Istanbul since 1933 – Rescue with Reservations

For many refugees in the 1930s, the metropolis on the Bosporus became an important, if often forgotten, city of transit and refuge. As a connection point to the Asian continent, Istanbul played a special role for many Jews on their way to the British Mandate territory of Palestine, for instance. However, the increasing pressure on those persecuted by National Socialism and pressured to emigrate also coincided with the nationalist self-interest of the young Republic of Turkey, which welcomed and even encouraged immigration of parts of the expelled intellectual elite to support its modernization program. This synergy transformed Istanbul into a rescue center – albeit, for many, with reservations. Today, this chapter of flight migration is seen partly as a stellar moment of humanitarian reception policy, partly as a decisive phase of the Turkish nationalist modernization program, partly as an encroachment with orientalist and colonial motives, 11Regine Erichsen, 2021: “Bildungshilfe” oder “postkolonialer Übergriff'”? On the State of Previous Research. (Sept. 20, 2021). but it is mainly not remembered at all. If it is remembered, it is primarily equated with certain representatives of the German elite. But flight migration can by no means be limited to them. The refugee community was ethnically heterogeneous and represented all social classes. In Istanbul, it was part of a centuries-old history of migration and increasingly became a pawn in the intense German-Turkish relations.


  • 1Regine Erichsen, 2021: “Bildungshilfe” oder “postkolonialer Übergriff'”? On the State of Previous Research. (Sept. 20, 2021).

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