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. However, the increasing pressure on those persecuted by National Socialists to emigrate also clashed with the nationalist self-interest of the still young Republic of Turkey, which welcomed and even encouraged the immigration of part 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 refugee 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, but above all not remembered at all. If so, it is primarily equated with representatives of the German elite. But refugee migration can by no means be limited to this elite. The refugee community was ethnically heterogeneous and represented all social classes. This text is an abridged version of a longer version that can be found under the chapters on Istanbul since 1933.

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