Turkish Diplomats Who Rescued Jews


Numan Menemencioglu, Turkey, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1942-1944

Currently being researched.

Behiç Erkin, Turkey, Ambassador to Vichy, 1940-1943

Currently being researched.

Saffet Arikan, Turkey, Ambassador to Berlin, 1942-1944

Currently being researched.

Selbarty Istinyell, Turkish Chargé d’Affaires in Romania, 1942-43?

Selbarty Istinyell, the Turkish Chargé d’Affaires in Romania, worked to halt or delay the deportation of Romanian Jewry.  He worked with Chief Rabbi Alexander Safran, the Papal Nuncio Andrea Cassulo, Swiss ambassador to Romania René de Weck, and Red Cross representative to Romania Karl Kolb.

[Butnaru, I. C. The Silent Holocaust: Romania and its Jews. Safran, Alexander. Resisting the Storm: Romania 1940-1947. (1987). Lavi, T. Rumanian Jewry in World War II: Fight for Survival. (Jerusalem, 1965). Hebrew. Lavi, T. (Ed.). Rumania, Vol. 1.  In Pinkas Hakehillot, Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities. (Jerusalem, 1969). Hebrew.  Dworzecki, Meir, “The International Red Cross and its Policy Vis-à-Vis the Jews in Ghettos and Concentration Camps in Nazi-Occupied Europe,” in Gutman, Y., and E. Zuroff (Eds.). Rescue Attempts during the Holocaust: Proceedings of the Second Yad Vashem International Historical Conference, Jerusalem, 3-11 April, 1974. (Jerusalem, 1977), pp. 100.]

Necdet Kent, Consul for Turkey in Marseilles, France, 1942-45

Necdet Kent was the Vice Consul for the Turkish Republic stationed in Marseilles, France, in 1942.  He was later promoted to the rank of Consul and remained in Marseilles until 1945.  When Nazi Germany occupied France in 1940, many Jewish Turks and others fled to unoccupied Vichy France.  During the period of 1942-45, Kent issued numerous Turkish certificates of citizenship to Jewish refugees, preventing them from being deported to Nazi murder camps.  On one occasion, Kent boarded a deportation train with Jews loaded on a cattle car.  He successfully intervened to have them released to his custody. 

Selahattin Ülkümen,* Turkish Consul General in Rhodes, 1943-45

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.

[Shaw, Stanford J. Turkey and the Holocaust: Turkey’s Role in Rescuing Turkish and European Jewry from Nazi Persecution, 1933-1945. (New York: New York University Press, 1993), pp. 253-254.]

A. Routier, Honorary Turkish Consul General in Lyon, France, 1942-43

A. Routier was the Honorary Turkish Consul General in Lyon, France.  He issued certificates of citizenship and passports to Turkish Jews in southern France.  These Turkish citizens had lost their right to citizenship due to their not registering with the Consul General for an extended period.  They were assumed to be French citizens by the Turkish government.  [Shaw, Stanford J. Turkey and the Holocaust: Turkey’s Role in Rescuing Turkish and European Jewry from Nazi Persecution, 1933-1945. (New York: New York University Press, 1993), pp. 62-63, 335.  Report to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the activities of the Honorary Turkish Consul-General in Lyon, Archives of the Turkish Embassy (Paris) Dossier 6127, no. 638 26 November 1942.]

Turkish minister in Bucharest, Romania

In fall 1941, the Turkish minister in Bucharest, Romania, suggested to the US Ambassador that 300,000 Romanian Jews could be transported to Palestine through Turkey.  This proposal was forwarded by the US ambassador but was turned down by the US State Department.  The US representatives refused to even broach the question with British authorities.  Objections made by the US State Department endured throughout the war.  [Levin, Nora. The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968), p. 580.]


*Recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel


Updated November 5, 2017