Great Fire of Smyrna


Great Fire of Smyrna
Great Fire of Smyrna, 14 September 1922

The Great Fire of Smyrna or the Catastrophe of Smyrna[1][2][3] (Greek: Καταστροφή της Σμύρνης, Turkish: Büyük İzmir Yangını, "Smyrna Catastrophe", Armenian: Զմյուռնիայի մեծ հրդեհ) was a fire that destroyed much of the port city of Izmir (then generally referred to by its ancient name of Smyrna in English) in September 1922. Eye-witness reports state that the fire began on 13 September 1922[4] and lasted until it was largely extinguished on September 22. It occurred four days after the Turkish forces regained control of the city on 9 September 1922, thus effectively ending the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) in the field, more than three years after the Greek army had landed troops at Smyrna on 15 May 1919. As a result of the fire and massacres, Greek and Armenian casualties range from a low of 2,000[5] to a high of 10,000[6][7] and to a higher estimate of 100,000[8], some reports state that at least 2,000 people were killed as a direct result of the fire.[9]

50,000[10] to 400,000[11] Greek and Armenian refugees crammed the waterfront escaping from the fire and were forced to remain there under harsh conditions for nearly two weeks. The systematic evacuation of Greeks on the quay started on 24 September with the permission and cooperation of Turkish authorities when the first Greek ships entered the harbor under the supervision of Allied destroyers.[12] Some 150,000 to 200,000 Greeks had been evacuated.[13]

The fire completely destroyed the Greek and Armenian quarters of the city. However, the Muslim and Jewish quarters were spared.[14] There are different claims about who was responsible for the fire; some claims blame the Turks, and some blame the Greeks or Armenians.

Contents

Background

The start of the fire, seen from Bella Vista. 13 September 1922
Buildings on fire and people trying to escape
Some of the thousands of Greeks, who fled to the waterfront. (Benaki Museum, Athens)

Ethnic structure of Smyrna

The ratio of Christian population to Muslim population remains a matter of dispute, different sources claiming either Greeks or Turks as constituting the majority in the city. For instance, according to Fleming Katherine Elizabeth, the Greek element in Smyrna formed the majority of the population, outnumbering the Turkish by a ratio of two to one.[15] Alongside Turks and Greeks, there were sizeable Armenian, Jewish, and Levantine communities in the city.

At the end of the 19th Century, Vital-Cuinet accounted 96,250 Turks and 57,000 Greeks. According to the Turkish census, there were, in 1905, 100,356 Muslims, 73,636 Greeks, 11,127 Armenians and 25,854 others; the updated figures for 1914 give 111,486 Turks against 87,497 Greeks.[16]

According to George Horton before the fire, there were 400,000 people living in the city of Smyrna, of whom 165,000 were Turks, 150,000 Greeks, 25,000 Jews, 25,000 Armenians, and 20,000 foreigners—10,000 Italians, 3,000 French, 2,000 British, and 300 Americans.[17] According to Henry Morgenthau and Trudy Ring, before World War I the Greeks alone numbered 130,000, and excludes Armenian Orthodox Christians, out of a total population of 250,000.[18][19] The Ottoman ruling class of that era referred to the city as Infidel Smyrna (Gavur Izmir) due to its strong Greek presence.[18][19]

Historic accounts of the event

An account finding the Turkish side responsible is that by George Horton, the U.S. Consul General of Smyrna in 1911–1917 and 1919–1922.[20] His account covers the destruction of the city and its inhabitants in great detail. Horton witnessed the burning of Smyrna on 13 September 1922, before he departed aboard a navy destroyer, and also included contemporary eye-witness testimony of others in his account.[21]

Professor of litterature Marjorie Housepian Dobkin concludes that the Turkish Army systematically burned the city and killed Greek and Armenian inhabitants. Her work is based on extensive eyewitness testimony from Western troops sent to Smyrna during the evacuation, foreign diplomats, relief workers, and Turkish eyewitnesses. A recent study by historian Niall Ferguson comes to the same conclusion.

The main critiques of Horton and Housepian are Heath Lowry and Justin McCarthy, who argue that Horton was highly prejudiced and Housepian makes an extremely selective use of sources.[22] Lowry and McCarthy are members of the Institute of Turkish Studies and have in turn been strongly criticized by other scholars for denial of the Armenian Genocide[23][24][25][26] and being on "the Turkish side of the debate".[27]

The biographies of Aristotle Onassis, a Greek survivor of Smyrna, including a biographical movie that re-created events in Smyrna, describe Onassis' personal experiences of what happened in Smyrna before, during, and after the great fire. Another contemporary account was that of Lieutenant Merrill of the British Navy, who believed that the Turks had started the fire so as to enable the deportation of the Greeks of Anatolia.[28]

Bringing together contemporary accounts and communications, Giles Milton published a history of events in Smyrna during 1922. Contemporary newspapers also published articles and letters concerning the unfolding tragedy.

Turkish author and journalist Falih Rifki Atay, who was in Smyrna at the time, and the Turkish professor Biray Kolluoğlu Kırlı have agreed that the Turkish Army was responsible for the destruction of Smyrna in 1922. More recently, a number of non-contemporary scholars, historians, and politicians have added to the history of the events by revisiting contemporary communications and histories.

There are other accounts that contradict some of the facts presented in the above accounts. These include a telegram sent by Mustafa Kemal, articles in contemporary newspapers, and a short non-contemporary essay by Turkish historian Reşat Kasaba of the University of Washington briefly describes events without making clear accusations.[29]

The accounts of Jewish teachers in Smyrna, letters of Johannes Kolmodin (a Swedish orientalist who was in Smyrna at the time), and Paul Grescovich's report says that Greeks or Armenians are responsible for the fire.

R.A. Weight stated that "his clients showed that the fire, in its origin, was a small accidental fire, though it eventually destroyed a large section of the town".[30]

Nevertheless, the fire destroyed only the Greek and Armenian quarters, while units of the Turkish army committed attrocities against its civilian population.[31]

Events

Panoramic view of the fire of Smyrna.
Overcrowded boats with refugees fleeing the fire. The photo had been taken from the launch boat of a US battleship.

