The Interviewees

Herve Georgelin | Pelin Böke | Alex Baltazzi | Axel Corlu | Philip Mansel | Antony Wynn | Fortunato Maresia | Vjeran Kursar | Christine Lindner | Frank Castiglione | Clifford Endres | Zeynep Cebeci Suvari | Sadık Uşaklıgil | İlhan Pınar | Ümit Eser | Bugra Poyraz

Interview with İlhan Pınar, January 2016 - Türkçe

1- According to the writings of the visiting priest Stefan Schultz the first settled German in Smyrna in the 1750s was a Mr Mann who has a prisoner of war who was subsequently sold to a local Greek. Do you think this story is believable? During the Ottoman times were non-Muslims had the right to own slaves?

Of course... The history of slaves in the Ottoman system goes right back to the period of Orhan Bey and went on till the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit (1847). Slavery evolved during this long period. The main source of slaves were prisoners of war.

In the Ottoman Empire conversion to Islam allowed a slaves freedom through the ‘Azad’ system. Under this there were three possible pathways. The first for the master to state to the slave “after I die you are free”; the second for the master to slave “from now you are free”; finally with an agreement between the two parties for a sum to be paid against this liberty.

In addition in the Ottoman Empire slaves had their own period of tenure after which they were set free. Both in the Palace and general community white slaves nine and black slaves had to server for seven years after which they had the right to obtain their ‘azatlık’ papers.

Returning the answer to your question, non-Muslims could own slaves. Indeed even though it was illegal for non-Muslims to buy and sell slaves, records show this happened. There was no restriction to an Ottoman citizen non-Muslims from buying and selling non-Muslim slaves in any case. And there was no reason for Stefan Schultz’s observations of the condition of Mr Mann to be fabricated.

2- Are there inherent problems in the label ‘German’? For example the differences between the Protestants and Catholics and the use by the Catholics of the city of worshipping in churches under the protection of the Hapsburg Austrians?

In the Ottoman Empire the use of the term ‘German’ had to wait till the year of 1871, with their national unification. Till that date the more common term was ‘Prussia’ and ‘Prussian’. Theodor Fliedner has a major role in the introduction of the term German in that world. Fliedner was instrumental in the opening of the ‘Kaiserswerther Diakonie’ affiliated German girls school and orphanage, an important step in community organisation. However the real evolution when the German word was pronounced on a widespread way was with the outcome of the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 with the German nation emerging victorious. So much was this influence that for a brief time in the Near East German replaced French as the choice foreign language…

The other reason for the Germans not to become powerful in Smyrna is their lack of numerical presence in the city. We know that in the mid-19th century there were around 40 German families living in Smyrna. This lack of population meant that the German community was insular. Even though they created a community of sorts twice it was only in 1906 they had their own church. The situation of the Catholics is different. Their early period churches (St Polycarp, Santa Maria etc.) with the rise of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire after 1815 and for many Catholics obtaining Austrian citizenship changes the situation on the ground. According to the researcher Oliver Jens-Schmidt at the time there were around 5 thousand Catholics in Austrian citizenship in Smyrna.

3- When were the first agreements signed by the Ottomans with the Prussians or Hanseatic League and following that when was the first Germanic consulate of Smyrna opened? Before this was there an alternative consular representation for the Germans in Smyrna?

The Ottoman-Prussian diplomatic relations go back to the 18th century. It is interesting that even though this bilateral relationship went back this far the involvement of Germans with Smyrna start at around the middle of the 19th century. The chief player in this development was Ludwig Spiegelthal, the Prussian Consul of Smyrna from 1851. In addition the Hanseatic northern German cities confederation also had a representative in the city.

Spiegelthal had an important contribution in the establishment and organisation of the German colony of Smyrna. Under Spiegelthal’s tenure the German Girls’ School and the second establishment of the German community of the city was achieved.

4- Theodor Fliedner who came to Smyrna in 1851 was the chief player in the opening of the first German girls’ school in the city. How much do we know about this person and do we know to which school the boys of the community went to?

Theodor Fliedner as a priest saw the deficiencies of an industrial society and believing education would be his other calling established the ‘Kaiserswerther Diakonie’ school system. Initially this organisation established centres of education for poor and disadvantaged within Germany and later made efforts to create similar schools in the Near East. On this mission arriving in Smyrna with the petitioning of the small German and larger Dutch community of the city was instrumental in a short space of time for the opening of the German Girls’ School.

