Rescue efforts in Turkey
WW2 JAFP stationed in Istanbul.
One of the last remaining safe-havens for those in Europe by the mid-1940’s and located close to the continent was the neutral country of Turkey, bordering with Bulgaria. Those lucky refugees who managed to escape occupied Europe and end up in Axis countries such as Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, could, in some conditions and rough travel, either by land or by sea, set foot on the soil of the previously mentioned neutral country, that not only housed the diplomatic missions of the Allies but also of Axis countries and Nazi Germany as well, who had an embassy and several consulates as well.
Mass extermination of European Jewry began in 1942 with the Death Camps in occupied Poland working in “industrial form” with their only goal and purpose of completing their “product” that was destined by them: the systematic annihilation and destruction of Europe’s Jewish communities. And as reports began to reach the British Mandate and other countries worldwide of the destruction that has began and was facing entire communities in the continent, frantic efforts began to try and save as many as possible from the clutches of the “cultured” Germans working feverishly to solve the Jewish question. And as we all have learned by now, this goal at the end even took preferred priority over the war effort with allocating trains for transports to the east rather than allocating them for their own troops on the eastern front. Their set of priorities and morality was rotten to the core.
The Jewish community and leadership in British Palestine, known as the Yishuv, decided to set offices and expand their branches first in Ottoman Turkey and then later on during the establishment of the British Colony of Palestine following the end of WWI.
During the war years of 1939-45 they enlarged their presence in the country and their main goal was to secure the safe arrival of their Jewish brothers and sisters to the neutral state and from there, to whisk them away to the Mandate, to be absorbed into the Yishuv. This presence during the war and salvation efforts is better known as the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency in Turkey 1942-1944 (part of the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency that was established in late 1942), and it was run by some of Israel’s to-be famed activists and politicians, for example headed by famed Teddy Kollek and Ehud Avriel.
In previous articles I wrote extensively about such rescue efforts and attempts stemming from Istanbul during the war.
The item in this article is rather special and is related to the above attempts: the individual who used the issued passport was part of the Yishuv’s members sent to Turkey during the war to evaluate and assist in the rescue.
British Mandate passport numbered 122404 was issued to Kalman Rosenblat on July 28th 1939 at Jerusalem by the Department of Migration.
On May 8th of 1943 he applied and received the transit visa from the Free French Delegation (such visas are becoming scarcer to locate today) in Palestine, allowing him to transit through Allied Syria and Lebanon on his way to Turkey (his war-time British exit permit was issued to him on April 26th – during the war the regular exit permits were changed to the special defense regulation No. 27 permits issued by the Palestine Police Force and not the Mandatory regular Migration exit permits that we can find normally in pre-1939 passports).
Kalman exited the Mandate via the Naqoura northern border crossing on May 25th on his way to Istanbul (he obtained the Turkish entry visa from their consulate on April 30th), reaching his destination and the JAFP offices shortly afterward (5 days later he exited Lebanon via the Meidan Ekbas joint border crossing point).
His stay abroad was for a period of about 6 months, and by December 4th he already applied for his return visa and travel permits to British Palestine at the PCO in Istanbul, being issued to him by PCO Arthur Whittall (see page 10) – next page has the Turkish annotations for departure and travel out of the country as well.
On December 8th he entered Lebanon again via the same previously used border crossing, and here paying the passport-tax as we can see clearly on page 13 bearing the rare and attractive Levant Free French passport-revenue stamps of 5 & 10 franks. The next day he entered the Colony via Naqura. He was safe and back home.
Many Jewish refugees managed to escape and use the Turkish route to arrive safely to their Jewish homeland during the war, thanks to many who assisted in this perilous task and under great duress and extreme conditions. These passports and testimonials that have been preserved are a reminder of those efforts. God bless them all.
Thank you for reading “Our passports”.