History of Turkey During World War II (1933—1952)
The First World War (1914—1915)
Turkey (then known as the Ottoman Empire; 1299—1922) fought in World War I (1914—1918), and was considered a major ally of Germany (then known as the German Empire; 1871—1918). By the wars end, both the Ottomans and the Germans succumbed to defeat after having ferociously fought against the allies. However, when World War II began in 1939, Turkey was one of only five European countries that had declared neutrality towards both sides preferring to stay our of another major world war; the other neutral countries were Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Switzerland.
Even well before World War II began, the Germans had held Turkey with high esteem; being extremely well-informed on the political events transpiring there. Turkey became so highly regarded amongst the Germans that in the space of fours years from the very left wing to the very far right, almost everything from the Muslim nation was reported in a very positive light; one German newspaper alone published 2,200 pieces within that time-frame. This meant that at least one article a day was dedicated to Turkey, it's history and politics (or at the very least three articles every two days). The Germans even used language and vocabulary they usually reserved for White Germans to refer to the Turkish people in an effort to build solidarity.
Nazi newspapers even talked about Turkey in a very respectful manner, despite the Nazi disdain for non-White people. Hans Trobst (1891—1939) for example, who was the only German mercenary in the employment of the Turkish army, wrote about the Turks in the far right "Heimatland" and "Volkischer Kurier" publications, taking great interest in their affairs. However, prior to the Nazis actually taking over these newspapers, they were going against the trend of other German dailies and instead had reported negatively on Ataturk's struggle against the Greeks, French and British. This all ceased on December 2nd, 1920, when the Nazi party purchased them, and soon they became highly sympathetic towards Ataturks cause. Some of the earliest front page headlines were "Heroic Turkey" and "Turkey—The Role Model".
The First World War was an important historical precedence that lead to the Turkish independence movement, so soon after it's end in 1918. A mere five years after the Ottoman Empire collapsed, and the Sultan had shamelessly aligned himself as a puppet of the British, the Turks won their independence, which culminated in the defeat of Britain, France and Greece, enshrined in the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). This superceded the humiliating Treaty of Sevres (1920).
This latter treaty was incredibly harsh, much like that of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) on the Germans, which was designed to punish than sue for terms of peace.
The Turks were only allowed to have an army the size of 50,000 men. This included staff, officers, trainers and depot troops. Reinforcement troops also had to number no more than 15,000 men and legion troops no more than 35,000 men. Of these men, only 1,150 were to have rifles per 1,000 men, one revolver per man, and fifteen machines guns (heavy or light); limited to 10 per legion (defined at 25% the strength of the total number of legion soldiers allowed); with 50,000-100,000 rounds per weapon. Field guns or heavy guns were banned by the treaty outright. The Sultan was allowed a personal bodyguard of 700 men.
Turkey was also ordered to pay £. T. Gold 143,241,757. Furthermore, large swathes of Muslim lands were to go to the direct control of the allied powers.
In total, there were 433 articles of imposition stipulated. Although powerful enough to rip this treaty apart the Turks could not afford a struggle to win back it's other territories such as Iraq, and the Aegean Islands.
Anglo—Turkish Pact (1938—1939)
In 1938, the Turkish armed forces consisted of 20,000 officers, and 174,000 men, largely still equipped with World War I weaponry. The Turkish were so short on rifles that they had asked buy 150,000 rifles from the UK. In 1937, the Turkish only 131 fighter planes, of which 65-66 were modern airfcraft.
Turkey wanted to increase this force to around 300 by 1938, given that they already had 300 moderately trained pilots. Their navy was in an even more dire condition, with only one battle cruiser, four destroyers and five submarines.
By February 1938, the Turkish, aware of an oncoming war increased aerial defence spending by £7,000,000 pounds, and £5,000,000 pounds on military equipment. In May 1938, the Turkish received additional military funding from the British, amounting £6 million pounds.
The Turks actually needed at least £21 million pounds from the UK in order to be able to meet costs. With regards to the Germans arming the Turks; the promises were never fulfilled, forcing Turkey to look outside.
When World War II began, the personal strength of the Turkish air forces were 8,500 officers and 450 pilots, with 370 aircraft. In September 1939 the British agreed to fund £25 million pounds into Turkey's military.
From this deal the Turks were able to purchase 258 aircraft (complete with fuel), 2,500 mines with 2.5 tonnes of charge each, 200 torpedos, 700 depth charges, 36 naval assault craft, 25 patrol boats, 4 torpedo boats, 3 coastguard boats, 6 minesweepers and 2 minelayers.
