A city gone mad: ‘Down with Europe, massacre the traitors’

A city gone mad: ‘Down with Europe, massacre the traitors’

Bill Federer remembers violent 1955 Istanbul pogram against Greeks

Istanbul pogram, 1955

Constantinople was the capital of the eastern Christian world for over a thousand years. It was conquered by the Muslim Sultan Mehmet II on May 29, 1453.

In 1930, Constantinople was renamed Istanbul. In 1950, Adnan Menderes became prime minister of Turkey. Adnan Menderes gave a speech supporting the return of the caliphate. He re-opened thousands of mosques which had been closed down and brought back the Arabic-language Islamic call to prayer.

Adnan Menderes’ government orchestrated a provocation whereby a Turkish university student was to place an explosive charge in the Turkish consulate and in the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Thessaloniki, Greece. The plan was to blow it up on Sept. 3, 1955 and blame it on the Greek Christian minority. The bomb never went off, but the newspapers ran with the story anyway, inciting Muslims to jihad violence.

In just a few hours, Greek Christian neighborhoods in Istanbul were pillaged with thousands of shops, houses, churches and graves destroyed. Like the “Kristall Nacht,” Nov. 9, 1938, when Nazis in Germany and Austria smashed and vandalized Jewish stores and neighborhoods, the “Istanbul pogram” of Sept. 6, 1955, saw Turkish mobs lay waste to Greek homes, businesses and churches in a mad frenzy that lasted for nine hours.

Greek women were raped and Greek men (mostly priests) were beaten and forcibly circumcised in the streets. Sixteen Greek Orthodox clerics were killed.

Turkish rioters destroyed over:

– 4,348 Greek-owned businesses
– 1,000 Greek homes
– 110 hotels
– 27 pharmacies
– 23 schools
– 21 factories
– 3 monasteries
– 73 of the 81 Greek Orthodox churches in the city
– The World Council of Churches estimated the damage at over 150 million dollars.

The mob chanted “Massacre the Greek traitors” and “Down with Europe.” In one church arson attack, Father Chrysanthos Mandas, was burned alive. Greek cemeteries were desecrated with relics of saints burned or thrown to dogs.

Journalist of the London Daily Mail, Noel Barber, wrote Sept. 14, 1955: “The church of Yedikule was utterly smashed, and one priest was dragged from bed, the hair torn from his head and the beard literally torn from his chin. Another old Greek priest in a house belonging to the church and who was too ill to be moved was left in bed, the house was set on fire and he was burned alive.

“At the church of Yenikoy, a lovely spot on the edge of the Bosporus, a priest of 75 was taken out into the street, stripped of every stitch of clothing, tied behind a car and dragged through the streets. They tried to tear the hair of another priest, but failing that, they scalped him, as they did many others.”

An eyewitness reporter for the London Sunday Times was Ian Fleming, who later became well-known for writing the James Bond detective stories. Ian Fleming was covering the INTERPOL (International Police) conference in Istanbul.

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