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The Other Secret Jews3

 

It is impossible to miss how closely such anti-Dönme rhetoric resembles anti-Semitic rhetoric, both the modern biological type and the traditional economic type. The Dönme may not have been Jews, but they functioned in the Turkish imagination as Jews—they were clannish, untrustworthy outsiders, who were actually more threatening than the actual Jews because they had so long pretended to be Muslims. In the 1920s, then, as the modern Turkish state was founded on a racial and nationalist basis, the Dönme came in for severe discrimination. Even one prominent Dönme journalist wrote that “this problem must be decisively liquidated,” so that those Dönme “who are truly Turkish and Muslim [can be] distinguished in public opinion … and saved from the necessity of carrying on their back the social stain.”Office 2007 Professional can give people so much convenience.

Soon enough the “problem” was liquidated, through intermarriage and assimilation. By mid-century, the Dönme had begun to disappear as a separate community, and today, Baer writes, the old Dönme cemetery in Istanbul is “the only place where the existence of the Dönme is really manifested as a distinct group.” Still, he notes, they were spared an even worse fate. As Muslims, the Dönme were expelled from Salonika in the 1910s, despite their protests. If they had been allowed to remain, they would have come under Nazi occupation during World War II, and given the Nazi racial definition of Jewishness, they would certainly have been sent to Auschwitz. In the terrible twentieth century, The Dönme shows, there was no safe place for those on the margins.

It is impossible to miss how closely such anti-Dönme rhetoric resembles anti-Semitic rhetoric, both the modern biological type and the traditional economic type. The Dönme may not have been Jews, but they functioned in the Turkish imagination as Jews—they were clannish, untrustworthy outsiders, who were actually more threatening than the actual Jews because they had so long pretended to be Muslims. In the 1920s, then, as the modern Turkish state was founded on a racial and nationalist basis, the Dönme came in for severe discrimination. Even one prominent Dönme journalist wrote that “this problem must be decisively liquidated,” so that those Dönme “who are truly Turkish and Muslim [can be] distinguished in public opinion … and saved from the necessity of carrying on their back the social stain.”

Soon enough the “problem” was liquidated, through intermarriage and assimilation. By mid-century, the Dönme had begun to disappear as a separate community, and today, Baer writes, the old Dönme cemetery in Istanbul is “the only place where the existence of the Dönme is really manifested as a distinct group.” Still, he notes, they were spared an even worse fate. As Muslims, the Dönme were expelled from Salonika in the 1910s, despite their protests. If they had been allowed to remain, they would have come under Nazi occupation during World War II, and given the Nazi racial definition of Jewishness, they would certainly have been sent to Auschwitz. In the terrible twentieth century, The Dönme shows, there was no safe place for those on the margins.

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