Ataturk: The Man who Hitler was Inspired by

Did you know the UEFA Finals are being played at Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey? Did you know that this stadium is named after a man who killed numerous innocent people? Let’s take a dive in and see who Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was born in Thessaloniki, Greece which was at the time the Ottoman Empire. He was a supporter of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), and got involved with politics in 1919, when he established the Turkish Nationalist Movement, it’s sole purpose being to drive out Allies that have claimed their territory.

After he established the movement, he gathered the remaining Ottoman soldiers to be a part of his army, recruited interested CUP members to his movement, and set up his headquarters in Ankara. He eventually took over the territory and established himself as the first president of Turkey in 1923. He was considered the father of the Turks and the first president of Turkey. Currently in Turkey, it is illegal to insult Ataturk’s memory and is glorified by Turks everywhere, but guess what? He has done horrific things to ethnic minorities. Let’s take a look:

 

The New York Times, 14 June 1922

Let’s start with what Ataturk did to Kurds. Ataturk was historically very brutal to the Kurdish population in Turkey. Kurdish liberation movements led three uprising attempts that were crushed by Ataturk. For instance, there was the Sheikh Said rebellion (1925), in which one million Kurds were deported by Kemalists, in which thousands of them died from illness and malnutrition. In addition, during 1929, when the Kemalists were negotiating with Kurdish leader Nuri Pasha, they killed 100,000 Kurds living in 200 villages, in addition to destroying 500 towns and villages.

Also, Ataturk’s adoptive daughter, who was also Turkey’s first female pilot, had a big part in Turkey’s bombing of Kurdish populated south-eastern region of Dersim (Tunceli) from 1936 to 1939. In addition, the Kemalists were raping Kurdish women and girls and slaughtered more than 50,000 Kurds. Among the population, 100,000 Kurds were deported.

Another minority that suffered under Ataturk was the Armenians. He was one of the leading consummators of the Armenian Genocide, during the final years of the Ottoman empire. Ataturk wanted to conquer Anatolia and get rid of the Armenians living there. Ataturk led an army to Marash in January 1920 and massacred Armenians living there, causing the end of the Armenian population living in that region. Ataturk also led his Kemalist units to Hadjin, where Armenians there put up a fight for seven months until they were reduced to less than 500 survivors that fled the area in October 1920. The French recently occupied Cilicia, where there were a bunch of Armenians. Once the French stopped occupying Cilicia, that was the cause of a deportation of Armenians living in the city. 

During the same time, Ataturk’s Nationalist troops started a war with the Republic of Armenia, where they seized half of their towns in November 1920, and the remaining towns went to the Soviet Russians. General Kiazim Karabekir led the town seizes and went with Ataturk’s secret instruction to “proceed with the physical elimination of Armenia”. The final stage of getting rid of the Armenians in Anatolia was when the Kemalist army invaded Izmir (Smyrna) in September 1922, and after a fire outbreak was caused in the Armenian section of the city. This fire consumed all the Armenian owned buildings and churches and caused the Armenians living in Smyrna to evacuate to the shore, in which they sailed with all their remaining belongings. In addition, several Armenians were killed and rape during the Kemalists’ invasion. With that event, Ataturk completed what Enver Pasha and Talaat Pasha started in 1915. His goal of the Islamification and Turkification of the region was almost done.

 

Armenian and Syrian refugees at a Red Cross camp outside Jerusalem, circa 1917-19

After he was president of Turkey, Ataturk began pressuring the French to evacuate Iskenderun (Sanjak of Alexandretta), which had a population of 23,000 Armenians. The French evacuated in 1938, resulting in the Turks sending in their army. Kemal died the same year without completing his goal of getting rid of the Armenians in Anatolia. The French eventually offered the Iskenderun Armenians to live in Lebanon and Syria, which they accepted. Ataturk let the Turks keep their stolen Armenian wealth (e.g., money, lands, etc).

Ataturk was also responsible for the massacre of the Greeks in the later years of the Genocide. Kemalists were mass murdering Greeks in Trebizond in 1921, according to the Maryborough Chronicle of Queensland. In a district of Rhodopolis, there was a mass murder of 150,000 Greek men, women and children by Kemalists in 1922, according to an article called “Kemalist Troops Employed in Systematic Campaign of Murder and Starvation” by the New York Times. In addition, the article describes the deportation of Greeks from Geronta (today Didyma) to Mugla.

Along with persecutions of Greeks in the cities, Ataturk sentenced influential Greeks to be killed, commonly by hanging, through his established Courts of Independence. During the burning of Smyrna in 1922, Kemalists not only killed and raped several Armenians, but they also killed Greeks. Along with the killings, they also burned down the Armenian and Greek quarters of the city.

New York Times, 21 September 1922

Consistent to the evidence above, Ataturk did not like Christians. This is a quote from him in 1922: ‘Our aim is to get rid of the Christians’, and historians claim that there are several accounts of him saying this. Even though Ataturk’s main goal was Islamification and Turkification of the region, he did not care for Islam as much, he was a womanizer and smoked heavily. In addition, he prioritized his nationalist identity over his identity as a Muslim.

It is not surprising that Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by Ataturk ““Turkified” non-minority republic”. In remembrance of Ataturk when he died, the front page of the Nazi newspaper Volkischer Beobachter was black. Adolf Hitler said in his interview with Turkish politicians: “..Atatürk was a teacher; Mussolini was his first and I his second student." Hitler also viewed Ataturk’s nationalist movement as a “shining star”.

Interestingly enough, currently in the wake of the George Floyd protests, a US protestor put the following sign on Ataturk’s statue in the Turkish embassy of Washington DC: "Yes, I am guilty of crimes against humanity". The people in the Turkish embassy were enraged, saying this was one of the “ugly acts”. According to the Greek Genocide Resource Center’s Facebook page, this sign was placed by someone who claimed that their family member was killed by the Ottoman Turks. We hope that this article provides a clear depiction of how problematic Ataturk is, even though Turks view him as their hero.

Statue of Ataturk in the Sheridan Circle in Washington D.C.