The last Greek troops evacuated the city on the evening of 8 September 1922,[32] and the first Turkish troops entered on the morning of 9 September. At the outset, the Turkish occupation of the city was orderly, but order and discipline soon broke down as the Turks sought revenge, initially against the Armenians.[33] The Greek Orthodox Archbishop, Chrysostomos of Smyrna, was hacked to death by a Turkish mob.[33] The fire broke out in the late afternoon of 13 September, four days after the Turkish Army entered the city.[34] The blaze began in the Armenian quarter of the city, and spread quickly due to the windy weather and the fact that no effort was made to put it out.[35] The fire caused a stampede of people fleeing towards the harbor[35] according to Captain Hepburn, chief of Staff of the U.S. Naval Squadron:[35]

Returning to the street I found the stampede from the fire just beginning. All of the refugees that had been scattered through the streets or stowed in churches and other institutions were moving toward the waterfront. Steadily augmenting this flow were those abandoning their homes in the path of the fire...It was now dark. The quay was already filled with tens of thousands of terrified refugees moving aimlessly between the customs house and the point, and still the steady stream of new arrivals continued, until the entire waterfront seemed one solid mass of humanity and baggage of every description.

The heat from the fire was so intense that Hepburn was worried that the refugees would die as a result of it.[35] The refugees' situation on the pier on the morning of September 14 was described by Lieutenant Merrill of the British Navy:[36]

All morning the glow and then the flames of burning Smyrna could be seen. We arrived about an hour before dawn and the scene was indescribable. The entire city was ablaze and the harbor was light as day. Thousands of homeless refugees were surging back and forth on the blistering quay - panic stricken to the point of insanity. The heartrending shrieks of women and children were painful to hear. In a frenzy they would throw themselves into the water and some would reach the ship. To attempt to land a boat would have been disastrous. Several boats tried and were immediately stopped by the mad rush of a howling mob...The crowds along the quay beyond the fire were so thick and tried so desperately to close abreast the men-of-war anchorage that the masses in the stifling center could not escape except by sea. Fortunately there was a sea breeze and the quay wall never got hot enough to roast these unfortunate people alive, but the heat must have been terrific to have been felt in the ship 200 yards away. To add to the confusion, the packs belonging to these refugees -consisting mostly of carpets and clothing- caught fire, creating a chain of bonfires the length of the street.

Greek refugees mourning victims of the fire.

Eyewitness reports describe panic-stricken refugees diving into the water to escape the flames and that their terrified screaming could be heard miles away.[33] By September 15 the fire had somewhat died down, but sporadic violence by the Turks against the Greek and Armenian refugees kept the pressure on the Western and Greek navies to remove the refugees as quickly as possible.[28] The fire was completely extinguished by September 22,[37] and on September 24 the first Greek ships entered the harbor to take passengers away, following Captain Hepburn's initiative and his having obtained permission and cooperation from the Turkish authorities and the British admiral in charge of the destroyers in the harbor.[36] The evacuation was difficult despite the efforts of British and American sailors to maintain order, as tens of thousands of refugees pushed and shoved towards the shore.[36] On the quay, Turkish soldiers and irregulars periodically robbed Greek refugees, beating some and arresting others who resisted.[36] There were also many reports of well-behaved Turkish troops helping old women and trying to maintain order among the refugees,[36] but these reports are heavily outnumbered by those describing gratuitous cruelty, incessant robbery and violence.[28] American and British attempts to protect the Greeks from the Turks did little good, with the fire having taken a terrible toll.[28] Some frustrated and terrified Greeks took their own lives, plunging into the water with packs at their back, children were stampeded, and many of the elderly fainted and died.[28] The city's Armenians also suffered grievously, and according to Captain Hepburn, "every able-bodied Armenian man was hunted down and killed wherever found, with even boys aged 12 to 15 taking part in the hunt".[28]

The fire completely destroyed the Greek, Armenian, and Levantine quarters of the city, with only the Turkish and Jewish quarters surviving.[33] The thriving port of Smyrna, one of the most commercially active in the region, was burned to the ground. Some 150,000 - 200,000 Greek refugees were evacuated, while approximately 30,000 able-bodied Greek and Armenian men were deported to the interior, many of dying under the harsh conditions or executed along the way.[37] The 3,000 year Greek presence on Anatolia's Aegean shore was brought to an abrupt end,[37] along with the Megali Idea.[38] The Greek writer Dimitris Pentzopoulos wrote: "It is no exaggeration to call the year '1922' the most calamitous in modern Hellenic history.".[37]

Sources claiming Turkish responsibility

George Horton's account

George Horton was the U.S. Consul General of Smyrna. He was compelled to evacuate Smyrna on 13 September, and arrived in Athens on 14 September.[39] In 1926, he published his own account of what happened in Smyrna. He included testimony from a number of eye-witnesses and quoted a number of contemporary scholars. Some Turkish and pro-Turkish scholars claim that the account is one-sided, selective in the choice of testimonies, and unreliable.[40][41]

Greek Army abandoned Smyrna on 8 September 1922

Horton's account states that the last of the Greek soldiers had abandoned Smyrna during the evening of 8 September[42] since it was known in advance that Turkish soldiers would arrive on 9 September.[43]

Where the fire started and who started it

Greek victims of the fire

Horton noted that Turkish soldiers, on 13 September, first cleared the Armenian quarter and then torched a number of houses simultaneously behind the American Inter-Collegiate Institute. They waited for the wind to blow in the right direction, away from the homes of the Muslim population, before starting the fire. This report is backed up by the eyewitness testimony of Miss Minnie Mills, the dean of the Inter-Collegiate Institute:[44]

"I could plainly see the Turks carrying the tins of petroleum into the houses, from which, in each instance, fire burst forth immediately afterward. There was not an Armenian in sight, the only persons visible being Turkish soldiers of the regular army in smart uniforms."[44]

