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Perşembe, Eylül 28, 2023

The Significant Role of The Jewish German Scholars in The Higher Education in Turkey


Republic of Turkey was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923. The main goals of the newly founded republic were to become modern state like Western countries and to have civilicized society. Firstly Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his collegues started to effort to reform in many areas in particular education. The Istanbul University was established as well as the higher education system was reformed like Western systems. The Ottoman University(Darulfunun) was closed down. Basicly, education is the main strategy  in order to make society civilicized. From his point of view, Turkey should have been secular, modern and western state.

After the Nazi Regime came to power in 1933, there were many jewish german scholars who were expelled in Germany. Because the Nazi Regime was suppressing the opposition groups including leftists and jewish population. The world was going to the war. Turkey was showing its decisiveness so as not to be a part of the war with the President Ismet Inonu. The main goal of the Turkish Foreing Policy was to be neutral. Thus, foreign scientists were willing to go to Turkey as Europe was in war. At the time, Albert Einsten, who is the prominent jewish german scientist, wrote a letter to the Turkish Government for  those who were under pressure by Nazi Germany due to the political and religious views so that they could live and work in Turkey. Then, more than 40 scholars arrived in Turkey and started to work for the Istanbul University. The main aim of Ataturk was in the assured hands. They contributed the higher education system that was not ready for modernization in the new young rebuplic. The main aims of this essay are to analysize the arrival and settlement of  the Jewish german scholars especially in terms of Turkish people, to scrutinize what they did in Turkey. Then i will talk about Jews and Turks relations after WWI and during the second world war.

Hitler’s Rule in Germany and Immigration of Jewish Scholars

As noted by Bahar(2015)…

“After Hitler came to power  in april 1933, without losing time, he issued his racist  edict, the ‘Law fort he Restoration of the  Professional Civil Service,’ to prohibit non- Aryans from working  as civil servants in Germany. According to the third provision of the law:

Civil Servants who are not of Aryan descent are to be retired; if they are honorary officials, they are to be dismissed from official status.

A second decree, issued four days later, defined what was meant by non- Aryan:

A person is to be regarded as non- Aryan if he is descended from non- Aryan, especially Jewish, parents or grandparents. It is enough for one parent or grandparent  to be non- Aryan. This is to be assumed especially if one parent or one grandparent was of the Jewish faith.”(Bahar, 2015,p.49)[1]

When we look at these two rules, those who have got one Jewish grandparent lost their jobs in several area. In the public sector, All Jewish employees, Jewish scholars, academic lecturers, professors even if they were really successful and prominent for their departments were forced to quit by the Nazi Germany. Therefore, they started to think about escaping to different countries for the sake of them and their work that is sacred for human beings.

As stated by Tachau(2002)…

“The Nazi Revolution in Germany was essentially destructive in nature, transforming the political system, crippling educational, scientific and cultural institutions, and culminating in an orgy of aggressive expansion that plunged the world into the bloodiest war in history. The Turkish revolution, in contrast, was constructive in nature and intent. Its prime objective was to build European style society and culture on the ruins of the corrupt and discredited Ottoman Empire. It had no expansionist or aggressive ambitions externally, seeking instead to establish a society that would live at peace with its neighbors.”(Tachau,2002, p.233)[2]

However, Ataturk administration believed that education was the keystone for modernity and civilised society. That is why, Turkey implemented university reforms according to modernization process.

Turkey started to refforms higher education system. The Ottoman Darulfunun was abolished and then the Istanbul University was established in 1933. Moreover, Albert Malche, an Austrian expert in pedagogy prepared a report that was wanted from ministry of education  for the Turkish higher education. According to this report, the foreign scientists who are contemporary  should have come to Turkey for creating a new spirit and contributing modernization process.[3]

Furthurmore, Albert Einstein who is the prominent scienctist in the world left Germany owing to  power of Nazis. But he worries about jewish german scientists. Then, he wrote a letter to Turkish Government for them. This demand was refused by the Turkish Government at first. But later by Ataturk’ invite Jewish scholars began to come to Turkey. Therefore, Many Jews Scholars and professors began coming to the newly founded Istanbul University.

