What did Hitler think of Turks?

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: Nazis in Turkish fever

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THE TIME: The Turkish state founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk wanted to modernize his country as quickly as possible and lead it west. He called for equality for women and dressed like a British gentleman. He of all people is said to have been Hitler's great role model?

Stefan Ihrig: Yes, because the Nazis' view of Mustafa Kemal was completely different. They saw in him the strong man who "liberated" his people after the First World War against the will of the Allies and created an ethnically homogeneous nation-state. For the Nazis Ataturk, as he was called since 1934, was the leader of a national renewal movement, a national modernizer.

TIME: You write in your book that the supporters of the NSDAP and other nationalist movements caught a real "Turkish fever" after 1919 Ataturk in the Nazi Imagination. Where did this enthusiasm come from?

Yours: During the First World War, Germany was allied with the Ottoman Empire; the history of this military cooperation goes back to the 19th century. The trigger after 1919 was the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence, in which Turkey rebelled against its Versailles, the Treaty of Sèvres. This war lasted until 1923, so it coincided exactly with the founding years of the Nazi movement. The Turkish example had an electrifying effect on them, of course: a "people" offered resistance, "weapon in hand", while they believed themselves to be under the knot of "fulfillment politicians". A few days after the signing of the Versailles Treaty, Mustafa Kemal is mentioned for the first time in the German press.

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TIME: Was there a lot reported about Turkey back then?

Yours: Yes, a lot - mostly in the form of comments. The Turkish liberation struggle served as a projection surface for one's own national longings. What did not fit into the picture was made to fit: for example, that the Kemalists were initially supported by the Bolsheviks. Then one could read in the right-wing extremist German press how smart Mustafa Kemal was to use the Bolsheviks for his struggle. Hans Tröbst, a Nazi from the very beginning and probably the only foreign mercenary in the service of the Kemalists in the early twenties, had a great influence on the enthusiasm for Turkey. After his return he wrote a lot of newspaper articles about Turkey - including a multi-part series in the völkischer Kampfblatt Homeland,beginning in the summer of 1923.

TIME: Shortly before Hitler's attempted coup ...

Yours: The series actually ends just two weeks before the Munich beer cellar coup on November 9th. The line "Bring on the Angora government!" Was emblazoned on the front page of the paper. Angora was the old spelling for Ankara. Just as Mustafa Kemal had organized a countermovement in Anatolia against the "fulfillment policy" in Constantinople, with Ankara as its center, so in Germany the overthrow should come from Munich. Munich was to become the German Ankara.

TIME: Was there similar intense discussion about Benito Mussolini's fascist movement? Because if anyone was previously considered Hitler's role model, it was probably the Italian "Duce" with his "March on Rome" in 1922.

Yours: From 1922 onwards Italy was naturally very present. Not infrequently, Mussolini and Ataturk were also mentioned together. But in the question "What can be done against the 'Dictation of Versailles'?" the Turkish model was more interesting for a long time. Turkey was also a loser in the World War, while Italy, after initial hesitation, fought on the side of the Allies. After 1923, Mussolini became more important, while Turkey was no longer considered a useful model. The goal was now a legal seizure of power.