This was confirmed by the eyewitness report of Mrs King Birge, the wife of an American missionary, who viewed events from the tower of the American College at Paradise.[44]

Contemporary scholars quoted

Horton quoted contemporary scholars within his account including the historian Wllliam Stearns Davis:

"The Turks drove straight onward to Smyrna, which they took (9 September 1922) and then burned."[45]

Also, Sir Valentine Chirol, lecturer at the University of Chicago:

"After the Turks had smashed the Greek armies they turned the essentially Greek city (Smyrna) into an ash heap as proof of their victory."[45][46]

Summary of the destruction of Smyrna

Here is an abridged summary of notable events in the destruction of Smyrna described in Horton's account:[47]

  • Turkish soldiers cordoned off the Armenian quarter during the massacre. Armed Turks massacred Armenians and looted the Armenian quarter.
  • After their systemic massacre Turkish soldiers, in smart uniforms, set fire to Armenian buildings using tins of petroleum and flaming rags soaked in flammable liquids.
  • To supplement the devastation, small bombs were planted by the soldiers under paving slabs around the Christian parts of the city to take down walls. One of the bombs was planted near the American Consulate and another at the American Girl's School.
  • The fire was started on 13 September. The last Greek soldiers had evacuated Smyrna on 8 September. The Turkish Army was in full control of Smyrna from 9 September. All Christians remaining in the city who evaded massacre stayed within their homes, fearing for their lives. The burning of the homes forced Christians in to the streets. This was personally witnessed by Horton.
  • The fire was initiated at one edge of the Armenian quarter when a strong wind was blowing toward the Christian part of town and away from the Muslim part of town. Citizens of the Muslim quarter were not involved in the catastrophe. The Muslim quarter celebrated the arrival of the Turkish Army.
  • Turkish soldiers guided the fire through the modern Greek and European section of Smyrna by pouring flammable liquids into the streets. These were poured in front of the American Consulate to guide the fire, as witnessed by C. Clafun David, the Chairman of the Disaster Relief Committee of the Red Cross (Constantinople Chapter) and others who were standing at the door of the Consulate. Mr Davis testified that he put his hands in the mud where the flammable liquid was poured and indicated that it smelled like mixed petroleum and gasoline. The soldiers that were observed doing this had started from the quay and proceeded towards the fire, thus ensuring the rapid and controlled spread of the fire.
  • Dr Alexander Maclachlan, the president of the American College, together with a sergeant of the American Marines, was stripped and beaten with clubs by Turkish soldiers. In addition, a squad of American Marines was fired on.

Marjorie Housepian Dobkin's account

One of the witnesses in Marjorie Housepian Dobkin's account was the American industrial engineer Mark Prentiss, a foreign trade specialist in Smyrna, who was also acting as a freelance correspondent for the New York Times. He was an eyewitness to many of the events which occurred in Smyrna. He was initially quoted in the New York Times as putting the blame on the Turkish military. Prentiss arrived in Smyrna 8 September 1922, one day before the Turkish Army returned to Smyrna. He was a special representative of the Near East Relief (an American charity organization whose purpose was to watch over and protect Armenians during the war). He arrived on the destroyer USS Lawrence, under command of Capt. Wolleson. His superior was Rear Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol, U.S. High Commissioner to the Ottoman Empire from 1919–1927, present in Constantinople. His initial published statements were as follows:[48]

Many of us personally saw—and are ready to affirm the statement—Turkish soldiers often directed by officers throwing petroleum in the street and houses. Vice-Consul Barnes watched a Turkish officer leisurely fire the Custom House and the Passport Bureau while at least fifty Turkish soldiers stood by. Major Davis saw Turkish soldiers throwing oil in many houses. The Navy patrol reported seeing a complete horseshoe of fires started by the Turks around the American school.

Critics of Prentiss point out that Prentiss changed his story, giving two very different statements of events at different times.[citation needed] Initially, Prentiss was printed in the New York Times on 18 September 1922 (partially disavowed in the same paper on 14 November) as having cabled an article titled "Eyewitness Story of Smyrna’s Horror; 200,000 Victims of Turks and Flames". Upon his return to the United States, he was pressured by Rear Adm. Mark Lambert Bristol to put a different version on record, where he claimed that it was the Armenians who had set the fire. According to Housepian, Bristol was notoriously anti-Greek, describing Greeks in his correspondence as "the worst race in the Near East".[48] Rear Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol, U.S. high commissioner in Istanbul, reported that during the Turkish capture of Smyrna and the ensuing fire, the number of deaths due to killings, fire, and execution did not exceed 2,000.[49]

Rudolph J. Rummel blames the Turkish side for the "systematic firing" in the Armenian and Greek quarters of the city. Rummel argues that after the Turks recaptured the city, Turkish soldiers and Muslim mobs shot and hacked to death Armenians, Greeks, and other Christians in the streets of the city; he estimates the victims of these massacres, by giving reference to the previous claims of Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, at about 100,000 Christians.[8]

Marjorie Housepian's account was criticized by Gwynne Dyer[50] and by Heath Lowry.[51]

Aristotle Onassis' biography

Aristotle Onassis, who was born in Smyrna, and who later became the richest man in the world, was one of the Greek survivors of Smyrna. The various biographies of his life document aspects of his experiences during the Smyrna catastrophe. His life experiences were recreated in the movie called Onassis, The Richest Man in the World and includes Onassis' personal relationship with a Turkish officer.[52]

During the Smyrna catastrophe the Onassis family lost substantial property holdings, which were either taken or given to Turks as bribes to secure their safety and freedom. They became refugees, fleeing to Greece after the fire. However, Aristotle Onassis stayed behind to save his father, who had been placed in a Turkish concentration camp. He was successful in saving his father's life, but during this period Onassis lost three uncles and one aunt with her husband Chrysostomos Konialidis and their daughter, who were burned to death when Turkish soldiers set fire to a church in Thyatira where 500 Christians had found shelter to avoid Turkish soldiers and the Great Fire of Smyrna.[52]

Giles Milton's book

In his book Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922, Giles Milton addresses the issue of the Smyrna Fire through original material (interviews, unpublished letters, and diaries) from the Levantine families of Smyrna, who were mainly of British origin. All the documents collected by the author during this research are deposited in Exeter University Library.[53]

One of the first people to notice the outbreak of fire was Miss Minnie Mills, the director of the American Collegiate Institute for Girls. She had just finished her lunch when she noticed that one of the neighboring buildings was burning. She stood up to have a closer look and was shocked by what she witnessed. 'I saw with my own eyes a Turkish officer enter the house with small tins of petroleum or benzine and in a few minutes the house was in flames.'

