Dodecanese Islands and a misinterpreted document
In 1934, Turkish foreign policy was in grave tension. The Non-Aggression Pact, proposed to the Soviet Union, was hanging for Stalin’s vote, rather than his open veto. It was clear that similar agreements with France and England would not mean a lot back then.
During that period, Germany was not an ally Turkey wished to have. The accusations surrounding Turkey’s favorableness with Germany, at that period and the upcoming ones, are baseless.
Apart from some exceptions, this was not the atmosphere in Turkish bureaucracy. Even though former President İsmet İnönü’s German antipathy is not being openly expressed, it was one of his rooted principles.
Turkey had turned into a country, which was passing every day through worries. Without a doubt, the troubles of the war and the security precautions taken were enough to alienate the government’s relationship with the masses.
Furthermore, another situation, which was unthinkable rather than watching in despair, was the atmosphere created between the two by the German-Soviet, Ribbentrop-Molotov Non-Aggression Pact, and the division of Eastern Europe.
The over 1 million of soldiers Turkey had mobilized at the Çakmak Line, established along the borders, was a significant part of the population. Apart from the destruction it led in production, it was clear that Turkey did not had a defense power which was properly equipped.
The developments occurred at an unexpected rate. In April 1941, the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia and then Greece.
The majority of the Bulgaria-Romania-Bulgaria line was al-ready under Reich’s control.
On June 22, 1942, the development, not most expected but some experts felt, suddenly blew. Reich soldiers attacked the Russian trenches in Brest. This news was given to President İsmet İnönü during the early hours while he was sleeping. It is said that the president on hearing the news burst into laughter and started to play zeybek, a traditional folk dance.
It was a moment of discharge after a long-lasting tension. The first crisis was being weathered. Now, the time came to watch the two enemies go at it with hammer and tongs.
Germany was making its way in North Africa, targetting Egypt. Italy was right there. Now with an abrupt battle, the tank units, which had previously been destroyed by their distinguished commander Stalin, were dispersed and Marshal von Bock leaned against Moscow front. Even though it is said that Stalin never left the city, the importance he attached to the forces in Smolensk is known. Presumably, Hitler took the Russian defense in Smolensk more seriously and ordered the army to Smolensk to defeat its rivals.
The fact is that Russia’s early winter, being a large country and Marshal Montgomery’s presence in North Africa changed the balance. Moreover, the
Soviet Union’s rapprochement with allied states, in particular receiving American military
aid would change the situation even more.
Their business in Africa was done
At a critical time, in July 1942, Rommel’s armies were stopped. Marshal Montgomery had stopped Rommel, also known as “desert fox.” The marshal, who represented the most serious and old ecole of the German armies in the Second World War, started to be pushed from North Africa after two months of persistence.
On December 23, 1942, Tobruk was out of Rommel’s hands. The Germans and Italians business in Africa was done. Besides, on November 2, 1943, the Red Army seized Kiev. In January 1942, the Germans retrieved from Caucasia.
The invasion of Dodecanese was obvious
Within all this turmoil, Italy staged a coup against Mussolini. The coup actually started at the Grand Council of Fascism. The new Italy apprehended Mussolini. After Germans took him with a successful operation, an Italian Social Republic was established at the north and Mussolini took the helm.
In such an environment, it was obvious that Dodacenese islands, under the control of Italy, would be invaded by Germany, and especially the Jewish population in those is-lands entered into black days. The collapse of Germany had started.
It is seen that Prime Minister Şükrü Saraçoğlu, who was in contact with President İnönü in a trip to Kars on September 25, gave information about von Papen’s offer on Germany giving the islands to Turkey. Even the document used has been wrongly read. The offer is not coming directly from the ambassador. The envoy’s intelligence chief informed Naci Perkel about the situation and said that his response is being waited. After Saraçoğlu told the president about the situation at the Kars trip, the president said, “It is clear that Germans would not hand over the islands unconditionally, thus, no dispute will take place with the British and the Greek.”
The president gave the response on September 26, 1943. The fact that Germans would hand over the archipelago to Turkey in a directed manner, is not something that those with the right mind can accept. Think that a few months ago the allies, in particular Americans, started their attack from Italy. On the other hand, an invasion of Europe was no secret, even though its place was not known. It is easy to think and guess what could have happened to Turkey, which accepted such a gift. The worst is that the Red Army would save (!) Turkey, which could have been under fascist attack.
The Westerns only took on the duty to invade Greece and Italy. All other German allies in the Balkans were left in the hands of Soviet Russia.
History cannot be written over dreams
We do not understand the blame put on İsmet Pasha regarding the Dodecanese. The pasha was yet to become colonel during the 1912 Ouchy Agreement and he was chief of staff in the army, which quelled the rebel of Ahmet İzzet Pasha, the army commander in Yemen.
In Lausanne, only Imbros, Tenedos and Samothrace, were requested. We did not even have the ship to send two troops of soldiers upon something that was not given.
It is clear that history cannot be written over dreams. It is remarkably dangerous to use this for politics. It is not an approach that suits Turkish historiography and foreign politics. It is a fancifulness that suits the Balkan countries more.
We are the citizens of an old state, which never lost its independence. There is a legacy of our bureaucracy, civilians and soldiers, who undertook. This seriousness needs to be protected.