The brutal Istanbul pogrom – ‘a city gone mad’

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Bill Federer recounts horrors of Muslim atrocities in 1955

Bill Federer

William J. Federer is the author of “Change to Chains: The 6,000 Year Quest for Global Control” and “What Every American Needs to Know About the Quran: A History of Islam and the United States.”

Constantinople was the capital of the eastern Christian world since Emperor Constantine in 330 A.D. It was conquered by the Muslim Sultan Mehmet II on May 29, 1453. Tens of thousands of Christians were raped, killed, enslaved or deported during the fall of Constantinople. The largest Christian church in the world for nearly a thousand years, Hagai Sophia, was converted into a mosque. Muslims covered the church’s four acres of beautiful Bible-themed gold mosaics with white wash and Qur’an verses, and surrounded the church with Islamic minarets. The Turkish government has never offered to give ownership of the church back to Christians.

Five centuries later, in 1930, Constantinople was renamed Istanbul, derived from the Greek name “stanbul” meaning “the city.” 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, brought back the Arabic language Islamic call to prayer and encouraged Muslims to follow Islam more fundamentally.

Adnan Menderes’ government orchestrated a provocation whereby a Turkish university student was to place explosive charges 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 pogrom” 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 and young boys were targeted for public rape. Turkish author Aziz Nesin witnessed Greek Christian men beaten and forcibly circumcised in the streets by marauders. Sixteen Greek Orthodox clerics were killed.

Historian Spero Vryonis Jr., author of “The Mechanism of Catastrophe,” recorded that rioters desecrated cemeteries and overturn tombstones, quoting a British journalist who witnessed one graveyard where: “The contents of every coffin spilled into the streets.”

Armenian and Jewish shops were destroyed as Turkish police stood by passively, giving rioters space.

The destruction included 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 from 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.

Ian Fleming’s column “The Great Riot of Istanbul,” printed Sept. 11, 1955, described how “hatred ran through the streets like lava.” (Phillip Mansel, “Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire,” 1453-1944, Harmondworth, U.K., Penquin, 1995, p. 425). Ian Fleming referenced the Istanbul riot as as background information in his James Bond spy novel, “From Russia, with Love” (1957).

The riots were reported in the Illustrated London News, Time Magazine and Reader’s Digest, which described Istanbul as “a city gone mad.”

During the 1955 Istanbul Pogrom, over 100,000 Greeks fled. The discrimination continued and in 1958, Turkish nationalist students campaigned for a complete boycott on all Greek businesses.

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