She was not the only one at the institute to see the outbreak of fire. 'Our teachers and girls saw Turks in regular soldiers' uniforms and in several cases in officers' uniforms, using long sticks with rags at the end which were dipped in a can of liquid and carried into houses which were soon burning.'[54]

Numerous reliable witnesses would later testify to the role of Kemal's troops in starting the fire. Claflin Davis of the American Red Cross saw Turks sprinkling flammable liquid along a street that lay in the path of the fire. Monsieur Joubert, director of the Credit Foncier Bank of Smyrna, plucked up the courage to ask a band of Turkish soldiers what they were doing. 'They replied impassively that they were under orders to blow up and burn all the houses of the area.' Another senior French businessman—whose business interests required him to testify on condition of anonymity—said that all the shops of Hadji Stamon Street were set alight by soldiers acting under the direction of the former head of Turkish police in Cordelio, a man whose identity he did not reveal but who was known to him personally.[55]

The conclusion of the author is that it was Turkish soldiers and officers who set the fire, most probably following direct orders.

To this day, most Turkish historians persist in claiming that the fire was an act of sabotage on the part of the Greeks and Armenians. Yet there are scores of impartial accounts that testify to the fact that the Turkish army deliberately set fire to Smyrna.[56]

Lieutenant Merrill

Lieutenant Merrill of the British Navy was one of the eyewitnesses to the fire of Smyrna. He believed that the Turks had set the fire to keep the Greeks in a state of terror so as to facilitate their departure.[37]

Contemporary newspapers

The New York Times, in an article published on the 18 September 1922 titled "Smyrna's ravagers fired on Americans", documented the destruction of the Christian quarters of the city and the massacre of its Christian population by the Turkish army.[57] The article gives special emphasis to attacks against American soldiers and volunteers when they tried to help Armenians and Greeks.

Non-contemporary recognition

Historian Niall Ferguson

The Scottish Historian Niall Ferguson firmly states that it was the Turks, under the orders from authorities, who burned Smyrna: "In September 1922, however, Kemal's occupied the town. They sealed off the Armenian quarter and began systematically butchering the 25,000 inhabitants. They set fire to it, to incinerate any survivors."[58]

Historians Lowe and Dockrill

C.J. Lowe and M.L. Dockrill give direct responsibility to the "Kemalists" for the fire, and attribute their determination to the earlier Greek occupation of Smyrna:[59]

The short-sightedness of both Lloyd George and President Wilson seems incredible, explicable only in terms of the magic of Venizelos and an emotional, perhaps religious, aversion to the Turks. For Greek claims were at best debatable, perhaps a bare majority, more likely a large minority in the Smyrna Vilayet, which lay in an overwhelmingly Turkish Anatolia. The result was an attempt to alter the imbalance of populations by genocide, and the counter determination of Nationalists to erase the Greeks, a feeling which produced bitter warfare in Asia Minor for the next two years until the Kemalists took Smyrna in 1922 and settled the problem by burning down the Greek quarter.

Historian Richard Clogg

Historian Richard Clogg categorically states that the fire was started by the Turks following their capture of the city.[33]

U.S. Governor George E. Pataki

The former Governor of New York State George E. Pataki, a Greek-American, recognised the violent expulsion of the Greeks and Armenians from Asia Minor by the Turks. As he mentioned in his proclamation in commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the catastophe, "...Smyrna, the largest city in Asia Minor called 'the jewel of the Mediterranean', a cosmopolitan hub populated by a highly educated Greek community and flourishing commercial and middle-classes, was sacked and burned and its inhabitants massacred by the Turkish forces; the pier of Smyrna became a scene of final desperation as the approaching flames forced many thousands to jump to their death, rather than be consumed by flame."[60]

Turkish sources claiming Turkish responsibility

Falih Rifki Atay

Falih Rıfkı Atay, a Turkish journalist and author of national renown, is quoted as having lamented that the Turkish army had burnt Smyrna to the ground in the following terms:

Gavur [infidel] İzmir burned and came to an end with its flames in the darkness and its smoke in daylight. Were those responsible for the fire really the Armenian arsonists as we were told in those days? ... As I have decided to write the truth as far as I know I want to quote a page from the notes I took in those days. ‘The plunderers helped spread the fire ... Why were we burning down İzmir? Were we afraid that if waterfront konaks, hotels and taverns stayed in place, we would never be able to get rid of the minorities? When the Armenians were being deported in the First World War, we had burned down all the habitable districts and neighbourhoods in Anatolian towns and cities with this very same fear. This does not solely derive from an urge for destruction. There is also some feeling of inferiority in it. It was as if anywhere that resembled Europe was destined to remain Christian and foreign and to be denied to us.[61]

If there were another war and we were defeated, would it be sufficient guarantee of preserving the Turkishness of the city if we had left Izmir as a devastated expanse of vacant lots? Were it not for Nureddin Pasha, whom I know to be a dyed-in-the-wool fanatic and rabblerouser, I do not think this tragedy would have gone to the bitter end. He has doubtless been gaining added strength from the unforgiving vengeful feelings of the soldiers and officers who have seen the debris and the weeping and agonized population of the Turkish towns which the Greeks have burned to ashes all the way from Afyon.[62]