The Tripartite Straits Crisis (1932—1943)
The bosphorous straits were hugely important for both the Soviets and the Germans as well as the Turks, with all wanting to control the strategically important route. This increased the tension between the Soviets and the Germans; not to mention the already several successful German invasions of Soviet sphere's of influence. The two powers were also diametrically opposed to one another, one was communist and the other fascist. It became inevitable that the two powers would clash, but where,[n. 1] was the question. Hitler chose the option for a direct invasion on the Soviet lands, after being guaranteed Turkish neutrality, which was the best he could achieve. When the war began between the Germans and Soviets, the Turkish president was hugely relieved. The Germans were attacking Turkey's longest known enemy in it's history, without so much as involving Turkey directly into the conflict. The Germans, which the Turks were still distrustful of, also did not manage to get embroiled in a Nazi invasion of their lands. With the Soviets busy trying to defend themselves, and the Germans busy invading the Soviet Union; and with the conflict later reaching into stalemate and then Germany losing, Turkey managed to avoid the two powers attacking it's territory. When Inonu heard that Hitler had invaded the Soviets; he burst into a fit of laughter; "for nearly ten minutes" which demonstrated "a release of tension by someone who had been under enormous stress for the last two years". Thereafter the Turkish took on a Pro-German stance in order to deflect irking the Germans.
Prior to the invasion, Hitler tried as much as he could to cause tensions between the Soviets and Turks, in order to push the Turkish away from the communists. By 1940 the Germans even thought of attacking the Turks directly should they form an alliance with the communists, but this never materialised since the Germans had separated the two already, and also wanted to first deal with eliminating the Soviet Union before it was Turkey's turn. Germany also tried to divide them in other ways as well. The German propaganda ministry published several literature in order to convince the Turks over to their side. They published "Signal", "Turkische Post", "Beyoglu", "Istanbul" and "Yeni Dunya". The Germans also broadcasted several radio programmes within Turkey, massaging historic ties and friendship, praising even Ataturk himself. The Nazis also showed themselves as the alternative to the communists, whom Germany would fight against, should their expansion continue in order to protect Turkey. The focus on trade grew increasingly, with Germany increasing its export and imports from the Turks from 13.5% and 23.3% respectively in 1932 to 44% and 46% on average for the next 1935 and 1938. In stark contrast, Britain only imported 3% of Turkey's total produce and exported 11% of their products. It is interesting that total trade during the war between the Soviets and Turkish actually continuously declined from 4%/4% in 1938 to 0%/0% by 1945, whereas with Germany it was 44%/48% in 1938 to 0%/1% in 1945. With the British it increased from 3%/11% in 1938, to 15%/23%, and with the US from 12%/10% to 44%/18%.
President Inonu ignored the Germans before the Soviet-German war, as much as he could at every opportunity, which even culminated in German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, to threaten to destroy Turkey "within a week" if they did not respond back and ally with them. Turkey staunchly ignored his tirades, despite fully knowing well that the Nazis were invading dozens of countries and were serious about their threats. The Turkish president and Hitler even exchanged correspondence in order to ease tensions between the two by March 1941, with Turkey increasingly worried about a German invasion of their territory. This was even after assurances were made personally by Hitler himself that he would respect Turkey's borders. In relief the Turks found themselves safe after Hitler had indeed honoured his agreement, and stayed well away from the Turkish lines when he entered Bulgaria. Even when Greece and Yugoslavia were invaded in April 1941, Turkey remarkably felt completely at ease. It was so at ease that it even ignored Churchill's requests to invade Germany, with Inonu proclaiming that the "adventure" would amount to nothing for his people. In what seemed like a turnaround for Hitler (since in the summer of 1939 he had espoused anti-Turkish feelings), by May 5th, 1941, he was openly praising the Turks given how important they were becoming to the geopolitical context, vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. The politiking culminated in the June 18th, signing of a Nazi-Turkish Non-aggression Pact (1941). This pact meant nothing; the Nazis broke theirs with the Soviets after 4 days.
Nazi—Turkish Trade (1933—1945)
Britain was so worried about Turkey's exports to Nazi Germany that they offered a £16 million pound deal, with at least £6 million pounds going towards military purchases in May 1938. By January 1939, the Germans tried to outbid the British, offering RM 150 million reichmarks, with at least RM 60 million reichmarks dedicated to military products, in addition with offers to buy agricultural products, at 30% above global market prices. Throughout the war however, Turkey was not significantly developing any proper political relations with the Nazi empire. The British exploited this by forming an Anglo-Turkish Treaty in May 1939, much to Germany's annoyance. The Nazis protested by not honouring their arms exports at all, and after Turkey had refused to renew the August 1939 trade agreement between the two, but eventually settled their differences. The importance of this trade is emphasised by the fact that the Germans had heavily traded with Turkey well before the outbreak of World War II. In 1939, the Turkish population census recorded that there were 17,820,950 Turkish citizens living in the country, with 13,475,000 million (70%) living in rural areas. As a result, self sufficiency proved impossible given how spread the Turkish population was outside of it's Urban areas. For this reason, the Turks needed foreign currency to shore up their accounts in a short amount of time. Germany came to it's aid, supplying 78% of it's wool yarns and tissues, 69.7% of it's iron and steel, 61% of it's machines and apparatus, and 55.4% of it's chemicals. In return, the Germans bought 75% of new wool, 70% of it's cotton, and 70% of it's chrome.
