ALBERT EINSTEIN'S LETTER TO ISMET INÖNÜ, PREMIER OF TURKEY in 1933
INONU AND ATATURK
ATATURK TEACHING LATIN ALPHABET
EINSTEINS LETTER TO TURKEYS PRIME MINISTER İNÖNÜ IN 1933
Recently, to commemorate Ataturks seventy second Anniversary of passing or the way I put it: reaching immortality , I had sent a series of articles, studies , pictures from my website www.istanbullite.com. to friends and relatives. Among them there was a correspondence between Roosevelt and Atatürk dating to 1937 and Atatürks admiration for George Washington, in his own words.
I received several comments on the FDR-Atatürk letters; but one response was of particular interest. It came from Professor Bulent Atalay, the Scientist, Artist, Author and Lecturer. Bülent Atalay also happens to be my long lost cousin and I refer to him as the Renaisance Man. After thanking me for the documents, he was sending me something in return which I found also of great interest.
I am attaching two items, the first, the letter from Albert Einstein to Ataturk in 1933, asking for Turkey to admit 30 Jewish scientist/scholars from Germany. It's poignant in that only 40 scholars were selected by Einstein's committee. Many many more were admitted, and it did revolutionize education in Turkey. One of my father's doctors (Dr. Remzi -- ) used to tell me about some of his medical school professors at the University Medical School being from Germany. About 30 years ago I had met and become good friends with Eugen Merzbacher, a prominent professor of physics at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He went to Turkey as a teenager in the mid-30s, attended University of Ankara, and in 1948 moved to the United States, where he earned a PhD in Physics at Harvard. He was the author of one of the best quantum mechanics textbooks, and I used it many times in teaching my classes. Merzbacher spoke fluent Turkish, and from time to time we would correspond, or send each other greetings with mutual friends. He retired from Chapel Hill in the 1990s, and frankly I thought he had passed away. On Oct. 20, just two weeks ago, I gave a talk at Duke. Lo and behold, someone called out, "Merhaba Bülent..."
Indeed the letter was of historical proportions and I had to do little of my own research to find out more of the contents; who the letter was addressed to and who had made the decision to accept the German scholars to the Turkish Universities in 1933.
The letter was addressed to The President of The Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Turkey. In other words it was written to the Başvekil or Prime Minister, which happened to be İsmet Inönü. A quick glance to the letter revealed the fact that the letter was first put on the Prime Ministers desk . On the heading portion of the letter there was İnönüs signature with his own hand writing in ink , Ismet and the date 9-10-1933, twenty two days after Einstein wrote the letter. Again from his own hand writing I could tell that he wanted first to direct the letter to Minister of Health,(Sihhat Vekaleti), but then changed his mind, scratched that and sent it to the desk of Minister of Education (Maarif Vekaleti).
While İnönüs hand writing was easily readable, there was another handwriting in ink, this one more like a doctors prescription, very difficult to read, but categorized as :1), 2) and 3). Could that be Atatürks own hand writing? A quick check with Atatürks hand writing samples I have in some of my books told me that this was out of question. Like İnönü, Atatürk had a very legible hand writing. Furthermore the categorized notes, from what I could read, seemed to be rather negative; 2) Bunların bugünkü şartlara göre...( All of these demands under todays circumstances...) This has to be either the Education Ministers or some high ranking officers notes. Since we know that the Jewish scholars were admitted to Turkey, Atatürk or İnönü had to over rule Ministry of Education. Further research on the internet proved this fact. Murat Bardakçı of the Turkish Daily Hürriyet who apparently brought this letter from the Ministry of Educationis archives to the public interest ,was saying the following on October 29, 2006 in his article:
There are some hand-written Turkish annotations on the letter.The top right notation shows that the prime minister İnönü transferred the letter to the Maarif Vekaleti, Ministry for National Education on October 9, 1933. The other annotations are attributable to Reşit Galip: this proposal is incompatible with clauses [in the existing laws],another: it is impossible to accept it due to prevailing conditions, indicating that at the outset the proposal was rejected by the Ministry. Apparently, the president and founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk personally intervened and the 40German scientists mentioned in Einstein's letter were offered university posts. Most of them accepted the offers and taught at Turkish universities.
And who was Resit Galip ? I had guessed it right, he was the Minister of Education at the time being.
Mustafa Kema Atatürk is one of the greatest leaders of the Twentieth Century, not only because he was a great soldier and leader who energized his people to win the Independence War against invading ımperialist armies, but more so because he was a reformist, an educator a peace activist, a man with no prejudice but a great foresight and vision. So when a lot of countries, including the United States were a little hesitant to accept the Jewish Scholars, or at least were trying to create special circumstances to house them, Atatürk was welcoming them without any second thoughts to the Turkish Universities.
Professor Arnold Reisman questions Harvard University and other Ivy League Universities unwritten policies of not hiring Jews to their Faculty and yet granting Einstein with a honorary degree in 1935, in his article published by the History News Network in 1-22-2007.
By then a world famous figure, Einstein arrived in the United States in 1933 to take a position at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, not Princeton University as so many people believe. The Institute had just been created and funded by wealthy Jewish businessmen for the express purpose of saving brilliant Jewish intellectuals such as Einstein from the ravages of Nazism. It is curious that when there were so many excellent universities in America, there was a need to create the institute to gather in these refugees. Schools such as Harvard,Princeton, and Yale were totally Judenfrei in their faculty ranks; they hired no Jews till the late 1940s.
History is the ultimate and Supreme Judge of Nations and their leaders' actions and decisions. By opening their home to the Jewish scholars and providing them a safe heaven from the Nazi ravage, the young Turkish Republic and its leader Atatürk had passed this ultimate humanitarian test long time ago. On the other hand seventy seven years after Turkeys humanitarian gesture, the Israeli Government did not hesitate and, to this date still not apologized for, killing eight Turkish peace activists who were trying to bring humanitarian aid to the suffering people in Gaza. We will leave the judgement of the current Israeli Government to the Supreme Judge.
Cem Özmeral November 8, 2010 Dublin, Ohio
In Professor Merzbacher's person we salute and remember all Jewish scholars who made Turkey their home in 1933 and contributed to the education system and medical fields of the young Turkish Republic.