“Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination” by Stefan Ihrig

30 Mar

Adolf Hitler in the workshop of the sculptor Josef Thorak, with Thorak’s bust of Atatürk behind him, Munich, February 1937Adolf Hitler in the workshop of the sculptor Josef Thorak, with Thorak’s bust of Atatürk behind him, Munich, February 1937 (click)

From The New York Review of Book.  See whole article: Hitler & the Muslims by Steve Coll in April 2, 2015 volume.

Money quote (at least for our purposes):

“The aim of Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination is to document that the founder of modern Turkey deserves to be remembered as a figure equal to Mussolini in Hitler’s early political imagination. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later glorified as Atatürk, had a record of military action that included cleansing what Hitler believed to be the inherently sapping multiethnicity of the expired Ottoman Empire.

“Indeed, in Ihrig’s account, apart from Atatürk’s personal inspiration, the organized mass killing of Armenians by Turks during World War I—the events now recognized as the Armenian Genocide—explicitly influenced Hitler’s thinking about the extermination of Jews as early as the 1920s. Ihrig quotes a multipart essay published in Heimatland, an influential Nazi periodical, by Hans Tröbst, who had fought with the Kemalists during what Turks knew as the War of Independence:

‘The bloodsuckers and parasites on the Turkish national body were Greeks and Armenians. They had to be eradicated and rendered harmless; otherwise the whole struggle for freedom would have been put in jeopardy. Gentle measures—that history has always shown—will not do in such cases…. Almost all of those of foreign background in the area of combat had to die; their number is not put too low with 500,000. [emphasis in original]’

“In incipient Nazi historiography, Ihrig writes, “the ‘fact’ that the New Turkey was a real and pure völkisch state, because no more Greeks or Armenians were left in Anatolia, was stressed time and again, in hundreds of articles, texts, and speeches.” Of course, the Nazi Holocaust was constructed in its own setting, from its own sources; one should not overemphasize the Armenian precedent, and Ihrig does not. Yet here is a documented example from the early industrialization of ethnic murder in which one campaign of genocide influenced another.

And a key point:

“Politically, Atatürk’s success offered a model of how to overcome the humiliation and prostration imposed on World War I’s losers at Versailles. Atatürk not only seized power through bold action in the name of the Turkish nation, he also forced European capitals to renegotiate the terms of the treaty they had imposed…”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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