Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination

Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination
Source Date: 31/11/2014
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by Stefan Ihrig: Early in his career, Adolf Hitler took inspiration from Benito Mussolini, his senior colleague in fascism—, this fact is widely known

But an equally important role model for Hitler and the Nazis has been almost entirely neglected: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Stefan Ihrig's compelling presentation of this untold story promises to rewrite our understanding of the roots of Nazi ideology and strategy.

Hitler was deeply interested in Turkish affairs after 1919. He not only admired but also sought to imitate Atatuerk's radical construction of a new nation from the ashes of defeat in World War I. Hitler and the Nazis watched closely as Atatuerk defied the Western powers to seize government, and they modeled the Munich Putsch to a large degree on Ataturk's rebellion in Ankara.

Hitler later remarked that in the political aftermath of the Great War, Ataturk was his master, he and Mussolini his students. This was no fading fascination. As the Nazis struggled through the 1920s, Ataturk remained Hitler's “star in the darkness,” his inspiration for remaking Germany along nationalist, secular, totalitarian, and ethnically exclusive lines. Nor did it escape Hitler's notice how ruthlessly Turkish governments had dealt with Armenian and Greek minorities, whom influential Nazis directly compared with German Jews. The New Turkey, or at least those aspects of it that the Nazis chose to see, became a model for Hitler's plans and dreams in the years leading up to the invasion of Poland. Stefan Ihrig is Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.  


Gerald Butt, The Times Literary Supplement : Middle Eastern heads of state have not tended to create exemplary leadership templates that aspirant rulers elsewhere have sought to emulate. But there is one notable exception: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In Atatuerk in the Nazi Imagination, Stefan Ihrig argues that the man who created modern Turkey inspired the tyrant who sought to make Germany the hub of a new National Socialist Europe: Adolf Hitler. His argument, based on extensive study of German print media in the 1920s and 30s, is compelling, Ihrig has unearthed an important subject within Second World War scholarship that, strangely, has remained overlooked for many decades.”—

”—Christopher Clark, University of Cambridge: From the Armenian massacres to the Turkish War of Independence and the rise of Kemal Ataturk, Turkish events attracted deep interest in Germany. As Ihrig shows, politically active Germans of the Weimar Republic, especially on the far right, saw in Turkey a model for successful revisionism, authoritarian rule, secular modernization and the political utility of genocide. This brilliant and original study sheds new light on the rise of Nazism and the pre-history of Nazi racial policy. 

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