Contribution of German Jewish Professors to Turkey’s University Reform of 1933

November 7, 2010 — 2pm – 4pm
Rackham Amphitheater
Reception 4pm in the Assembly Hall
915 East Washington Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan

TACAM invites you to an afternoon talk about a remarkable moment in the history of Turkish-Jewish relations.

The Turkish and Jewish communities have historically had strong ties. Since the first mass immigrations of Jewish people to the Ottoman Empire in 1492, through the thousands of Jews rescued by Turkish diplomats during the Holocaust, Turks and Jews have continued to help each other in times of great crises for over five centuries. The Turkish diplomat Behiç Erkin saved the life of approximately 20,000 Jewish people from the Nazi camps in 1939, and during World War II, the Turkish Consul of Rhodes protected the life of 42 Jewish families.

The afternoon talk concerns an extraordinary response to the rise of Nazi persecution in Central Europe. It begins with a 1933 request for help from Albert Einstein to President Atatürk of the Turkish Republic. In this rare exchange almost 200 “heimatlos” or expelled professors, mostly of Jewish descent, immigrated to Turkey and taught the first generation of modern Turkish citizens, who would later become the professors, specialists, reformers and creators of the new Republic of Turkey. Many of the heimatlos professors eventually stayed permanently in Turkey.

What may not be well known and what this presentation and panel discussion will highlight are events in 1933, which involved a request by Albert Einstein to the founder of the Turkish Republic Atatürk, who welcomed German-Jewish Professors to Turkey. These series of events will be highlighted at this talk, which demonstrates the modern day reality that currently over 25,000 Turkish-Jews live in Turkey today. Likewise, the Turkish-Jewish population have significantly contributed to the development of the Turkish Republic helping to make Turkey the sixteenth largest economy in the world. As a result, this presentation will focus on the past and continued nationhoods of these two nations.

The lecture will be presented by Mr. Mesut İlgim, a highly respected Turkish researcher, specialist on historical monuments, and photographer. His research began over a decade ago when he first found the letter Einstein wrote to Atatürk offering the assistance of a group of expelled professors in modernizing/westernizing the newly founded educational, architectural, musical, medical, legal, and scientific initiatives in Turkey.

The participants of the panel discussion are Rudi Lindner, Professor of Ottoman Studies, and Associate Professor Kader Konuk of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. Professor Lindner is the son of Austrian refugees and knew some of the exiles. Professor Konuk is an expert in Turkish-German Studies and the author of a recent book on German Jews in Turkey entitled East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey.

We would appreciate seeing you during the reception to welcome the Honorable Turkish Consul of Chicago. Mr. Fatih Yıldız.

This event is organized and supported by the Turkish American Cultural Association of Michigan and American-Jewish Committee, as well as financial support from the Turkish Cultural Foundation and the University of Michigan Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies.

Our supporting sponsors are Beth Israel Congregation, The Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, The Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, The Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice and Temple Beth Emeth.

This event is free and open to the public
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