Source:   [Online] Available from,   http://www.cankaya.edu.tr/duyuru/einstein.php, [Accessed:6/3/2015]
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who is the founder and first president of Republic of Turkey. His principles are Republicanism, Populism, Secularism, Revolutionism, Nationalism, Statism. The main principle of the Turkish foreing Policy is ‘ Peace at home, Peace in the world.’

Source: [Online] Available from, http://www.turkeytourkey.com/the-great-leader-mustafa-kemal-ataturk/ , [Accessed:6/3/2015]

The Activities of  the Jewish Scholars

As we mentioned, more than 100 german speaking jewish scholars arrived in Turkey and started to work at the Istanbul University. Minister of education Reşit Galip said;

“ Today is a special day in which we accomplished an exceptional and non-exemplary work. About 500 years ago when we captured Istanbul, the Byzantine scholars emigrated to Italy and we could not  avoid it… Consequently, the renaissance emerged. Today, we are taking the pay back of it from Europe.”(Bahar,2015,p.52.)[4]

Faculties of Law, Medicine and Science were established at the Istanbul University. However, these faculties were not working good and had got the lack of organisation. Jewish scientist helped the higher education system base on European style in Turkey. Moreover, they brought the European education method. According to Malche’s advices, they contributed the classes in which the students could attend freely and also they could discuss in a democratic way. They also made the students think, ask questions and search by practising and conducting experiments. Before the university reform, the resources were not much in the libraries. With the reforms, Jewish contributed to make up  a good library for  the students to learn and study.  Lots of students ware grown by them. Then they became scholars and lecturer in the universities. Moreover, many books were translated into Turkish by the jewish scholars. Science is a vital area for the world. That is why scientist has got a serious task for the people to enlighten. These scholars did many conferences that were open to the Turkish people. Scientific articles, researches increased as well.

Foreign Scientists and The Faculties For Which They Work

Faculty of Medicine was the main faculty in which most of Jewish Scientist used to work at the Istanbul University. These scholars :

Philipp Schwartz (1933-1952), Siegfried Oberndorfer (1933-1944), Hans Winterstein (1933-1956), Julius Hirsch (1933-1948), Hugo Braun (1933-1950), Werner Lipschitz (1933-1939), Friedrich Dessauer (1934-1937), Erich Frank (1933-1957), Rudolf Nissen (1933-1959), Wilhelm Liepmann (1933-1939), Joseph Igersheimer (1933-1939), Rutin (1934­ 1936), Karl Hellmann (1936-1943), Max Sgalitzer (1938-1943), Alfred Kantorowicz (1933-1950).[5]

One of  the famous scientist was  Rudolf Nissen. He contributed Turkish operation techniques and helped Turkish doctors develop. He has got four Turkish and German books and also sixty two scientific articles. He accomplished Nissen Fundoplication after having operations in 1936. He left Turkey for treatment to U.S.. He died in Basel in 1981. When we look at Faculty of Science, we will also see jewish german scholars: Richard Edler von Mises (1933-1939), Willy Prager (1933-1941), E. Finlay Freundlich (1933-1937), Hans Rosenberg (1938-1940), Thomas Rodys (1942-1947), Marcel Fouché (1933-1964), Harry Dember (1934-1940), Kurt Zuber (1941-1963), Arthur v. Hippel (1933-1934), Fritz Arndt (1934-1955), Kroeplin, Weiss, Friedrich Breusch (1937-1971), Herzog, Philipp Gross (1936-1939), Valensie, Jean Savard, Frederick Hurn Constable, André Naville (1933-1937), Curt Kosswig (1937-1955), Alfred Heilbronn (1933-1956), Leo Brauner (1933-1955).

Richard Edler  von Mises is one the famous scientist on mathematics. He worked hard in Turkey.Then, He ot invitation from University of Harvard in 1936. Even though those who are scholars o law did not have much work than other scholars, they were really prominent scholars: Andreas Schwartz (1934-1953), Ernst E. Hirsch (1933-1952), Richard Honig (1933-1939), Karl Strupp (1933-1935), Fritz Neumark (1933-1952), Gerhard Kessler (1933-1951), Alexander Rüstow (1933-1949), Wilhelm Röpke (1933-1937), Josef Dobretsberger (1938-1941), Alfred Isaac (1937-1950).[6]

Ernst Hirsch is one the important expert on law. He taught trade law as well as he has got  contribution towards Turkish Law Science.

