Another sample found
1939 Visa issued by a MI6 officer.
I have been following with keen interest the life and work of this official ever since I learned about his true actions during his posting in Istanbul, mainly during WW2.
Ever since my first encounter with a visa that was issued by PCO Arthur Whittall, I have been intrigued and pushed to learn more, to uncover more, about his true activities during his posting as a “Passport Control Officer” in Turkey.
The earliest sample that I located dates from a 1925 Turkish passport used for traveling to British Palestine. The latest sample I have located dates from 1952, and this would indicate that he was stationed at the same posting for over 27 years! A very long period of time indeed!
I believe his true character qualities surfaced during the war years when he worked closely together with the Jewish Yishuv leadership in providing life-saving-visas to Jews who managed to escape the carnage of war and the systematic extermination of Europe’s Jewish communities. The JAFP (Jewish Agency for Palestine) established the “Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency in Turkey 1942-1944” for this reason and had two senior “agents” stationed in neutral Turkey as well: Teddy Kollek and Ehud Avriel. The latter, in his 1976 biography “Open Gates!“, states that he worked closely with Arthur Whittall in obtaining entry visas to Palestine for refugees who managed, by sea, to escape Europe (in 1943 Viscount Cranborne, Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, issued a secret directive to the British embassy in Ankara, stating that any Jew arriving on his own to Turkey would receive an entry permit into the Mandate).
Apparently, during the spring of 1944, the Jews in Hungary and the Balkans began to receive indications that long wanted immigration certificates to the Mandate existed, and that some where being issued by the PCO in Istanbul (approval was done in May – another article on one such fine and important visa & passport will appear in a future article): Bulgaria received 7,000 notifications, 18,500 sent to Hungary & 9,000 to Romania. How many where actually issued and used at the end is not that clear.
Arthur Whittall worked closely and intimately with both local authorities and Jewish elements from within the country and abroad in this tireless effort to saving as many Jewish refugees as possible and allowing them to arrive safely in British Palestine, with the majority transiting through Syria & Lebanon.
“Arthur Whittall himself would be standing at the docks awaiting the refugees, to apply the British seal on their documents” witnesses reported.
We are all truly grateful to this heroic and unique individual that at one of mankind’s darkest moments, he did the right and honorable thing.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.