News Archive
Turkish Scholar Discussed Contributions of Displaced German Jews to Turkish University Reform in 1933
Ann Arbor, 07.11.2010

Ann Arbor, Mich. (November 7, 2010)--*Mr. Mesut Ilgim, a highly respected Turkish researcher and specialist on historical monuments, presented a lecture at Rackham Amphitheater in Ann Arbor followed by a panel discussion regarding the contributions of German Jews to Turkish society following their exile from Central Europe due to Nazi persecution.

The event was jointly hosted by the Turkish American Cultural Association of Michigan (TACAM), American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Michigan, Turkish Cultural Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the University of Michigan Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Additional sponsor were Temple Beth Emeth of Ann Arbor, Beth Israel Synagogue, Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, Jewish Community Center, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice and Jewish Federation of Ann Arbor.

In his lecture, Mr. Ilgim discussed the impact of nearly 200 professors and their families - who immigrated to Turkey in response to the Nazi rise to power - who taught the first generation of modern Turkish specialists and helped to create the new secular academic institutions. Mr. Ilgim has researched the subject for more than a decade since his discovery in the archives of the Turkish presidency of a letter sent by Albert Einstein to President Ataturk in 1933 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.

A panel discussion followed Mr. Ilgim's lecture with distinguished participants Dr. Rudi Lindner, Professor of Ottoman Studies and Dr. Kader Konuk, Associate Professor of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. Dr. Michael Bonner, University of Michigan Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Professor of Medieval Islamic History moderated the panel discussion. During the panel discussion Dr. Rudi Lindner and Dr. Kader Konuk provided valuable insight into lives, accomplishments and contributions of heimatlos professors as well as the hardships they faced in adapting to their new home - the newly established Turkish Republic – from early 1930s until early 1950s.

Closing remarks were made by Mickey Katz Pek, TACAM Grassroots Advisor and manager of this event, Feridun Bek, TACAM President and Honorable Fatih Yıldız, the Turkish Consul General to Chicago. In his remarks Honorable Fatih Yildiz mentioned the **historical ties between Turkish and Jewish communities for a half millennium and added that "hospitality and generosity towards people in needed of help has always been a Turkish tradition and lifestyle". In his closing remarks Mr. Feridun Bek thanked all the sponsors for their support, emphasized the importance of continued brotherhood between Turks and Jews despite a few technical difficulties in the past and added his wishes to cooperate more in the future in similar events. Before closing the session, Mrs. Katz-Pek, expressed pride in being both an American Jew and in taking her Turkish Citizenship later in her life.

For more information regarding this event, contact Gokhan Ozalp (734) 730-4692.

* Born in 1942 in Turkey, Mr. Ilgim completed his education at the College of Economics and Commerce in Istanbul. During his career, he held various executive level positions with the Koç Industrial Conglomerate (1968-2001). Upon his retirement, and in addition to his research regarding the "heimatlos" professors, he became intensely involved with several charity and philanthropic organizations including the Geyre Foundation (supporting the extensive Aphrodisias archeological excavations) as Executive Board member. He has been deeply committed to expanding knowledge in the antique city of Aphrodisias for over 30 years. He is President of the Board of Koç-Yönder Foundation, on the Board of Regents of Yıldız University, a member the Olympic Committee of Turkey Cultural & Arts Committee, and a member of the Board of Regents of the Alzheimer Foundation of Turkey.

**The Turkish and Jewish communities have historically had strong ties. When the Jewish population was expelled from Spain in 1492, the Turkish Ottoman Empire welcomed them. While six million Jews were being exterminated by the Nazis in Europe, thousands of them were rescued by Turkish Diplomats such as Behic Erkin. The thousands of lives saved might well be considered insignificant as compared to millions who died; however, it was very significant to those who were rescued and above all it showed that, as had been the case for more than five centuries, Turks and Jews continued to help each other in times of great crises. Turkish-Jews have significantly contributed to the development of the Turkish Republic. Currently approximately 25,000 Turkish-Jews live in Turkey.

Source : Ann Arbor