Falih Rifki Atay implied Nureddin Pasha was the person responsible for the fire in his account: "At the time it was said that Armenian arsonists were responsible. But was this so? There were many who assigned a part in it to Nureddin Pasha, commander of the First Army, a man whom Kemal had long disliked..."[63]

Professor Biray Kolluoğlu Kırlı

Biray Kolluoğlu Kırlı, a Turkish professor of Sociology at Bogazici University, published a paper in 2005 in which she argues that Smyrna was burned by the Turkish Army to create a Turkish city out of the cosmopolitan fabric of the old city, and she focuses on the extensions of this viewpoint on the Turkish nationalist narrative ever since.[64]

Sources claiming Greek or Armenian responsibility

Mustafa Kemal's telegram

Commander-in-Chief of the TBMM government Müşir Mustafa Kemal Pasha

On 17 September, when the massacre and the fire in the city had come to an end, Mustafa Kemal, Commander in Chief of Turkish armies sent the minister of foreign affairs Yusuf Kemal the following telegram, describing the official version of events in the city:[65][66]

FROM COMMANDER IN CHIEF GAZI MUSTAFA KEMAL PASHA TO THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS YUSUF KEMAL BEY
Tel. 17.9.38 (1922) (Arrived 4.10.38)
To be transmitted with care. Important and urgent.
Find hereunder the instruction I sent to Hamid Bey with Admiral Dumesmil, who left for İstanbul today.
Commander-In-Chief Mustafa KEMAL
Copy To Hamid Bey,
1. It is necessary to comment on the fire in İzmir for future reference.
Our army took all the necessary measures to protect İzmir from accidents, before entering the city. However, the Greeks and the Armenians, with their pre-arranged plans have decided to destroy İzmir. Speeches made by Chrysóstomos at the churches have been heard by the Muslims, the burning of İzmir was defined as a religious duty. The destruction was accomplished by this organization. To confirm this, there are many documents and eyewitness accounts. Our soldiers worked with everything that they have to put out the fires. Those who attribute this to our soldiers may come to İzmir personally and see the situation. However, for a job like this, an official investigation is out of the question. The newspaper correspondents of various nationalities presently in İzmir are already executing this duty. The Christian population is treated with good care and the refugees are being returned to their places.[67]

The Grescovich Report

Paul Grescovich, the commander of the Smyrna Insurance Company Fire Brigade, seen by Prentiss as "a thoroughly reliable witness", wrote a report putting the blame on Greeks and Armenians, stating especially that “his own firemen, as well as Turkish guards, had shot down many Armenian young men disguised either as woman or as Turkish irregular soldiers, who were caught setting fires during Tuesday night [12 Sept.] and Wednesday [Sept 13th] morning”.[51]

The accounts of Jewish teachers

The director of the school of the Alliance israélite universelle wrote in a letter of 18 September 1922:

"It is sufficient for you to know that if the city was not completely destroyed by fire, it is thanks to Turkish army, who could arrive in time."[68]

The director of the school of Tireh wrote, on 29 September: "To make matters worse, Smyrna did not escape to the catastrophe: more than the half of the city was burned by the Armenians, another reason to aggravate the misfortune of Jewish and other refugees."[69]

Letters of Johannes Kolmodin

Johannes Kolmodin, a Swedish orientalist, was in Smyrna in those days. He wrote that the Greek army was responsible for the fire, as well as fires in 250 villages. He adds that it would be meaningless for Turks to set Smyrna on fire.[70]

Contemporary newspapers and witnesses

A French journalist who had covered the Turkish War of Independence arrived in Smyrna shortly after the flames had died down wrote:[71]

The first defeat of the nationalists had been this enormous fire. Within forty-eight hours, it had destroyed the only hope of immediate economic recovery. For this reason, when I heard people accusing the winners themselves of having provoked it to get rid of the Greeks and Armenians who still lived in the city, I could only shrug off the absurdity of such talk. One had to know the Turkish leaders very little indeed to attribute to them so generously a taste for unnecessary suicide.

The special correspondent of Le Matin concluded, as a result of his investigation, that "the Armenians" are definitely guilty.[72].

Alexander MacLachlan, the missionary president of the International College of Smyrna who witnessed the fire states in an article in The Times of 25 September 1922 that the Turkish soldiers seen to set the fire were actually disguised Armenians:[73]

Turkish soldiers protected International College during the disruption of the occupation; a Turkish cavalryman rescued MacLachlan from irregulars who nearly beat the missionary to death while trying to loot the agricultural buildings of the college. A three-day Smyrna fire (13–15 September), which Turks made every effort to control, destroyed nearly a square mile in Greek and Armenian areas and made two hundred thousand people homeless. Included in this loss was the American Board's Collegiate Institute for Girls. MacLachlan's investigation of the fire's origin led to the conviction that Armenian terrorists, dressed in Turkish uniforms, fired the city. Apparently the terrorists were attempting to bring Western intervention. Informing Washington of a three million Dollars claim by the American Board against the Ankara government ...

Note that this is the same Alexander Maclachlan in George Horton's account, spelt "Maclachlan" in that account, who was stripped and beaten by Turkish soldiers with clubs.[47]

Another source claims Armenian responsibility was San Antonio Express[74]

An individual witness, art historian and long time inhabitant of Smyrna Bilge Umar, suggested that both Turkish and the Armenian sides were guilty for the fire:

"Turks and Armenians are equally to blame for this tragedy. All the sources show that the Greeks did not start the fire as they left the city. The fire was started by fanatical Armenians. The Turks did not try to stop the fire."