I can state that boys were able to be educated in this school till the age of 10. It was soon apparent to people on the ground that this was a problem and following this there was a drive and in the end the ‘Deutsche Knabenschule’ was opened for this purpose.

5- The book ‘La Turquie d’Asie’ authored by Vital Cuinet and published in the beginning of the 1890s details in numbers the Germans who had settled in Smyrna and which industries they were engaged in. Can you provide some details of this data please?

From the start of the middle of the 19th century Smyrna became more attractive to outside investment as the infrastructure was gradually improved. Until the 1880s the dominant force in the local commerce were the British. However from this period the combination of German unification with the strength of the German steel industry led to an increase of the influence of Germany on the Ottomans. In particular the ‘drang nach Osten’ politics pursued by the Kaiser Wilhem II and the efforts of the Sultan Abdülhamit II to escape the pressures of the British and Russians encouraged the closer collaboration of these two countries.

The result of this rapprochement were witnessed in Smyrna as well. The numbers of Germans in the city went from around 40-50 in the middle of the 19th century to 500 by the end of that century. This shift was reflected in the decline of British trade and increase of German trade in the region.

Porcelain, glass, domestic furniture, pianos, cloth, cotton goods were the chief products the German merchants of Smyrna were engaged in. However the competition with the resident British merchants showed itself in all fields.

If we consider the gastronomy sector in Smyrna, the Germans cannot be ignored. In the mid-19th century the Prokopp family opened a beer factory in Smyrna, ‘Cafe Hoffmann’ opening in the 1860s had a major part to play in the establishment of the cafe culture in the city, the winery of Ignatz Müller in the district of Tepecik, ‘Hotel Kraemer’ and of course ‘Grand Hotel Huck’ were all important German investments in the food and drinks sector.

6- For the 1872 world economic fair held in Vienna the Austro-Hungarian Empire through their consul in Smyrna Karl von Scherzer commissioned a report on Smyrna and in which it detailed amongst other things details the Deaconess School established in 1853 with the lead of the Prussian Consulate, providing statistics on this Girls’ School with students from different backgrounds where multiple languages were taught. Do you think this mixed intake system was normal for Ottoman non-Muslims’ education or was it unique to Smyrna reflecting its own inherent cosmopolitan diversity?

The Ottoman populations were arranged according to the millet [nation] system. The individual communities operated within this framework and established their own organisations. Education was one of these sub-systems. Those belonging to the Western European nations arranged their organisational structure within the capitulation agreements that were bestowed on their nation by the Ottoman Empire. So this situation was not unique to Smyrna. The preponderance of these organisations in Smyrna is the result of the city being a port. A similar situation existed in cities such as Beirut, Alexandria, Salonica etc.

7- You were able to draw up a list of German pastors (presumably Protestant?) from 1759 onwards through your research. Who were backing them financially and do you know which buildings / churches they were using?

Yes it was 1759 when Christoph Wilhelm Lüdeke who was tasked with setting up the first German community arrived in Smyrna. The second establishment of the community was in 1857. In both cases the establishment process was through the wish of the Dutch community of Smyrna.

For the first community there were two main backers, one being the King of Denmark and the other being the the Danzig (German enclave within Poland) community.

For the second community establishment the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and the Gustav Adolf Verein / Society provide important financial backing. The 47 German and Swiss nationals provide their own support in both the composing of the constitution and the establishment of the executive committee.

We see that the first community mainly used houses as places of worship. Since they didn’t have their own church they solved the problem by converting the houses they rented into churches.

The second community had it a bit easier. Firstly the German Girls’ School was used as a place of worship for Sunday services. However with problems arising meant the community had to later rent the Dutch and British churches for services. The Smyrna German community campaigned for years for the construction of their own church and with the establishment of close relations between the Kaiser Wilhem II and the Sultan Abdülhamit II, were able to go ahead and had their own place of worship in 1906. However the church that took so long to become a reality was destroyed in the great fire of 1922.

8- According to your research the first community organisation efforts of the Germans of Smyrna were in the 1750s, but this colony that went on till the early 1800s soon after dies away. What do you think are the reasons behind this?