Turks and Jews Relations During the Second World War

Turks and Jews relations lean on the Ottoman Empire term. At the end of fifteenth century Sephardi Jews migranted to Ottoman territory owing to Spain and Portugal’s oppression. In Istanbul, many Jews had got good businesses. Turks were doing trade wtih the Jews. Jews had got rights more than other non-muslim groups. Because they were strong in economy in particular in Istanbul and Thessaloniki. Moreover, Many Jews became officials in the Ottoman administration especially in the foreing relations. Because they were speaking foreing languages. They  were influencing the central government.

After Hitler came to power in 1933, German Jewish and Polish Jewish were executed in the concentration camps as well as they forced to flee the country. During the second world war, More than 3 million Polish Jewish and 210.000 German Austrian Jewish died[7].

There is a principle in international politics or relations. Internal issues affect external issues as well as we can say the reverse. In Europe, there wew fascist movement  that came to power in Germany and Italy. It affected Turkey that has  Pan- Turanism movement which aimed big Turk union. Turkey was the neutral state during the WWII. Both it was continueing to talk to German goverment and also the Western counterparts. And there were Jewish population in some cities like Istanbul. Turkey was managing to be outside the war. On the other hand, it was implementing some policies for being closer to the counterparts. Forr example, At the beginning of the war, Turkey and Germany had good relations. That is why in Turkey there was an oppression to Leftist group and also Jewish. During the war, Turkey suffered much in terms of economy. Turkish economy was  too bad. However, war economy was working. Many businessmen that most of them non- muslim people became rich. The Turkish Government enforced the wealth tax that aimed to be ready any war scenario. Because government needed to raise the funds for armed forces. All Turkish citizens were supposed to pay this tax. But wealthy citizens had to pay much due to the higher tariffs. Therefore, this tax was supposed to be paid much by non muslim citizens including Armenians, Greeks, Jews. When we look at the outlook with considering international affrairs, non muslim population that controlled the large proportion of Turkish economy suffered with this tax as well as started to lose its power in economy. That is why for Turkish bourgeoisie, the way was opened in economy. [8]

After the second world war, Israel was established. Hundreads of thousands Jews emmigrated Israel from Turkey.

Generally, Turkey’s immigration policy was looking for benefit. Turkey at the time needed to get immigration of odern contemporary and western scholars. Therefore, the bridges were found adn then Jewish scholaars immigrated to Turkey.

As Bahar pointed out(2015)

“.. in the eyes of the Turkish administration, the scholars were not jewish refugees to be saved or protected but, as Konuk pointed out, they were regarded as ‘representatives of European civilization and not  Jews per se’ It is possible to say that their aloof relationship with their non- noticeable Jewsih background further facilitated the Turkish government’s recognition of them as neutral Europeans an seamlessly met the expectations. The decree of August 29,1938 that was also  declassified very recently further  confirms that only those Jews who were of some benefit to the country were permitted to immigrate to Turkey.”(bahar,2015,p.67)[9]


The world saw destructive war in the twentieth century. Lots of soldiers both sides died. Many civilians lost their lives. The Shoah happened in Europe by the Nazi Regime and its collaborators. More than 5.5 million Jewish were killed and executed in the concentration camps. Many germna speaking Jews forced to flee the country. In return, Turkey was managing to enforce the refforms to westernize the country according to modernization process. Education was the vital issue whereas  Turkey was not ready in terms of scientist source. Thus, Turkey needed scientist immigration for the higher education. After Hitler’s power imposed on the rules in order to eliminate jews from country and oppressed the opposition by fascist ideology, many german speaking jews immigrated to peaceful countries. Turkey was neutral country untill 1945 during the second world war. So, it was one the peaceful country. Those who immigrated to Turkey contributed the higher education system to base on Western structure. By doing so, the higher education in Turkey developped in the aim of modernity. A lot of assistants were grown by Jewish scholars. University libraries were developped and supported. Because the libraries were too poor. Some of them left Turkey because of disabilities of the libraries and other conditions.





