6th – 7th September 1955, Istanbul: Pogrom against the Greeks

This is a black anniversary.

But we must not forget.

The trigger for the horrific events was the explosion of a bomb during the night of the 5th September in the building where Kemal Ataturk was born in Thessaloniki.

The next day, 6th September, the newspapers in Istanbul were full of of the story. And the crowds started gathering. By the evening the whole thing got out of control. the human river flooded the Pera area, coming from Taxim square, and started looting, burning, destroying, killing.

The scale of the attack on everything Greek (and by deflection Armenian, or Jewish) was such that the large Greek community of Istanbul will diminish after the events.

This was not  the work of only a bunch of thugs, although the thugs were the main element. Ordinary people were transformed into looters, murderers and thugs. Only to return later to their homes as if nothing had happened.

Everything was thoroughly organized in advance. The bomb explosion in Thessaloniki was arranged by an agent of the Turkish secret services, who later became the Governor of Kesaria.

The police and the army stayed discretely on the side until it was too late, and the destruction was immense.

People were beaten up, and some of them murdered. The property of the all the victims of this horror disappeared before the sun rose in the morning of the 7th September. The Turkish writer Aziz Nesin wrote:

“A man who was fearful of being beaten, lynched or cut into pieces would imply and try to prove that he was both a Turk and a Muslim. “Pull it out and let us see,” they would reply. The poor man would peel off his trousers and show his “Muslimness” and “Turkishness”: And what was the proof? That he had been circumcised. If the man was circumcised, he was saved. If not, he was doomed. Indeed, having lied, he could not be saved from a beating. For one of those aggressive young men would draw his knife and circumcise him in the middle of the street and amid the chaos. A difference of two or three centimetres does not justify such a commotion. That night, many men shouting and screaming were Islamized forcefully by the cruel knife. Among those circumcised there was also a priest.” (Source: Wikipedia)

The morning saw the army units taking their positions, but it was too late.

Petros Markaris, a Greek writer, who was 18 at the time, spoke about the events at Heybeliada Island, where he was on holiday.

“The commander of the Marine School on Heybeliada convinced the police chief not to let demonstrators set foot on the island. The police chief pulled his gun and halted the demonstrators when they arrived. I faced total devastation the following day when I went to the Beyoğlu, Fener and Kurtuluş [neighborhoods of Istanbul]. Wherever Greeks lived, that neighborhood’s school and church had been destroyed. It was impossible to walk in Beyoğlu because of the broken glass from shop windows and the rolls of fabric that had been thrown onto the street,” he said. (Source: Ta Nea)

Pera, the jewel of cosmopolitan culture and commerce, would never be the same.

The political background to the events is really unsettling. The Democratic Party DP, who was in power at the time, with Menderes as the Prime Minister, was the main organizer of the pogrom with the full contribution of the State Machinery. The 1961 Yassıada Trial against Menderes and Foreign Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu exposed the proximate planning of the pogrom. Menderes and Zorlu mobilized the formidable machinery of the ruling Demokrat Parti (DP) and party-controlled trade unions of Istanbul. Interior minister Namık Gedik was also involved. According to Zorlu’s lawyer at the Yassiada trial, a mob of 300,000 was marshaled in from a radius of 40 miles (60 km) around the city for the pogrom.

Kemal Atatuk (right) and Ismet Inonu

The ruling of the Democratic Party DP was the first in a dark period of single party rule by he Republican People’s Party, or CHP, which were Ataturk’s party. Menderes was first elected in 1950 with 52 percent of the vote, replacing Ismet Inonu and CHP. He was a politician who wanted to break the viscious circle of a single – party rule,and ruled the country for 10 years, 1950-1960. In 1959 he was the TIME magazin’s man of the year. 

Menderes was arrested in 1960 fter the military took over from the political parties, was summarily tried and condemned to death in the parody of the Yassiada tria. He was  executed by hanging shortly after the trial. In 1990 he was reinstated and received all due honors.

It is ironic that the man who tried to tame Kemalism in the 50’s by applying the same ethnic cleansing policies as his arch enemies, fell prey to the bitter conflict between Kemalists and reformers, and had to pay with his life for his “heresy”.

Adnan Menderes

I do not want to engage in a lengthy analysis of motives and what ifs. The heart of the matter remains that the pogrom was planned and executed by the “alternative” to the single party rule, who wanted to prove that they were more “patriotic” than the CHP in implementing the dogma of ethnic cleansing in Turkey, and fully adopting the ideology of a homogeneous and “clean” Turkish Nation.

In Turkey today “Kemalism” and its dogmas seem to be under attack by Prime Minister Erdogan and his party, while the balance of power between the political parties and the military is on the side of the parties, at least under Erdogan.

