1922: THE HOLOCAUST OF SMYRNA
By Dean Kalimniou, [email protected]

American Chronicle
http://www.americanchronicle.com/article s/77865
October 15, 2008
CA

Australian Macedonian Advisory Council

"We didn´t know how and we didn´t know why. All we knew was that
they were coming. People were streaming in from the interior, their
clothes in tatters, telling gruesome stories of the horrors that
befell them. When we left, they were close behind us, every step of
the way and all we knew was that we had to flee, that if they caught
up with us, it would mean death. When we got to Smyrna, we thought
we were safe. No one ever thought that they would enter Smyrna."

In 1922, an eleven year old boy fled his home city of Aydin in western
Asia Minor and embarked on what was for him, an epic 100km journey
westwards with his brother, to Smyrna and safety, escaping a pursuing
Turkish army. Along the way, he witnessed the rape of the country
side occasioned by the Graeco-Turkish War, the panic and hysteria of
a Greek population just beginning to comprehend that the 3000 year
sojourn in these lands was coming to a close and that their lives were
in mortal peril. He also witnessed what was to be the most terrible
closing chapter in the history of Greek habitation of Asia Minor -
the holocaust of Smyrna. That boy was my grandfather, Kostas Kalymnios.

For over two thousand years before 1922, the Greek people thrived in
Smyrna, a beautiful port on the coast of Asia Minor, founded by the
Ionians. It is one of the cities which lays claim to the honour of
being the birthplace of Homer. Enlarged and rebuilt successively by
Antigonus I and Lysimachus, it soon became one of the largest and most
prosperous cities in Asia Minor. Its wealth and splendour increased
under Roman rule, and Smyrna was one of the cities referred to in the
Revelation of John as comprising one of the seven churches of Asia
Minor. Throughout its tortuous history, captured by Seljuk Turks,
Mongols and finally the Ottoman Turks in 1424, it remained essentially
a Greek city throughout the ages, a cultural as well as commercial
entrepot of trade and commerce, under Adamantios Korais fostered
the Greek enlightenment and with the rise of nationalism became one
of the key foci of the Greek Â"Î~εγ&#xC E; ¬Î"η Î~Yδέα&#x C2; " or ´Great
Idea´ to reunify all the historical lands inhabited by Greeks.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Ottoman Empire, known
as the ´sick man of Europe´ was in constant turmoil, with each
subject nationality aspiring towards self-rule and many Turkic groups
embracing nationalism, liberalism and questioning the values of the
Empire. Smyrna especially proved a hotbed of radical idealists, given
its international character and its concentration of intellectuals
from France, England, Russia and America. The Young Turk revolution
of 1908 brought Turkish nationalism to the fore and it became the
ideology of the regime that non-Turks could not play a role in what
should be a Turkish-only state. Beginning around 1913, the Ottoman
Turks, sensing the imminent collapse of the Empire, began a campaign
to "Turkify" the population of Asia Minor by expelling or eliminating
its minority populations. The Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians were of
the many ethnic groups whose legitimacy of habitation in Asia Minor
was questioned.

Smyrna proved somewhat of an anomaly for the Ottomans and Young Turks
alike: its predominantly Greek population along with substantial,
Armenian, Jewish and other European populations as well did not
lend itself easily to be included within the ethnically based
policies of Young Turks. It was in essence a European city, adorned
in neo-classical architecture, with Parisian inspired theatres,
auditoriums, colleges and clubs, possessed a tram line and a fin
de siecle self confidence in western civilisation. No wonder then
that Smyrna´s appellation in the popular parlance of the Turks was
"gâvurizmir," Smyrna of the Infidels. In 1922, in the culmination of
a campaign to rid the newly created Republic of Turkey of its ethnic
minorities, the ancient city of Smyrna was destroyed.

With the signing of the Treaty of Sevres in 1919, Greece was given a
mandate to occupy the province of Smyrna for five years, after which
time, a plebiscite would determine whether the province would remain
in Turkey or be ceded to Greece. The liberation of Smyrna on 2 May
1915 was greeted with jubilation by the Christian population of the
city. However, as Venizelos managed to extend the Entente mandate
to occupy the province of Aydin, Turkish patriotism, dormant after
the Empire´s humiliating defeat, began to come to the fore. It
was considered that Greece was invading and occupying the Turkish
heartland, and Turks rallied around Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to remove the
Greeks from Asia Minor and began to attack Greek troops. Venizelos
ordered a general advance of troops into Asia Minor. The troops
eventually advanced to the outskirts on Ankara, drawn further and
further from their supply lines, demoralised by a war that was a
running sore on the Greek economy and psyche and having to combat the
competing interests of the Italians who had occupied southern Turkey
and were actively assisting the Turks against the Greeks. The removal
of Venizelos and restitution of the throne to Constantine awarded the
Entente a pretext to extricate themselves from an issue that had now
become uncontrollable- they withdrew their support from Greece.

In a major offensive on August 26, 1922, against the Greek positions
on the Sakarya River, Ataturk smashed the Greek army, forcing them to
retreat in a panic from Asia Minor, committing widespread brutalities
against Turkish populations as they fled and leaving Greek populations
undefended.

As the Turkish troops began their inexorable advance towards
the Aegean, Smyrna was seized in panic. The arrival of crowds of
refugees from the interior and of the ragged remnants of the Greek
army, coupled with the abandonment of the town on the part of civil
and military authority, reduced the inhabitants to waiting in agony
for the end. On 27 August, the first Turkish irregulars entered the
town through the Pounta bridge and began to loot and pillage. Rudolph
J. Rummel states that the Turkish army indulged in "systematic firing"
in the Armenian and Greek quarters of the city. He argues that after
the Turks recaptured the city, Turkish soldiers and Moslem mobs shot
and hacked to death Armenians, Greeks, and other Christians in the
streets of the city; he estimates the victims of these massacres, by
giving reference to the previous claims of Marjorie Housepian Dobkin,
at about 100,000.

