Not only Hitler was thinking of the new Turkey
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
IF A GROUP IS ‘LUCKY,’ A REPARATIVE LEADER APPEARS AND HELPS TO RAISE ITS SELFESTEEM WITHOUT DESTRUCTIVE RESULTS