[75]

Non-contemporary recognition

Donald Webster's version

According to US scholar Donald Webster, who taught at the International College in Izmir between 1931–1934:

All the world heard about the great fire which destroyed much of beautiful Izmir. While every partisan accuses enemies of the incendiarism, the preponderance of impartial opinion blames the terror-stricken Armenians, who had bet their money on the wrong horse – a separatist national rather than a cultural individuality within the framework of the new, laïque Turkey.”[76]

Lord Kinross's study

Devoting an entire chapter of his Atatürk's biography to the fire, Lord Kinross argues:

The internecine violence led, more or less by accident, to the outbreak of a catastrophic fire. Its origins were never satisfactorily explained. Kemal maintained to Admiral Dumesnil that it had been deliberately planned by an Armenian incendiary organization, and that before the arrival of the Turks speeches had been made in churches, calling for the burning of the city as a sacred duty. Fuel for the purpose had been found in the houses of Armenian women, and several incendiaries had been arrested. Others accused the Turks themselves of deliberately starting the fire under the orders or at least connivance of Nur-ed-Din Pasha, who had a reputation for fanaticism and cruelty. Most probably it started when the Turks, rounding up the Armenians to confiscate their arms, besieged a band of them in a building in which they had taken refuge. Deciding to burn them out, they set it alight with petrol, placing cordon of sentries around to arrest or shoot them as they escaped. Meanwhile the Armenians started other fires to divert the Turks from their main objective. The quarter was on the outskirts of the city. But a strong wind, for which they had not allowed, quickly carried flames towards the city. By the early evening several other quarters were on fire, and a thousand homes, built flimsily of lath and plaster, had been reduced to ashes. The flames were being spread by the looters, and doubtless also by Turkish soldiers, paying off scores. The fire brigade was powerless to cope with such a conflagration, and at Ismet’s headquarters the Turks alleged that its hose pipes had been deliberately severed. Ismet himself chose to declare that the Greeks had planned to burn the city.

[77]

Resat Kasaba's essay

It has been noted in a short essay by Turkish historian Resat Kasaba that some sources claimed the fire to be the continuation of the destruction caused by the Greek army which had been rapidly retreating across the Anatolian inland since the Battle of Dumlupınar[78] and thus the continuation of the Greek scorched earth policy.

This included Mr. H. Lamb, the British Consul General at Smyrna, who reported that he "had reason to believe that Greeks in concert with Armenians had burned Smyrna".[79] This was also stated by the correspondent of the Petit Parisien at Smyrna in a dispatch on 20 September 1922.

There were not only Greeks and Armenians but also British citizens taking refuge from the Turkish Army and the fire. While some fled to Constantinople, which they believed to still be administered by the British, some fled directly to the UK. There was no record of missing British nationals during the fire. There were also eyewitnesses to the fire among the British refugees. According to The Times dated 6 October 1922:[80]

Thirty-six refugees from Smyrna arrived at Plymouth to-day, having been sent home from Malta ... Mr. L. R. Whittall, barrister-at-law, who has been in Smyrna for some years said there was no evidence as to who set fire to the town, but the consensus of opinion was that it was Greek and Armenian incendiaries.

Casualties and Refugees

Refugees

The number of casualties from the fire and accompanying massacres is not precisely known, with estimates of up to 100,000[8][6] Greeks and Armenians killed. U.S. historian Norman Naimark gives a figure of 10,000-15,000 dead,[37] while historian Richard Clogg gives a figure of 30,000.[33] Larger estimates include that of John Freely at 50,000 and Rudolf Rummel at 100,000.[8]

Despite the fact that there were numerous ships from various Allied powers in the harbor of Smyrna, the vast majority of ships, citing "neutrality", did not pick up Greeks and Armenians who were forced to flee from the fire and Turkish troops.[81] Military bands played loud music to drown out the screams of those who were drowning in the harbor and who were forcefully prevented from boarding Allied ships.[48] A Japanese freighter, however, dumped all of its cargo and filled itself to the brink with refugees, taking them to the Greek port of Piraeus and safety.[82][83]

Many refugees were rescued via an impromptu relief flotilla organized by Asa Jennings.[84] Other scholars give a different account of the events; they argue that the Turks first forbade foreign ships in the harbor to pick up the survivors, but, then, under pressure especially from Britain, France, and the United States, they allowed the rescuing of all the Christians except males 17 to 45 years old, whom they aimed to deport into the interior, which "was regarded as a short life sentence to slavery under brutal masters, ended by mysterious death".[85]

The number of refugees changes according to the source. Some contemporary newspapers claim that there were 400,000 Greek and Armenian refugees from Smyrna and the surrounding area who received Red Cross aid immediately after the destruction of the city.[11] Stewart Matthew states that there were 250,000 refugees who were all non-Turks.[14] U.S. historian Norman Naimark gives a figure of 150,000 - 200,000 Greek refugees evacuated, with 30,000 Greek and Armenian men deported to the interior of Anatolia.[37] Edward Hale Bierstadt and Helen Davidson Creighton say that there were at least 50,000 Greek and Armenian refugees.[10] Some contemporary accounts also suggest the same number, 50,000.[86]

Aftermath

Turkish workers cleaning the rubble of the fire in the dire early years of the Republic

The entire city suffered substantial damage to its infrastructure. The core of the city literally had to be rebuilt from the ashes. Today, 40 hectares of the former fire area is a vast park (Kültürpark) serving as Turkey's largest open air exhibition center, including the İzmir International Fair, among others.

Great Fire of Smyrna in Literature

Part of the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides takes place during the Great Fire of Smyrna.

The closing section of Edward Whittemore's Sinai Tapestry takes place during the Great Fire of Smyrna.

On the Quai at Smyrna, a short story published as part of In Our Time, by Ernest Hemingway, alludes to the Great Fire of Smyrna.

The strange thing was, he said, how they screamed every night at midnight ... We were in the harbour and they were on the pier and at midnight they started screaming. We used to turn the searchlight on them to quiet them. That always did the trick.[87]

—Ernest Hemingway, On the Quai at Smyrna

Eric Ambler's novel A Coffin for Dimitrios speaks at length about the event, as the title character witnesses the incident.

Mehmet Coral's Izmir: 13 Eylul 1922 (Izmir:13 September 1922) which is also published in the Greek language by Kedros of Athens/Greece under the title: Πολλές ζωές στη Σμύρνη (Many lives in Izmir).