As Christians were rounded up for execution, thousands flocked to
the docks in the hope of fleeing the catastrophe. Turkish soldiers
would stand on the quayside and fire at refugees attempting to swim to
safety. Despite the fact that there were numerous ships from various
Allied powers in the harbor of Smyrna, the vast majority of ships,
citing "neutrality," did not pick up Greek and Armenian civilians
who were forced to flee the fire and Turkish troops. Military bands
played loud music to drown out the screams of those who were drowning
in the harbor. Other scholars give a different account of the events;
they argue that the Turks first forbade foreign ships in the harbor
to pick up the survivors, but, then, under pressure especially from
Britain, France, and the United States, they allowed the rescuing of
all the Christians except males 17 to 45 years old, whom they aimed to
deport into the interior, which was regarded as a short life sentence
to slavery under brutal masters, ended by mysterious death.

On 31 August 1922, as a direct result of the pillaging of the Greek
and Armenian quarters and the burning of their homes, four fires
broke out in the city. Mark Lambert Bristol, US High Commissioner,
was an eyewitness to the cause: "Many of us personally saw-- and are
ready to affirm the statement-- Turkish soldiers often directed by
officers throwing petroleum in the street and houses. Vice-Consul
Barnes watched a Turkish officer leisurely fire the Custom House
and the Passport Bureau while at least fifty Turkish soldiers stood
by. Major Davis saw Turkish soldiers throwing oil in many houses. The
Navy patrol reported seeing a complete horseshoe of fires started by
the Turks around the American school."

US Diplomat George Horton, is also unequivocal, despite revisionist
Turkish claims that the Greeks and Armenians were the cause of the
blaze: "The fire was lighted at the edge of the Armenian quarter at
a time when a strong wind was blowing toward the Christian section
and away from the Turkish. The Turkish quarter was not in any way
involved in the catastrophe and during all the abominable scenes
that followed and all the indescribable sufferings of the Christians,
the Mohammedan quarter was lighted up and gay with dancing, singing
and joyous celebration."

Internationally renown Turkish author, Falih Rifki Atay, admitted:
"Gavur Ä°zmir burned and came to an end with its flames in the darkness
and its smoke in daylight. Were those responsible for the fire really
the Armenian arsonists as we were told in those days? ... As I have
decided to write the truth as far as I know I want to quote a page
from the notes I took in those days. ´The plunderers helped spread
the fire ... Why were we burning down Ä°zmir? Were we afraid that
if waterfront konaks, hotels and taverns stayed in place, we would
never be able to get rid of the minorities? When the Armenians were
being deported in the First World War, we had burned down all the
habitable districts and neighbourhoods in Anatolian towns and cities
with this very same fear. This does not solely derive from an urge for
destruction. There is also some feeling of inferiority in it. It was
as if anywhere that resembled Europe was destined to remain Christian
and foreign and to be denied to us."

Fortunately, recently, many Turks have begun to question the state
narrative of the denial. Biray Kolluoglu Kirli, a Professor of
Sociology at Bogazici University, published a paper in 2005 in which
she pursues an argument based on the claim that the city was burned by
the Turks in an attempt to cleanse the predominantly Christian city
in order to make way for a new Muslim and Turkish city, and focuses
on an examination of the extensions of this viewpoint on the Turkish
nationalist narrative since.

The apogee of Turkish utter repudiation of the Greeks of Smyrna
was the death of Bishop Chrysostomos, who had actively campaigned
for the liberation of Asia Minor. He was delivered by Nureddin Bey
to the ravaging mob with the instructions: "If he benefited you,
do the same to him and if he hurt you, hurt him." The ethnomartyr
Chrysostomos was literally torn apart.

The enormity of the catastrophe still invokes horror today, Governor
Pataki of New York has reflected: "...Smyrna, the largest city in
Asia Minor called 'the jewel of the Mediterranean', a cosmopolitan
hub populated by a highly educated Greek community and flourishing
commercial and middle-classes, was sacked and burned and its
inhabitants massacred by the Turkish forces; the pier of Smyrna became
a scene of final desperation as the approaching flames forced many
thousands to jump to their death, rather than be consumed by flame."

On September 9, 1922, Ataturk entered Smyrna triumphantly. The utter
destruction of this once vibrant city also signalled the death knell
for Greek irredentism. A population exchange was organised in which
almost two million Greeks were caused to leave Asia Minor and were
settled in Greece. The exchange put a tremendous strain on the Greek
economy as it tried to cope with the influx of over a million new
people in Greece. The hardships endured by the individuals concerned
were also very trying as many Greeks abandoned a privileged life in
Asia Minor for one of poverty in shantytowns in Greece. Nevertheless,
the exchange helped to stabilise the region and though heart wrenching,
served to bring about peace.

There remains no vestige of a 3,000 year old Greek presence in the
modern city of Izmir today. The Jewish curse "may their name and
memory be erased" has partly come true with respect to the Greeks of
Smyrna. While their names may be gone, their memory lives eternal,
through the economic advancement of Greece, regenesis of radical
political thought and rembetika music. The holocaust of Smyrna is a
tragedy not only for the Greek and Armenian victims, but also for
the Turkish nation. It is the tragedy of the insignificant caught
underneath the millstone of the conflicting and cynical permutations
of the designs of the powerful. Viewed through this prism, all are
victims, the dead and those who were, through no fault of their own,
forced to commit awful brutalities.

--Boundary_(ID_LGupjLiRaBGxoRiYil8z2 A)--