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HOLOCAUST EDUCATION AND GENOCIDE PREVENTION

Turkey

Turkey

The Balkans and the Caucasus regions include those states on the Balkan peninsula, those on the Anatolian Peninsula, and those in the area around the Caucasus Mountains. These states are grouped together because of the intense ethnic struggles within and between many of them. These modern states were all part of the Ottoman Empire and 20th-century political realignments created national polities that included sizable ethnic minorities. Although most of these states had some level of historical engagement with the Holocaust, many of them view World War II almost strictly in terms of their own national histories. The Holocaust, therefore, is generally not a substantial topic of interest unless it fits into a larger national narrative.

TURKEY’s government has demonstrated willingness to support Holocaust education. Turkey was the only predominately Muslim state to attend the 2000 Stockholm Forum. The Turkish delegation asserted that “throughout history the Jews who lived in Turkey enjoyed great freedoms and they did not face any kind of discrimination and persecution. read more

The Turkish people have shared a common past with the Jews. The contribution of Turkey to this intergovernmental event, thus, is becoming increasingly important.”  Though Turkey’s Jewish population of 17,600 does indicate some level of tolerance, there have nonetheless been some anti-Jewish attacks in Turkish history, most notably in Eastern Thrace in 1939 and the Istanbul riots in 1955 directed at Jews in addition to ethnic Greeks and Armenians. Still, it is apparent that the narrative of tolerance is an important piece of Turkish official policy, as demonstrated by the pledge of the Turkish delegates at the Stockholm Forum to “revise text books ... to cover sections on awareness and remembrance of the Holocaust.”  This revision has not yet taken place. For instance, the only mention of the Holocaust occurs in a paragraph of the “Contemporary Turkish and World History” textbook. In the view of Turkish sociologist Kenan Cayir, this paragraph is possibly the sole reference to the Holocaust in Turkish textbooks.

As of April 2012, Ertan Tezgör, a Turkish ambassador, told a B’nai B’rith Canada roundtable that “Turkish academics and historians are consulting with the IHRA, Yad Vashem, and other experts to create a new, expanded Holocaust curriculum for high school students, which should be in place within the next five years.”  This statement is not unimportant by any means and is buttressed by Turkey’s formal observer status within the IHRA, its declared intention to become a full member, and its work with the Paris-based, UNESCO-sponsored NGO Aladdin Project to bring awareness of the Holocaust to Muslim countries. In 2011, Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah was screened at the Istanbul Film Festival, and it was shown on television in early 2012 with Turkish subtitles, the first time a Holocaust film had been shown in a predominately Muslim state.  Even more recently, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has undertaken outreach work to familiarize educators there with Turkish language sources on the Holocaust as well as working with the Anne Frank House to pilot a teacher training program in Turkey. Ambassador Tezgör has met with officials of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on several occasions.  Finally, in April 2012, Turkey’s Bahçeşehir University hosted a two-day forum titled “Jewish Refugees from Nazism and their Role in Modernization of Higher Education in Turkey.” The forum was sponsored by Aladdin Project and Princeton University; attendees included UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, underscoring UNESCO’s commitment to bringing knowledge of the Holocaust to Turkey.

RESOURCES

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Trends, Patterns, and Practices,  a publication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and  the Salzburg Global Seminar, 2013
Download PDF

UNESCO:  Why Teach About the Holocaust?, 2013

UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM Holocaust Encyclopedia Articles

Archival Documents

David Stoliar
Click on David's photograph to listen to his oral history interview. describes engine troubles experienced by the "Struma" upon leaving Constanta, Romania.

Szymon and Edwarda Wang
Click on the thumbnail of Szymon and Edward Wang for the full size image.walk down a street in Istanbul, Turkey, where they were living as refugees.

LINKS

Yad Vashem
http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/search_results.asp?cx=005038866121755566658%3Auch7z5rmfgs&cof=FORID%3A10&ie=UTF-8&q=Turkey&find=

Anne Frank House
http://www.annefrank.org/en/Education/Travelling-exhibition/Asia/Turkey/

FELLOW UPDATES

Pinar Dost-Niyego, Galatasaray University, Assistant Director, Lecturer

 

Pinar spoke at a conference on the Armenian Genocide and wrote a paper “Perceptions of the Holocaust in Turkey: Use/Misuse of the Holocaust Paradigm in Regard to the Armenian Genocide.” She is currently the associate director, Turkey Office & Istanbul Summit at the Atlantic Council. 

 

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