9 comments

  1. Αυτή είναι η ελληνική Νύχτα των Κρυστάλλων αντίστοιχη με τη νύχτα των κρυστάλλων στη Γερμανία και Αυστρία. Τότε βέβαια Ο στόχος ήταν οι Εβραίοι πολίτες όλης της χώρας και αποτέλεσε την απαρχή του ολοκαυτώματος.
    Θα σας περιγράψω τις πρόσφατες προβοκάτσιες στην περιοχή μου με επιγραμματικό τρόπο και ο καθένας ας βγάλει τα συμπεράσματά του.
    Γνωστοί άγνωστοι κάποια νύχτα του Αυγούστου κάνουν βανδαλισμούς σε μουσουλμανικό κοιμητήριο. Την ίδια στιγμή εξαγριωμένοι συμπολίτες ζητάνε την παρέμβαση του τουρκικού προξενείου που δρα στην Κομοτηνή και το οποίο ω! του θαύματος ανταποκρίνεται άμεσα. Την τελευταία φορά πάντως που συνελήφθη υπεύθυνος για βανδαλισμό πάλι σε μουσουλμανικό κοιμητήριο, ήταν μουσουλμάνος. Τυχαίο;
    Δεύτερη περίπτωση στην οποία ήμουν αυτόπτης και αυτήκοος μάρτυρας, αναφερόμενος ξυλοδαρμός στο νοσοκομείο και τελείως μα τελείως συμπτωματικά τουρκικό κανάλι που έκανε δημοσιογραφική έρευνα στην περιοχή καταφτάνει σε χρόνο ντε τε μετά μουσουλμάνου βουλευτή του κυβερνώντος κόμματος και του ψευδομουφτή. Η αντίδραση ήταν ψύχραιμη αλλά αποφασιστική και δεν άφησε περιθώρια για εκμετάλλευση σε μια υπόθεση που ούτως ή άλλως έμπαζε.
    Αναρωτιέμαι, την επόμενη φορά που θα γίνει προβοκάτσια έχουν γνώση οι φύλακες; Η γενική αίσθηση πάντως εδώ είναι δυσοίωνη, δεν συμφέρει καμμιά πλευρά η όξυνση παρά μόνο τη γείτονα που μέσω της θρησκείας προσπαθεί να παίξει παιχνίδια.
    Ευχαριστώ που μου δώσατε την ευκαιρία να αναφερθώ στα της περιοχής και μας θυμίσατε την αποφράδα εκείνη μέρα με εξαιρετική αναφορά.

    1. Ρουλα, η αμεση εμπειρια ειναι ιδιαιτερα σημαντικη και σε ευχαριστω που την καταθετεις.
      Εαν δεν κανω λαθος, οι μουσουλμανοι της Θρακης δεν ειναι Τουρκοι υπηκοοι στην συντριπτικη τους πλειοψηφια, αλλα η Τουρκια τους εχει οικειοποιηθει, και φαινεται οτι την θεωρουν ως την πατριδα τους. Και αυτο σε καθαρα θρησκευτικη βαση, αφου με τις μετακινησεις πληθυσμων στους περασμενους αιωνες αντε ψαξε να βρεις απο που κραταει η σκουφια καθενος.

      Σε καθε περιπτωση, ο κοσμος εχει αλλαξει απο το 1955 και η Τουρκια σημερα βρισκεται εν τω μεσω της διαδικασιας της Συνταγματικης αναθεωρησης.

      Οντας ανιδεος, θεωρω οτι ακομη και σημερα η Τουρκια ευρισκεται σε ασταθεια, ο δε Ερντογαν και το κομμα του δεν ειναι το αρνι του Ισλαμ. Η θρησκεια ειναι ενα δηλητηριο στην δημοκρατια και την ανοιχτη κοινωνια. Ιδωμεν.

  2. Η προβοκατσια ως μεθοδος δημιουργιας εντυπωσεων, δεν ειναι τουρκικο μονοπωλιο. Ειναι παγκοσμιο. Τωρα το αποτελεσμα εκει φρικη. Ειχα γνωρισει οικογενειες που τοτε μεταναστευσαν στην Αθηνα. Η περιγραφη σας δυνατη. Τις φωτογραφιες αυτες που τις βρηκατε; Καλο Σ/Κ στο ατελιε.

    1. Δεσποιναριον!!! Εκεινο που ειναι φρικτο ειναι ο αφανισμος ανθρωπων στο ονομα της εθνικης καθαρσης. Ξεκινωντας απο την γενοκτονια των Αρμενιων την περιοδο 1915-1917, ο Ατατουρκ και οι διαδοχοι του (στρατιωτικοι και πολιτικοι οπως ο Ινονου) αφανισαν και εδιωξαν απο την Τουρκια εκατομμυρια ανθρωπων μη Μουσουλμανων. Οι προβοκατσιες ειναι απλα τακτικες κινησεις για την επιτευξη του σκοπου.

