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Conference on “Contributions of Jewish Scientists to Turkish Universities” Held in Istanbul


On 19 April 2012, the date of Yom Hashoah, a conference entitled "The Contributions of Jewish Scientists to Turkish Universities" was held in Bahçeşehir University Istanbul.

The conference was organized under the auspices of UNESCO by Bahçeşehir University and the Aladdin Project.  During the conference the discussions focused on the contribution of the German and Austrian scientists who fled to Turkey due to Nazi pressure and contributed to the modernization of Turkish universities.

Following the dismissal of Jewish civil servants, professors, and researchers in Germany and Austria during the 1930s, an Austrian named Dr. Phillip Schwartz founded the Notgemeinschaft deutscher Wissenschafter im Ausland (Emergency Organization for German Scientists Abroad) in Switzerland. He worked in cooperation with the Genevese professor A. Malche. Dr. Malche had started working with the Turkish Government to help modernize Turkish universities beginning in 1932.  Jewish university professors without jobs and fearful of their future in Germany were often looking for jobs abroad, and this connection lead to an agreement between the Turkish Minister of Education, Minister Resit Galip, and the Emergency Organization headed by Dr. Schwartz concerning the appointment of German and Austrian university professors in Turkey. Turkey thus offered refuge to Jewish university professors and scholars, mostly scientists. These Jewish professors helped lay the foundation for the modern Turkish university system.  An estimated 200 German academic exiles arrived in Turkey with their families beginning in 1933.  These 200 professors had a major impact on the flourishing Turkish university system at the time.

During the conference's morning session, opening speeches were given by Enver Yücel, the president of Bahçeşehir University Board of Trustees, Prof. Dr. Şenay Yalçın, Dean of Bahçeşehir University, Abe Radkin, the Executer Director of Aladdin Project,  Sami Herman, the President of Turkish Jewish Community , Irina Bokova, the General Director of  UNESCO (speech available here), Anne-Marie Revcolevski, the President of Aladdin Project, Mr. Andre Azoulay, advisor  to his Majesty King Mohammed VI  of Morocco and the president of Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue Between Cultures, Francis J. Ricciardone, US Ambassador to Turkey, Ambassador Ertan Tezgör, head of the Turkish delegation for ITF,  Dr. Samuel Pisar, UNESCO Honorary Ambassador, Special Envoy for Holocaust Education, and Zülfi Livaneli the goodwill ambassador of UNESCO.

During the afternoon sessions the subjects of the living testimonies of students of this period and the historic Jewish-Turkish relations were analyzed. Among the prominent panelists were Prof.  Jacob Landau, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Muazzez Ilmiye Ciğ, Sumerologist and former student of Jewish German Prof. Benno Landsberger and Prof. Hans Güterbock, Prof. Dr. Heath W. Lowry, professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies at Princeton University (visitng professor at Bahçeşehir University), René-Samuel Sirat, former Chief Rabbi of France and UNESCO Chair for Mutual Knowledge of the Religions of the Book, Prof. Minna Rozen, University of Haifa,  Dr. Susan Ferenz Schwarz, daughter of the late Prof. Philip Schwarz and Mr. Naim Güleryüz, President of the Quincentennial Foundation.