Chronology of Rescue by Turkish Diplomat Selahattin Ulkumen


Selahattin Ülkümen was the Turkish Consul General in Rhodes, 1943-1945.  In July 1944, the Germans began rounding up the Jews of Rhodes.  The Turkish Consul General, Selahattin Ülkümen, interceded on behalf of those Jews who were Turkish nationals.  By his efforts, 42 Jewish families were set free from the deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  In reprisal, the Nazi authorities bombed Ülkümen’s house, fatally injuring his pregnant wife and two employees of the consulate.  Consul General Ülkümen received the Righteous Among the Nations award in 1989.  He was awarded a special medal from Turkey in 2001.  Ülkümen died in 2003.

Italy rules the Dodecanese chain of islands in the Aegean Sea.

Selahattin Ülkümen is born in Turkey into the Moslem faith.

September 1943
Italy withdraws from the war, and the German army occupies the Dodecanese islands.

Turkey has remained neutral from 1939-1943; starts political and military talks with the British.

Germany, fearing that a second front would be opened in the Aegean Sea with the help of the Turks, closes the Turkish embassies in Bulgaria and Greece.  Germany demands that the missions on the island of Rhodes be closed, but the Turks refuse.

February 1944
The Turkish mission on the island of Rhodes is the only remaining Turkish mission in Axis territory.

February 18, 1944
Two German planes bomb the Turkish consulate on Rhodes.  Ülkümen’s wife is very seriously injured.  She dies six or seven months later, after giving birth to a son.  Ülkümen never remarries.

July 20, 1944
The Gestapo orders all of Rhodes’ 1,800 Jews to report to military headquarters for registration pending deportation.  Ülkümen hears that the Jews are about to be deported to concentration camps.  Ülkümen intercedes on their behalf with the German military commander--General von Kleeman--and asks for the release of 42 Turkish citizens.  He claims they are Turkish citizens, not subject to deportation.  He threatens an international incident, and the German commander capitulates.

August 1944
Turkey severs diplomatic and economic relations with Germany and Ülkümen and his wounded wife are interned.  He is later moved to the Greek mainland.

May 8, 1945
V-E Day.  Ülkümen is released and returns to Turkey.

Ülkümen continues in the Turkish diplomatic service in Europe, then as Consul General in Beirut and Cairo, and as Deputy Secretary General of CENTO (Central Treaty Organization).

Ülkümen retires from diplomatic service in Istanbul at age 65.

June 1990
Ülkümen receives the Righteous Among the Nations medal in Israel, becoming the first Turk to be honored by Yad Vashem.

April 26, 1998
Ülkümen is honored by an Israeli commemorative postage stamp and ceremony at Yad Vashem.

November 1998
Ülkümen is honored in the Visas for Life: The Righteous Diplomats exhibit in Bern, Switzerland.

April 2000
Ülkümen is honored in Visas for Life: The Righteous Diplomats exhibit that opens at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.  Opening program is held in the hall of the General Assembly.  Many of the families of the diplomats are in attendance.

May 2000
Ülkümen is honored in Visas for Life exhibit that opens at the national convention of the American Jewish Committee in Washington, D.C.  Dinner attended by U.S. Secretary of State, the Prime Minister of Sweden and the President of Germany.

July 2000
Ülkümen is honored in Visas for Life: The Righteous Diplomats exhibit that opens at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.  Exhibit is sponsored by the Secretary General and the Chief of Protocol, Mehmet Ülkümen.

The Visas for Life Project nominates Turkish diplomats who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.  They are honored with a medal of heroism by the Turkish government.  Honored are Selahattin Ülkümen, Necdet Kent and Namik Kemal Yolga.  All three of these heroic diplomats, in their late 80's and 90's, were able to receive these medals personally.

June 7, 2003
Selahattin Ülkümen, the Turkish diplomat who saved Jews on the island of Rhodes, passes away in Istanbul.

October 2003
Ülkümen is honored in Visas for Life exhibit that shows in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, sponsored by Congressman Tom Lantos and Senator Charles Schumer.

Ülkümen is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York City.


Updated November 5, 2017