Notes

  1. ^ Catastrophe at Smyrna by Matthew Stewart, Highbeam.com.
  2. ^ "Catastrophe at Smyrna". History Today. http://www.historytoday.com/matthew-stewart/catastrophe-smyrna. Retrieved 2011-05-13. 
  3. ^ Tsounis, Catherine (2010-09-08). "Remembering Smyrna: The Asia Minor Catastrophe | www.qgazette.com | Queens Gazette". www.qgazette.com. http://www.qgazette.com/news/2010-09-08/Features/Remembering_Smyrna_The_Asia_Minor_Catastrophe.html. Retrieved 2011-05-13. 
  4. ^ Horton, The Blight of Asia (2003) p. 96
  5. ^ Patrick Kinross, Ataturk: The Rebirth of a Nation, Phoenix, 2001 ISBN 978-1-84212-599-1, p. 324. Kinross stated that "An official American observer... afterwards estimated the total deaths, from various causes, at about two thousand."
  6. ^ a b Biondich, Mark. The Balkans: Revolution, War, and Political Violence Since 1878. Oxford University Press, 2011. p. 92 [1]
  7. ^ Naimark, p. 52
  8. ^ a b c d Rudolph J. Rummel, Irving Louis Horowitz (1994). "Turkey's Genocidal Purges". Death by Government. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56000-927-6. , p. 233
  9. ^ Naimark, Norman M. Fires of hatred: ethnic cleansing in twentieth-century Europe (2002), Harvard University Press, p.47-52
  10. ^ a b Edward Hale Bierstadt, Helen Davidson Creighton. The great betrayal: a survey of the near East problem (1924), R. M. McBride & company, p.218
  11. ^ a b U.S. Red Cross Feeding 400,000 Refugees, Japan Times and Mail, 10 November 1922
  12. ^ Naimark, p. 50
  13. ^ Naimark, p. 52
  14. ^ a b Stewart, Matthew (2003-01-01). "It Was All a Pleasant Business: The Historical Context of "On the Quai at Smyrna"". The Hemingway Review 23 (1): 58–71. doi:10.1353/hem.2004.0014. 
  15. ^ Fleming Katherine Elizabeth. Greece—a Jewish history. Princeton University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-691-10272-6, p. 81.
  16. ^ Salâhi R. Sonyel, Minorities and the Destruction of the Ottoman Empire, Ankara: TTK, 1993, p. 351; Gaston Gaillard, The Turks and Europe, London, 1921, p. 199.
  17. ^ Horton, The Blight of Asia
  18. ^ a b Ring Trudy, Salkin Robert M. , La Boda Sharon. International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe. Taylor & Francis, 1995. ISBN 978-1-884964-02-2, p. 351
  19. ^ a b Morgenthau Henry. Ambassador Morgenthau's story Gomidas Institute, 2000. ISBN 978-0-9535191-2-5, p. 32
  20. ^ Horton, The Blight of Asia (1926)
  21. ^ Horton, The Blight of Asia (2003) pp. 97/9
  22. ^ Heath Lowry, “Turkish History: On Whose Sources Will it Be Based? A Case Study on the Burning of Izmir”, The Journal of Ottoman Studies, IX, 1988; Justin McCarthy, Death and Exile. The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, Princeton: Darwin Press, 1995, pp. 291–292, 316–317 and 327.
  23. ^ Auron, Yair. The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2003, p. 248.
  24. ^ Charny, Israel W. Encyclopedia of Genocide, Vol. 2. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1999, p. 163.
  25. ^ Dadrian, Vahakn N. "Ottoman Archives and the Armenian Genocide" in The Armenian Genocide: History, Politics, Ethics. Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.) New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 1992, p. 284.
  26. ^ Hovannisian, Richard G. "Denial of the Armenian Genocide in Comparison with Holocaust Denial" in Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide. Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.) Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1999, p. 210.
  27. ^ Michael Mann, The dark side of democracy: explaining ethnic cleansing, pp. 112-4, Cambridge, 2005 "... figures are derive[d] from McCarthy (1995: I 91, 162-4, 339), who is often viewed as a scholar on the Turkish side of the debate."
  28. ^ a b c d e f Naimark, p. 51
  29. ^ İzmir 1922: A port city unravels, Reşat Kasaba.
  30. ^ The Post magazine and insurance monitor, Volume 85, Issue 2 (1924), Buckley Press, p.2153
  31. ^ Rose, ed. by Peter I. (2004). The dispossessed : an anatomy of exile. Amherst [u.a.]: Univ. of Massachusetts Press. pp. 49. ISBN 9781558494664. http://books.google.gr/books?id=S3nrqqIDREcC&pg=PA48&dq=young+turks+greeks+persecution&hl=el&ei=VJd_TpOlMo2WOp7imPQP&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CF8Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=young%20turks%20greeks%20persecution&f=false. 
  32. ^ <Clogg, Richard (1992). A concise history of Greece. Cambridge University Press. p. 257. 
  33. ^ a b c d e f Clogg, p. 98
  34. ^ Naimark, Norman (2002). Fires of hatred: Ethnic cleansing in 20th century Europe. Harvard University Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-674-00994-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=L-QLXnX16kAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 3 June 2011. 
  35. ^ a b c d Naimark, p. 49
  36. ^ a b c d e Naimark, p. 50
  37. ^ a b c d e f g Naimark, p. 52
  38. ^ Clogg, p. 99
  39. ^ James L. Marketos (2006). "George Horton: An American Witness in Smyrna". ahiworld.org. http://ahiworld.org/pdfs/George_Horton_remarks.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  40. ^ Kirli, Biray Kolluoglu. Forgetting the Smyrna Fire, Oxford University Press, 2005.
  41. ^ Heath Lowry, “Turkish History: On Whose Sources Will it Be Based? A Case Study on the Burning of Izmir”, The Journal of Ottoman Studies, IX, 1988.
  42. ^ Horton, The Blight of Asia (2003) p. 82
  43. ^ Horton, The Blight of Asia (2003) p. 78
