German-Speaking Academic Émigrés in Turkey of the 1940s


  • Kerstin Tomenendal Bilkent University
  • Fatma Doğuş Özdemir Bilkent University
  • F. Özden Mercan Bilkent University



Émigré professors, postgraduate students, university reforms, Republican Turkey, nationalism, Pan-Turkism, memory


The article explores the academic working conditions for about 144 German émigré professors in Turkey in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of them migrated from Nazi Germany to Turkey. It is asked how the exiled professors have been seen by post graduate students. This sheds light on the mentality of a new generation of academics, the first in the newly-established Republican Turkey. Some of these students have been interviewed (oral history). Memory, however, is not a mirror that represents historical facts, but a field where the past is reconstructed. Most of the interviewees are graduates of Ankara University and some were post-doctoral assistants at Ankara University. The focus is mainly on the faculties situated in the Turkish capital, specifically, DTCF (the Language, History and Geography Faculty) and the Faculty of Law. The former students concur with the interpretation that the exiled professors gave them new intellectual perspectives and took eminent influence on their careers. As it turns out, the German professors were well integrated into Turkish society in terms of governmental contacts, although they did not become part of the Turkish cultural scene. With rising Turkish nationalism and Pan-Turkism in the later 1940s they were facing an increasingly hostile political atmosphere. This led most of them to dismissal from their faculties; they left for America or other countries in Europe. The highly positive commemoration of the émigré professors by their former postgraduate students can also be read as the commemoration of the period of Atatürk and his reforms.



Tomenendal, K., Özdemir F. D., & Mercan, F. O. (2010). German-Speaking Academic Émigrés in Turkey of the 1940s. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften, 21(3), 69–99.