 Prince­ton Univer­sity his­to­rian Nor­man Itzkowitz and the re­viewer de­scribe how ador­ing eyes looked upon Atatürk from coun­tries to the east as well as the west of Tur­key. The au­thors did not know, and there­fore did not men­tion, Ger­man use of Atatürk’s im­age as an ex­am­ple of how a “Führer” can save a dy­ing coun­try. In this book Ihrig de­scribes how the Nazis, and Hitler him­self, chose to see Atatürk


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