  44. ^ a b c Horton, The Blight of Asia (2003) p. 93
  45. ^ a b Horton, The Blight of Asia (2003) p. 73
  46. ^ Chirol, Sir Valentine The Occident and the Orient p. 58
  47. ^ a b Horton, The Blight of Asia (2003) pp. 74–5
  48. ^ a b c Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, 1972. Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City, ISBN 978-0-9667451-0-8, p. 71
  49. ^ Children of Achilles: the Greeks in Asia Minor since the days of Troy, John Freely, page 213, 2009
  50. ^ “Gwynne Dyer "Turkish 'Falsifiers' and Armenian 'Deceivers': Historiography and the Armenian Massacres”, Middle Eastern Studies, XII-1, 1976, pp. pp. 99–107.
  51. ^ a b Heath Lowry, art. cit.
  52. ^ a b Onassis, The Richest Man in the World (1988), movie for television, directed by Waris Hussein.
  53. ^ Milton 2008, p. A Note on Sources.
  54. ^ Milton 2008, p. 306.
  55. ^ Milton 2008, pp. 306–307.
  56. ^ Milton 2008, p. 307.
  57. ^ "SMYRNA'S RAVAGERS FIRED ON AMERICANS; Y.M.C.A. Workers Were Held Up an... – Article Preview – The". New York Times. 1922-09-18. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B03E0DC1139EF3ABC4052DFBF668389639EDE. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  58. ^ Ferguson, Niall. The War of the Worlds Penguin 2007 p.182
  59. ^ C. J. Lowe, M. L Dockrill, The Mirage of Power, British Foreign Policy 1914–1922, Routledge, p.347, ISBN 978-0-415-26597-3
  60. ^ "The Proclamation". Greece.org. 2002-10-06. http://www.greece.org/themis/ny/nyproclamationeng.htm. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  61. ^ Falih Rifki Atay, Cankaya: Atatürk’un Dogumundan Olumune Kadar, Istanbul, 1969, 324–25
  62. ^ The Atatürk I knew: an abridged translation of F.R. Atay's Çankaya by Geoffrey Lewis, p. 180, İstanbul: Yapı ve Kredi Bankası, 1981.
  63. ^ Nicole and Hugh Pope, Turkey unveiled : a history of modern Turkey, Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, 2004, p. 58. ISBN 978-1-58567-581-4
  64. ^ Kirli, Biray Kolluoglu. Forgetting the Smyrna Fire, History Workshop Journal, No. 60, 2005, Oxford University Press, pp. 25–44.
  65. ^ Bilal Şimşir, 1981. Atatürk ile Yazışmalar (The Correspondence with Atatürk), Kültür Bakanlığı
  66. ^ Karavasilis, Niki (2010). The Whispering Voices of Smyrna. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, USA: Red Lead Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-1-4349-6381-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=BKA0U3FeepsC. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  67. ^ Niki Karavasilis, The Whispering Voices of Smyrna, Dorrance Publishing, 2010, ISBN 9781434963819, pp. 208-209.
  68. ^ La Grande Guerre et la guerre gréco-turque vue par les instituteurs de l’Alliance israélite universelle d’İzmir, İstanbul, The İsis Press, 2003, p. 68.
  69. ^ La Grande Guerre et la guerre gréco-turque vue par les instituteurs de l’Alliance israélite universelle d’İzmir, op. cit., p. 71.
  70. ^ Özdalga, Elizabeth. The last dragoman: the Swedish orientalist Johannes Kolmodin as scholar, activist and diplomat (2006), Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, p.63
  71. ^ Nicole and Hugh Pope, Turkey unveiled : a history of modern Turkey, Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, 2004, p. 58 ISBN 978-1-58567-581-4
  72. ^ "Ce sont les Arméniens qui allumèrent l’incendie en abandonnant leur quartier", Le Matin, 20 September 1922
  73. ^ "A Missionary Eyewitness Lays the Blame on Armenians," The Times, 25 September 1922.
  74. ^ "st+antonio+express.jpg (image)". 2.bp.blogspot.com. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_9rjK1yXqTJc/SIn2FKnK1RI/AAAAAAAAB3E/3B0S6FSPvVE/s1600-h/st+antonio+express.jpg. Retrieved 2011-05-13. 
  75. ^ Leyla Neyzi, Remembering Smyrna/Izmir Shared History, Shared Trauma, History & Memory, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2008), p. 117
  76. ^ Donald Everett Webster, The Turkey of Ataturk – Social Process In The Turkish Reformation, Philadelphia: American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1939, p. 96.
  77. ^ Lord Kinross, Ataturk: A Biography of Mustafa Kemal, Father of Turkey, New York: William Morrow & Company, 1965, pp 370–371 (the chapter is pp. 365–675).
  78. ^ İzmir 1922: A port city unravels, Reşat Kasaba, Washington University.
  79. ^ Colonel Rachid Galib, 18 May 1923. Current History, V., "Smyrna During the Greek Occupation" p.319.
  80. ^ "Firing of the Town," The Times, 6 October 1922. Plymouth. See also A.J. Hobbins, “Paradise Lost: the Merchant Princes and the Destruction of Smyrna, 1922.” Fontanus. XI (2003), pp. 96–128.
  81. ^ Dr. Esther Lovejoy, "Woman Pictures Smyrna Horrors", The New York Times , 9 October 1922.
  82. ^ "Japanese at Smyrna", Boston Globe, 3 December 1922.
  83. ^ The Japanese Hero, Stavros Stavridis, The National Herald
  84. ^ [2] Archived May 27, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  85. ^ Rummel-Horowitz, p. 233
  86. ^ Moderator-topics, Volume 43 (1922), p.60
  87. ^ Hemingway, Ernest (1961-07-02). The complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-684-84332-2. http://books.google.com/?id=GG7Y6ZFGk0AC&lpg=PA63. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 

References

Further reading

  • Papoutsky, Christos, Ships of Mercy: The True Story of the Rescue of the Greeks, Smyrna, September 1922, Peter E. Randall (2008) ISBN 978-1-931807-66-1

See also

External links


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