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Stefan Ihrig, “Ataturk in the Nazi Imagination” (Harvard UP, 2014)

By Marshall Poe

In Ataturk in the Nazi Imagination (Harvard University Press, 2014), historian Stefan Ihrig examines the history of Mustafa Kemal and Republican Turkey through the interpretive lens of Nazi political discourse. Ihrig shows how Ataturk’s Turkey became a symbol of resistance and national rebirth in the interwar period. Challenging semi-colonial or orientalist visions of Turkey held by British and French, German nationalists saw many of their own aspirations play out in Anatolia after World War I. Ataturk’s struggle against the Entente and the Greek Army became an inspiration for the right-wing press, initially overshadowing early fascist leaders like Benito Mussolini Ataturk’s Turkey became model of governance not only to be praised by the Nazi elite, but to be emulated German state. Nazi leaders borrowed liberally from Ataturk’s example, citing “Turkish lessons for Germany” in the right-wing press. Hitler described Ataturk as his own “star in the darkness” during his years of imprisonment and political isolation during the 1920s. Ataturk’s dictatorship paved the way for the Nazis twisted visions of national progress, authority, and modernity. The ethnic cleansing of Armenians and Greeks mirrored the Nazi party’s own view of Jews as a dangerous enemy within. Ihrig shows how the Nazi vision of Ataturk (albeit not the reality) inspired Hitler’s foreign and domestic policy in the years leading up to the World War II.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

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