Turkey produced approximately 20% of the global chromite ore supply (estimates range from 16%-19% of global economic output). It was a crucial ingredient in the production of military products such as tanks (since stainless steel contains up to 18% chromium); which 33% of chromium ore bought from Turkey by Nazi Germany was directed to by 1944. Trade was brisk, between 1939 and 1943, the gold reserves of the secular Turkish republic rose from $88 million dollars to $221 million dollars. This was the fourth largest increase in gold reserves out of the five neutral nations, which one historian has claimed is linked as evidence to the extent of Nazi looting during the war (not all of the $221 million dollars was made from Nazi Germany). The largest increase was witnessed by Switzerland at 537%, whereas Turkeys was 133%. In terms of the amount of gold Turkey made from Germany, in 1939, the secular republic only had 27.4 tonnes of gold (27.400 kg), but by 1945 it accumulated a healthy 216 tonnes (216,000 kg) of gold bullion. Although it was not known to the Turks,[n. 2] it is alleged some of the gold came from concentration camps. If trade was in todays prices, this amounts to $8.7 billion dollars in gold trade in total. However others claim that Turkey never received more than $15 million dollars in gold (most of which was said to have been looted in Belgium). Turkey never returned, nor was asked to return, any gold. In 1933, Nazi Germany bought 11.7 tonnes of chromium ore, and between January and August 1939, just prior to the invasion of Poland, it bought 96.2 tonnes. From 1936, 64,500 metric tonnes (mt), 58,400 mt (1937), 68,500 mt (1938) and 114,500 mt (1939) of chromite ore were sold.
Creation of Israel (1948—Present)
Historically, the Jews in Turkey were never persecuted and even helped in the formation of the Young Turks Movement in 1908 (the same movement would later be accused of an alleged "genocide" against the Armenians). The Jews also later supported the war of independence, betraying the Christians in favour of the Muslims. Ataturk even praised Turkish Jews for their contributions towards the movement. When World War II started, many European Jews fled to Turkey. When Israel was created in 1948, at the expense of the Palestinians who would undergo a colossal loss of land and subsequent genocide attempts of their own at the hands of the Jews, Turkey became the first Muslim country to recognize it. The two countries good relations continued (along with Azerbaijan; another Turkic state) well into the next few decades until Israel committed several massacres, mass murders, and wars against non-Jews in Palestine in an effort to ethnically cleanse Israel, including the 2008 flotilla attack. Israel only apologized after Obama forced it's hand. Israel's belligerent attitude towards non-Jews has ironically even seen it's government come out in support of a "shoah/holocaust" against Palestinians. In World War II however, Turkey rescued 115,000 Jews from Europe. When this figure is broken down, 15,000 were French Jews who were allowed to settle in Turkey, along with 100,000 Eastern European Jews. Turkey however, also deprived 2,000 Turkish Jews of their citizenship, but refused to do so for 3,000 others, who were all on an arrest warrant list made by the Germans at the height of Nazi power.
Turkish—Soviet Relations & NATO
Turkey was at strains with the Soviet Union, even before the war began. The communists had adopted an expansionist policy, which would go on to disrupt many different countries throughout the USSR's tenure until it's demise in 1991. The Polish had already suffered a joint Nazi-Soviet coalition to takeover the country even during the war. The Turks had, at least politically, attempted to survive this threat by making a treaty with the communist empire, known as the Treaty of Friendship (1925); this was renewed in 1935 again as the situation in Europe gradually worsened. For a time, this meant the Turks only had the Italians to worry of. The Italians had openly declared hostility several times towards the Turks, and even went on to horrendously invade Muslim Albania. This was primarily also down to the fact that the fascist Italians had already invaded Ethiopia. The Italians themselves wanted Iraq, and being former Ottoman territory, they did not want Turkey to get it back. Eventually Italy was taken out of the equation as Hitler's forces and influence grew to massive proportions. During this time, Turkey opened up even more in their relations with Britain, and then France. The British guaranteed protection to the Turkish if war broke out in the mediteranean in the May 1939 treaty, however Turkey was not obliged to do the same if Britain was invaded. Turkey signed a similar deal with France in June 1939. Fortunately for the Turks, when the French were invaded (and surrendered to the Nazis within a month), this worked out for them. As Russia was invaded and then started winning, the Turks felt threatened.