Of course there is an interesting situation here… That is because when the community was established, that is in the 1750s there was no German colony in the city. There was only a single German by the name of Mr Mann who worked in the Dutch Consulate. The first German community was established by the Germans but according to Lüdeke, was mostly composed of Dutch citizens!

The reason for the trace of the community to be lost after 1806 was probably the result of its instability. In fact after the first two pastors, before and after Martin Weinrich they had problems securing replacements. The last pastor J.F. Usko who despite being in his post there for 22 years, as a result of the Danzig community cutting their financial support was forced to close the community. Before going to his new posting in Britain, he records this development in the church register book of the Dutch Consulate.

9- What was the purpose of the ‘Smyrna German Women’s Aid Society’ established in 1916 and to what extent does the membership list showed it to be inclusive of different ethnic groups in your opinion?

We can’t state it encompassed many different ethnic groups. It was composed mostly of German women and a small number of individuals which viewed this group with sympathy. Reading the activity report of 1916 we see bazaars were organised and with the handiwork of the members support was provided for soldiers and civilians who were impacted by the war.

10- Where was the 1906 built German church of Smyrna and what its name?

The location of the church was behind the present day Efes Hotel, close to the Izmir Health Directorate building’s corner closest to the hotel. One of the reasons for the church to be built here was because the German Girls’ School was on the same street. The church was called St John (Heilige Johannes).

11- How much information do we have concerning the history and members of the Smyrna German Club ‘Deutsche Verein’?

We don’t have a list from this club to access. However there are many lists detailing who the Germans living in Smyrna were. These include church committee member listings, donation listings for the construction of the German church and members listing of the Smyrna German Women’s Aid Society which together show us very clearly which German families lived in Smyrna.

The German Club arose for the fostering of cultural and trade support within the German colony of Smyrna. In the words of Malte Fuhrmann, it is a manifestation of a lifestyle they couldn’t establish on the Smyrna promenade.

12- It is clear the Germans had a major political and military influence on the Ottoman Government before and during World War One. Do you think this closeness made it inevitable that after the war the British and Allies would then expel all Germans in the community including civilians to their home countries? Do you have any information on any Germans who returned to Turkey after this period?

Yes, with the end of the war with defeat both the Ottoman and German Empires entered a period of dissolution. It is obvious that in the last period of the Ottoman Empire and during the war German influence had significantly increased. This influence is particularly visible in the military and economic spheres.

With the end of the war the Mondros ceasefire agreement came into being. The winners of the war the British, with the truce enacted the order for all Germans to leave the country. Together with this all German organisations were to be dissolved. Excluding those who couldn’t travel because they were old or sick, all Germans left the country. The consulate archive and business was taken over by the Swedish Consulate in İzmir. The church was given to the Greek Protestant community, the parsonage to the Jewish surgeon Margoulis’s family and the Girls’ School / Deaconess buildings were rented out to the ‘Presbyterian American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission’. The date for the Germans to be seen in the city again was with the re-start of the German Consulate in 1924.

Interview conducted by Craig Encer, January 2016.

İlhan Pınar was born in 1958 in Selçuk / Izmir, having graduated from lycee in Izmir and moved to Berlin 1980 and worked there as a machine technician and translator. Upon returning to Turkey he graduated in economics from the Anadolu University. His research was concentrated on travellers, travelogues and books published from the 16th century in Europe concerning Turks and he began a collection of books on Izmir, Anatolia, Turks published in Europe with travelogues, monographs, travel guides, maps, gravures and illustrations.

With the accumulation of research during the 1980s, during the 90s he began publishing his findings; till now he has published 24 books, 7 of which in collaboration with the Izmir Municipality books series with a 10 volume through the Izmir City Encylopedia of governance and neighbourhood place names of Izmir with the co-worker in that project Yaşar Ürük. He is regular contributor in continuious publications such as Konstantıniyye Haberleri, Tarih ve Toplum, Toplumsal Tarih ve Kebikeç. He is the owner of Kilizman Publishing house and one of the authors of kentyasam.com.

Interview conducted by Craig Encer, January 2016.

İlhan Pınar essay in Turkish [The legacy of the Germans in Smyrna] ‘Osmanlı Dönemi’nde İzmir’de Bir Cemaat: İzmir’de Alman İzleri’ | The old German club of Smyrna | The former Deaconess House German Girls’ School