Bahar, I. Izzet(2015), Turkey and the Rescue of European Jews, Routledge, [Online] New York Available From:  https://books.google.pl/books?id=WFa2BQAAQBAJ&pg=PA50&lpg=PA50&dq=turkey+jewish+scholars&source=bl&ots=9j_sNgbO2g&sig=7T5kPK-UpwwbG9PD43zLEzDa8Xk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Yf5tVcy-HMKssgHEpI7ACA&ved=0CEcQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=turkey%20jewish%20scholars&f=false , [Accessed: 6/3/2015]

Tachau, Frank(2002), German Jewish Emigres in Turkey. In: Avıgdor Levy (eds.), Jews, Turks and Ottomans, Syracuse University Press, New York, [Online] Available from https://books.google.pl/books?id=3lRkp8Oes18C&pg=PR28&lpg=PR28&dq=jewish+scholars+in+turkey&source=bl&ots=gelunHh0xy&sig=S5aSxM06dFRJuYQMhfANzQM9D9g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dwVuVe3yD4qGywOD8oOIAg&ved=0CDYQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=jewish%20scholars%20in%20turkey&f=false , [Accessed: 6/3/2015]

Namal, Yücel, Contributions of Foreing Scientist to the Higher Education Between  1933- 1950 Years in Turkey, Journal of Higher Education and Science, April 2012, [Online] Available from http://higheredu-sci.beun.edu.tr/pdf/pdf_HIG_1551.pdf , [Accessed: 6/3/2015]

Alex, Dan, World War II Statistics 4/22/2015 [Online]      Available from http://www.secondworldwarhistory.com/world-war-2-statistics.asp, [Accessed:6/3/2015]

Kobal, Enis, Role of the wealth tax law in the Turkish National Bourgeoisie Formation Process, [Online] Available from http://tedprints.tedankara.k12.tr/21/1/2009-Enis%20Kobal.pdf  , [Accessed: 6/3/2015]

Danan , Marcy Brink(2012), Jewish Life in the 21st Century: The Other Side of Tolerance, Indiana University Press, [Online] Available From https://books.google.pl/books?id=Fg6IaaKkR9wC&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=jewish+scholars+in+turkey&source=bl&ots=DqfI6hiWMe&sig=sOVG039gLIbWZRsz_Utw-s0UAo8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dwVuVe3yD4qGywOD8oOIAg&ved=0CDkQ6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q=jewish%20scholars%20in%20turkey&f=false , [Accessed: 6/3/2015]


[1] Bahar, I. Izzet(2015), Turkey and the Rescue of European Jews, Routledge, [Online] New York Available From:  https://books.google.pl/books?id=WFa2BQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false , [Accessed: 6/3/2015]

[2] Tachau, Frank(2002) Grman Jewish Emigres in Turkey. In: Avıgdor Levy (eds.), Jews, Turks and Ottomans, Syracuse University Press, New York

[3] Bahar(2015), p.50.

[4] (Bahar,2015, p.52)

[5] Namal, Yücel, Contributions of Foreing Scientist to the Higher Education Between  1933- 1950 Years in Turkey, Journal of Higher Education and Science, April 2012, p.16. [Online] Available from http://higheredu-sci.beun.edu.tr/pdf/pdf_HIG_1551.pdf , [Accessed: 6/3/2015]

[6] (Namal,2012,p.17)

[7] Alex, Dan, World War II Statistics 4/22/2015 [Online] Available from http://www.secondworldwarhistory.com/world-war-2-statistics.asp, [Accessed:6/3/2015]

[8] Kobal, Enis, Role of the wealth tax law in the Turkish National Bourgeoisie Formation Process, [Online] Available from http://tedprints.tedankara.k12.tr/21/1/2009-Enis%20Kobal.pdf  , [Accessed: 6/3/2015]

[9] Bahar(2015),p.67.



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