October 28, 2011
I didn’t know this part of History.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
The recent documentary movie ‘Turkish Passport’ is the unlikely story of Turkish diplomats who helped save tens of thousands of lives by issuing passports to Jews during World War II. The new documentary contains extensive research and an impressive production, which hits the right nerves, especially in these trying times.
Just when one thinks that every story about the Holocaust has already been told, an unlikely tale of hope, optimism and heroism, or “the only Holocaust story with a happy ending,” enters our lives.
“Turkish Passport” is an unusual story about the Holocaust; it is unusual simply by having the word “Turkish” in its title, since Turkey was a neutral country during WW II. The documentary, directed by former advertisement director Burak Cem Arlıel and written by Deniz Yeşilgün and Gökhan Zincir, is a surprising recount of Turkish diplomats in France and other European countries who had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews by issuing them Turkish passports.
Based on extensive research of four years, “Turkish Passport” tells the story of Turkish diplomats and those saved by them through interviews with the survivors, the relatives of the survivors and the relatives of the Turkish diplomats, as well as re-enactments. It was definitely a period when Turkish bureaucracy was not as stalled, and when a Turkish passport was literally a lifesaver.
The film recounts stories of Turkish diplomats like Behiç Erkin, Turkey’s ambassador to France, who issued passports to French Jews of Turkish ancestry and helped ship them off to Turkey in rescue trains. The diplomats issued passports to anyone who could utter a few sentences in Turkish, an ironic reminder of Kurds who sought asylum in Europe in the 1990s through uttering sentences in Kurdish.
Director Arlıel is well aware that the interviews he managed to capture on film are valuable, yet are repetitive after a certain point. That was when some of the re-enactments came to the rescue. These scenes work very much like a feature film, rich in detail and meticulous in production. They are not your run-of-the-mill re-enactments of the History Channel variety that are designed to work as fillers.
The director and the production team are also aware of the extent of their research, making sure that no one goes without credit, even though not all the research was included in the film. The web site acts like a companion piece to the film. Choosing English as its language, the site features details on research, documents, and survivor testimonials, some not seen in the documentary. Words of one of the eye witnesses in the web site perhaps best summarizes the backbone of the film: “My father was arrested by the Germans and sent to the Drancy internment camp. My mother immediately went to the Turkish Embassy and asked for help rescuing my father. Thanks to the letters written by the Ambassador, my father was rescued from the camp.”
“Turkish Passport” was screened in the recent Adana Golden Boll Film Festival and in Cannes Film Festival last May, creating a word-of-mouth buzz for both its subject matter and its impressive execution. The tag line “Whoever saves one life, saves the entire world” might seem like a cliché, but it truly captures the film’s essence, and rings even more powerful in these trying times.
Now below a video suggested by euronews:
The film “The Turkish Passport” combines dramatic reenactments with documentary testimony to tell a little-known tale from more than 60 years ago, of how Turkish diplomats saved Jews from Nazi persecution. Thousands of Jews from France found their way by train to Istanbul.
I quote an extract:
The Turkish Passport tells the story of diplomats posted to Turkish Embassies and Consulates in several European countries, who saved numerous Jews during the Second World War.
Whether they pulled them out of camps or took them off trains that were taking them to concentration camps, the diplomats, in the end, ensured that the Jews, who were Turkish citizens, could return to Turkey and thus be saved. Based on the testimonies of eye witnesses, who traveled to Istanbul to find safety, the Turkish Passport also uses written historical documents and archive footage to tell this story of rescue and bring to light the events of the time.
The diplomats didn’t only save the lives of Turkish Jews. They also rescued foreign Jews condemned to a certain death by giving them Turkish Passports. In this dark period of history, their actions lit the candle of hope and allowed these people to travel to Turkey, where they found light.
Through interviews conducted with surviving Jews who had boarded the trains traveling from France to Turkey, and talks with the diplomats and their families who saved their lives, the film demonstrates that “as long as good people are ready to act, evil cannot overcome.”
Many human beings were saved. I’m proud to be Turkish.
“Peace at home, peace in the world”