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Turk and Jew in Berlin: The First Turkish Migration to Germany and the Shoah

  • Marc David Baer (a1)

In this paper I critically examine the conflation of Turk with Muslim, explore the Turkish experience of Nazism, and examine Turkey's relation to the darkest era of German history. Whereas many assume that Turks in Germany cannot share in the Jewish past, and that for them the genocide of the Jews is merely a borrowed memory, I show how intertwined the history of Turkey and Germany, Turkish and German anti-Semitism, and Turks and Jews are. Bringing together the histories of individual Turkish citizens who were Jewish or Dönme (descendants of Jews) in Nazi Berlin with the history of Jews in Turkey, I argue the categories “Turkish” and “Jewish” were converging identities in the Third Reich. Untangling them was a matter of life and death. I compare the fates of three neighbors in Berlin: Isaak Behar, a Turkish Jew stripped of his citizenship by his own government and condemned to Auschwitz; Fazli Taylan, a Turkish citizen and Dönme, whom the Turkish government exerted great efforts to save; and Eric Auerbach, a German Jew granted refuge in Turkey. I ask what is at stake for Germany and Turkey in remembering the narrative of the very few German Jews saved by Turkey, but in forgetting the fates of the far more numerous Turkish Jews in Nazi-era Berlin. I conclude with a discussion of the political effects today of occluding Turkish Jewishness by failing to remember the relationship between the first Turkish migration to Germany and the Shoah.

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Leslie Adelson , The Turkish Turn in Contemporary German Literature: Toward a New Critical Grammar of Migration (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 20

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Ron Grigor Suny and Fatma Müge Göçek , “Introduction: Leaving It to the Historians,” in Ron Grigor Suny , Fatma Müge Göçek , and Norman Naimark , eds., A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 314

Dan Diner , “Nation, Migration, and Memory: On Historical Concepts of Citizenship,” Constellations 4, 3 (1998): 293306

Michael Rothberg and Yasemin Yildiz , “Memory Citizenship: Migrant Archives of Holocaust Remembrance in Contemporary Germany,” Parallax 17, 4 (2011): 3536

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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