July 22, 2003 by

Selahattin Ulkumen

2 comments

Categories: Extraordinary People

The diplomatic interventions of Selahattin Ulkumen, “the Turkish Schindler,” saved the lives of 42 Jewish families during World War II.
In 1943, the Germans invaded the Turkish island of Rhodes and ordered all 1,700 Jews to report for “temporary transportation to a small island nearby.” Ulkumen, the 30-year-old Turkish consul-general, intervened with the German commander, General von Kleeman. He explained that Turkey was neutral in the war, and that all religions were equal in the eyes of Turkish law. He then asked for all of the Turkish Jews in custody be released. The general agreed and 42 Jewish families were spared. The rest were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
After the incident, two German planes bombed the Turkish consulate. Ulkumen’s pregnant wife, Mihrinissa, was seriously injured in the blast. They were deported to Piraeus, where he spent the remainder of the war in jail. Mihrinissa died from her injuries a week after giving birth to their son.
The war ended and Ulkumen returned to Turkey. He worked for the diplomatic service for another three decades, and in 2001, received Turkey’s highest honor — the Supreme Service Medal.
Ulkumen died on June 7. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

2 Responses to Selahattin Ulkumen

  1. Mustafa Kemal Ozturk

    We would like to see Ulkumens in Israel. Whose respect the human lifes. Whatever their religions are!
    I am proud of you Mr. Ulkumen…

  2. Susan Donne

    Such brave and humane people as Selahattın Ulkumen must be remembered wıth admıratıon and gratıtude for all tımeç

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