By the late nineteenth century, Germany replaced Britain as the modern Ottoman Empire’s principal European partner. Hence, in 1914 it did not take the Ottoman government long to enter World War I at Germany‘s side, fighting Russia. After Germany‘s defeat, the new government in Berlin in June 1919 accepted the onerous Versailles Treaty. Declaring Germany and its allies the sole responsible parties for the war, it detached territories in Germany‘s east and west, imposed tremendous reparation payments, principally to France, and set strict limits to armed forces and military development (which however were soon bypassed by clandestine cooperation with the Soviets). In the postwar Ottoman Empire / nascent Turkey, developments differed—and were closely followed in Germany. From as early as 1919, especially conservative Germans saw Turkey’s action against the Allies as a model for their country, as Stefan Ihrig‘s Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination (2014) has shown.
A case in point is the text published here, in the elite conservative national daily Neue preussische Zeitung (also Kreuzzeitung), by Otto Hoetzsch (1876-1946), who in 1920-1930 served as a member of parliament for the Deutschnationale Volkspartei, the largest conservative party in the Weimarer Republic (1918-1933). To be sure, the Ottoman/Turkish postwar beginnings were as bleak as Germany‘s. In October 1918, the British-Ottoman Armistice of Mudros demobilized the army, evacuated all non-Anatolian garrisons, and stipulated the Allied occupation of Istanbul and the Straits. And in August 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres, signed by Sultan Mehmet VI but rejected by the subsequently disbanded parliament, affirmed Allied control of the Straits and Istanbul, designated Anatolia’s southwest and center-south as Italian and French influence zones, foresaw a Franco-British-influenced Kurdish state and an Armenian state in present-day eastern Turkey, and gave Thrace and Izmir to Greece, which had invaded western Anatolia in 1919 and was pushing eastwards. But these terms galvanized the Turkish National Movement (TNM), which was begun by Muslim Ottoman officers and notables in post-armistice Anatolia and was galvanized already in 1919 by the Greek invasion. To many Germans’ envy, by September 1922 the TNM was in control of almost all of present-day Turkey, due to its own military and political-diplomatic force, to Greek overreach, and to divergent Allied interests. To replace the Treaty of Sèvres, negotiations ensued from November 1922 with the Allies in the Swiss city of Lausanne. In January 1923, the Turkish and Greek delegations signed the Convention Regarding the Exchange of Greek and Turkish populations (also Lausanne Convention), by which about 1.5 million Greek Orthodox (“Greek”) inhabitants of Anatolia were forcedly exchanged for about 500,000 Muslim (“Turkish”) inhabitants of Greece. And in July 1923, all delegations signed the Treaty of Lausanne. It imposed some conditions on Turkey, including a minority protection regime patterned on earlier League of Nations models for postwar Eastern Europe. But on the whole, it was a great Turkish success. It inter alia internationally recognized the Turkish Republic, returned Istanbul and the Straits to Turkey, abolished the prewar capitulations, and absolved all perpetrators of the anti-Armenian, -Assyrian, and -Orthodox genocide from legal prosecution.