  3. πολυ καλη η αναφορα σε ενα κομματι της ιστοριας που ποναει τον ελληνισμο.ειναι αληθεια οτι η παρουσια της ελληνικης κοινοτητας στη Πολη δεν ξαναηταν πια η ιδια μετα τα γεγονοτα του Σεπτεμβριου.Πολλοι εγκατελειψαν τα σπιτια τους και τις περιουσιες τους και εφυγαν και ειναι ουσιαστικα η αρχη του τελους για ενα κομματι ελληνικο που ειχε μια σπουδαια παρουσια στην περιοχη σε ολους τους τομεις.
    Με ενοχλει που οι”συμμαχοι”μας δεν αναγνωρισαν ποτε την προβοκατσια που οργανωθηκε απο τους ιδιους σε βαρος του ελληνικου στοιχειου και ποτε δεν ζητησαν συγγνωμη για το φρικτο αυτο γεγονος.
    ακομα και σημερα δειχνουν να το αγνοουν επιδεικτικα.αλλα υπαρχει και η διεθνης κοινοτητα που επισης δεν εκανε κατι προς την κατευθυνση αυτη.
    Ποσα χρονια θα περασουν ακομα που η τουρκικη διπλωματια θα εχει τα μεσα να κατευθυνει συνειδησεις και διεθνεις συσκεψεις;
    Γιατι η Ελλαδα δεν καταφερε να αναδειξει το δικιο της και να διεκδικησει εστω ηθικη αποζημιωση,αλλα αφησε την ταπεινωση να σκεπασει τα παντα;
    Τεραστιο το θεμα προκαλει συγκινηση και θυμο.
    Ευχαριστω που το ανεφερες.Κλημερες.

    1. Γιαννα μου,
      Καλημερα και σε σενα, δυστυχως δεν εχω απαντησεις στα ερωτηματα σου, αλλα θελω να πω οτι κι εγω αισθανομαι θυμο για οσα συνεβησαν, αλλα και απορια για την πρωτοφανη ανυπαρξια των Ελληνικης Διπλωματιας απο την σκηνη!

  4. Istanbul Pogroms of 1955: the Greek Kristallnacht

    The 1955 Istanbul Pogroms – Mostly Greek, but also Armenians, and Jews were attacked – 320 killed – 8500 homes and 12 000 shops were destroyed . It was the end of the Greek community’s significant presence since the days of Constantine and earlier. And the start od massive exodus of other minorities from that historical city.

    The 6 and 7 September of 1955 were a black day indeed. A very macabre day when organised Turkish mobs targeted mainly the Greek community but also other minorities in Istanbul with the clear intent to do as much harm as possible. They burned and destroyed hundreds of previously marked and identified businesses, killing scores. But more tragically, they put an end to any significant Greek presence in the city since thousands of years. The numbers dropped from more than 100,000 to under 1000. It was the end of what was left of an all encompassing Costantinople-Istanbul.

    These very tragic systematic mob attacks events were dubbed The “Greek Kristallnacht”, echoeing the tragic night the jews and their businesses were attacked by Nazi thugs in 1938 in a prelude of much more serious assault and annihilation that followed. Hundreds (thousands?) of these Istanbul rioters were brought in to the city by chartered buses and taxis from several remote areas to execute the planned intimidation and therefore forced expulsion of the Greeks. And unfortunately they succeeded in their plan: to evict the Greeks and wave goodbye to scores of Armenians and other minorities from that majestic city of Istanbul.

    The Istanbul Pogrom, also known as the Istanbul Riots, or the Σεπτεμβριανά in Greek and the 6-7 Eylul Olayları in Turkish (both literally Events of September), was a pogrom directed primarily at Istanbul’s 100,000-strong Greek minority. Jews and Armenians living in the city and their businesses were also targetted in the pogrom, which was orchestrated by the Demokrat Parti-government of Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes.

    The rioters did everything to destroy the most possible within the shortest time. They knew the police were not about to intervene, but had to act fast nonetheless and show the Greeks that they are basically not welcome anymore. They were most “active” in the Beyoglu Pera area and they damaged much more than just property: They killed what was left of Istanbul’s cosmopolitan history.
    Being married to a woman from Istanbul, I have heard and seen enough to fully grasp the very deep shock that the 1955 riots caused. My late father in law Vahan used to say that the 1955 pogroms were as devastating as any other event, shaking not only the Greeks, but also the collective psyche and insecurity feeling of jews and armenians, prompting massive immigration in the months and years that followed the 1955 organised riots.(The arrest, exile and execution of the Istanbul Armenian intelligentgsia on April 24, 195 was the prelude of the Armenian Genocide.)

    1. Dear Visitor,
      I never liked or believed in nationalism.
      I have nothing against the Turks, the Jews, the Armenians, the Germans.
      Humanity is universal.
      Unfortunately, so it horror.
      I wrote this article because I do not want to see anything similar happening to any minority anywhere in the world.

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