MI6 agent who issued lifesaving visas – Turkey WW2
A diplomat who did the right thing.
By now we are all familiar with the Righteous among the Nations, those individuals who put their life at risk and issued all the assistance possible, at the time, in order to do the right thing, showed us all that humanity does have its finest hour.
The list of such individuals is getting longer by the day. The list consists of clergymen, businessmen, farmers, private individuals and also diplomats. All of these courageous people, against all odds, decided that a life is too precious of a thing to let go, and acted.
But even today, we learn that more and more aided the weak and the hunted, and their names are still not commemorated. Their story is still not told. The world is still unaware of their actions, their bravery.
This could be the case of a MI6 British agent, posted in Turkey, and was working undercover as a passport control officer at His British Majesty’s consulate in Istanbul. His name was Arthur Whittall. Already stationed in the 1930’s in Turkey, he continued his work throughout the war. From testimonial material that has surfaced after the war, here in Israel, from private individuals and Jewish Agency for Palestine officials stationed both in Turkey and British Palestine at the time, it has become clear that major Whittall assisted many refugees, who arrived in Turkey, with entry visas into Palestine. Ehud Avriel, for example, a native of Vienna that fled Nazi occupied Austria in 1940, and was stationed in Turkey for the specific purpose of aiding Jews escape Europe (Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency in Turkey 1942-1944), in his biography, states that he worked closely with this diplomat 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). He clearly writes how the PCO with its staff, sergeant Parks, would frequently be visited by the JAFP personnel and work together in an effort to save as many as they can. This diplomat would use his local contacts as well for this effort. Another individual who was part of these operations was a Jewish Turkish businessman named Simon Brod, who had a successful textile importing company, and was working for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, had close ties to the local community and authorities at the time, for example, a close friend was a high ranking police officer named Ahmet Demir, and all three with the JAFP staff worked together. “Arthur Whittall himself would be standing at the docks awaiting the refugees, to apply the British seal on their documents” witnesses reported.
Here are sample images of such visas that were hand signed by this passport control officer and another one by one of his staff members:
- PCO entry visa into Palestine issued for a Jewish refugee who escaped Budapest in January of 1944, and arrived safely in Turkey;
- PCO entry visa into Palestine issued for a Jewish refugee who escaped Lithuania in December of 1940, and arrived safely in Turkey;
- PCO entry visa for Palestine issued to a member of the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency in Turkey who was sent to Istanbul in late 1943 to document and report back home of the rescue efforts;
- PCO visa to the United Kingdom for a Turkish student, issued in December 1938.
In today’s violent climate in the Middle East and other locations around the world, it is always important to be reminded that humanity does have a beautiful side as well after all.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.