Politics Magazine

The Jews of Smyrna, 1840

Posted on the 11 April 2015 by Calvinthedog

Smyrna is a city on the Aegean Coast of Turkey in the present day province of Izmir. It was mostly ruled by a succession of Greek empires until it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1330. Soon after, the Knights of Saint John, a Catholic military order, reconquered most of the city for the Christians. At this time, the northern part of the city was ruled by the Turks and the southern half by the Christians. In 1402, Timur or Tamberlane, a Mongol associated with Genghis Khan, invaded the city and killed almost everyone in it.

Soon after, it was conquered again by the Ottomans. The city was mostly Greek at this time. In fact, it was so Greek that the Turks called it Gavur Izmir or Smyrna of the Infidels.

After WW1, the Treaty of Serves assigned the city to Greece and the Greek government occupied the city in 1919. The Greco-Turkish War started the same year and lasted until 1922. At the end of the war, Ataturk’s Turkish army entered the city and set it on fire, killing 55,000 Greek and Armenian Christians. This could probably be considered to be a part of the Armenian and Greek Genocides that the Turks committed around this time. The Greek Genocide is little known, but during this period, the Turks killed 250,000 Greeks and all Greeks were ethnically cleansed from Turkey. Much the same happened to the Turks of Greece and the result of these genocides was called “the population transfer.”

Here is a note from a British traveler who visited Smyrna in 1840:

The Jews of Smyrna are poor, and having little merchandise of their own to dispose of, they are sadly importunate in offering their services as intermediaries: their troublesome conduct has led to the custom of beating them in the open streets. It is usual for Europeans to carry long sticks with them for the express purpose of keeping off the chosen people. I always felt ashamed to strike the poor fellows myself, but I confess to the amusement with which I witnessed the observance of this custom by other people.

The Jew seldom got hurt much for he was always expecting the blow and was ready to recede from it the moment it came: one could not help being rather gratified at seeing him bound away so nimbly with his long robes floating out in the air and then again wheel round and return with fresh importunities.

Alexander William Kinglake- Eōthen, or Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East, 1845.

The antisemites seem to think that this behavior is a-ok. This sort of thing just does not seem right. It looks like bullying. And it appears that Greek Christians were doing it for the most part, not Muslims. So the Jews were annoying – so what? You don’t beat annoying people with sticks. The Jews have some legitimate beefs with European Christians.


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