ACOM Book Club for January 2023


ACOM Book 1 19 2023Thursday Jan 19, 2023
The ACOM Book Club held a Zoom meeting on Thursday, January 19, 2023. Attendees were Al, Francis, Jim, Margaret, Tashina, Andrea and me. This month's book was "Ataturk In the Nazi Imagination" by Stefan Ihrig.

The author wrote this book to demonstrate that Ataturk and the Turkish "war for independence" had a much greater effect on the German people, the Nazi government and Hitler than is commonly assumed.

I joined the meeting a few minutes after it started and, shortly thereafter, stated that I thought that the author was extremely repetitive to the point of making the book very boring to read. I was told that the others at the meeting had already discussed that and that they all agreed.

What makes the book so repetitive is that the author surveyed German newspapers from the end of World War I to the end of World War II and found that many of them were almost fixated on how Ataturk revived the Turkish army in 1919 and led it to victory over the Greek army which was occupying the western end of what is now Turkey, faced down the other members of the Entente (England, France, Italy), and forced a new treaty to be signed with the new Turkish government (the treaty of Lausanne) which was much more favorable to Turkey than the earlier treaty (Sevres) was. Germany was suffering from the treaty which it was forced to sign after the war which required it to surrender territory, pay huge reparations, restrict it's rearmament and have part of its land occupied by French troops. The German people saw what Ataturk had done and wished/hoped that somebody could do the same for Germany.

Andrea and Tashina made the point that Hitler and Mussolini are today considered to have been criminals while Ataturk is looked at as being a hero. Al mentioned that almost every city in Turkey has a statue of Ataturk.

We discussed the connections between Germany and the Ottoman Empire before World War I, such as the railroad which Germany built which ran from Constantinople into the eastern part of the empire. German army officers trained the Ottoman army and in many cases served leadership positions in the army.

The question came up as to what part Ataturk played in the Armenian Genocide. While not being actively involved for most of it, his armies drive out Armenians who tried to return to their homes in Anatolia after the end of the war. He invaded the brief Armenian republic in the Caucasus and may have totally destroyed it except for the Russian army which defended it in exchange for Armenia becoming part of the USSR. When his army attacked Smyrna to drive out the Greek army, the Armenian and Greek sections of the city were burned and he threatened to kill all of the Greeks and Armenians in the city unless they were removed from the city by ships.

We discussed how Hitler admired the way Turkey eliminated most of its minorities and how Ataturk removed the religious control of the Turkish government. Hitler tried to do the same thing in Germany.

Tashina discussed the follow-on book which the author wrote, "Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler", which goes deeper into the Armenian Genocide and how it was viewed in Germany.

For next month we plan to revisit a book that we read 5 1/2 years ago, "An Armenian Sketchbook" by Vasily Grossman. Margaret and Jim will be hosting the meeting.

See you then.


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