Mayor Adem Atmaca and councillors,
As an Australian genocide scholar, I write to you regarding the statue of Mustafa Kemal (also known as Atatürk) proposed for your city. In brief, Mustafa Kemal is not a suitable subject for commemoration in modern Australia.
Beyond Kemal’s role in the killing of Anzacs on the Gallipoli peninsula, he is an inappropriate subject for such an honour given the inspiration he provided to Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists (Nazis). In his landmark book Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination, Dr Stefan Ihrig, Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute in Israel, demonstrates why Hitler called Kemal his “shining star”.
Between 1919 and 1924 Mustafa Kemal was responsible for the second phase of the genocides of the indigenous Armenians, Assyrians and Hellenes of Anatolia (modern Asiatic Turkey). This included systematic massacres of genocide survivors returning home after World War One.
Kemal’s responsibility culminated with the state-sanctioned destruction of the city of Smyrne (Izmir) in September 1922, and the subsequent expulsion order Kemal issued: all non-Muslims were deported from the territory controlled by his forces.
The Nazi-affiliated Heimatland newspaper gave one-eighth of its space each week, from 1 September to 15 October of 1923, to features on Kemal. Papers throughout the country would refer to Kemal’s Turkey as Germany’s “role model.”
“If we want to be free, then we will have no choice but to follow the Turkish example in one way or another,” the right-wing military man and journalist Hans Tröbst announced in Heimatland.
Those “bloodsuckers and parasites,” Hellenes, Assyrians and Armenians, had been “eradicated” by the Turks, Tröbst explained in Heimatland. “Gentle measures – that history has always shown – will not do in such cases.” The Turks had achieved “the purification of a nation of its foreign elements on a grand scale.” He added that “almost all of those of foreign background in the area of combat had to die; their number is not put too low with 500,000.” Shortly after his articles appeared, Hitler invited Tröbst to give a speech on Turkey to the Nazi militia, the SA.
From 1923 on, Hitler consistently praised Kemal in his own speeches as well. Berlin, like Constantinople, was cosmopolitan and decadent. Munich, the site of Hitler’s beer-hall putsch, was the place for a German “Ankara government.”
Having completed the destruction of the indigenous non-Muslim population, Kemal turned his sights on other non-Turks. In the late 1920s, Kemal’s government conducted the massacre of Alewites/Alevis in the Dersim district.
In 1934, Kemal’s government organised and conducted a pogrom against the remaining Jewish community of eastern Thrace (European Turkey), known as the Trakya incidents.
When Hitler seized power in 1933, the official Nazi party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter cited Kemal’s victory as the “star in the darkness” that had shone for the beleaguered Nazis in 1923, after the putsch’s failure. Turkey was “proof of what a real man could do” – a man like Mustafa Kemal or Adolf Hitler.
For the above and many other reasons, any monument to Australian-Turkish friendship cannot include any reference to Kemal.
Councillors, far more preferable would be a monument to the Anzac prisoners of war held in captivity across the Ottoman Empire during World War One or to the anonymous migrants from across Anatolia who settled in the City of Hume following the abolition of the White Australia Policy in the late 1960s.
*Dr Panayiotis Diamadis is a lecturer of genocide studies at the University of Technology, Sydney.