Selahattin Ulkumen:

Born on the 14th of January 1914, in Antakya, Turkey, Selahattin Ulkumen was a Turkish Diplomat during World War 2, who also helped assist many local Jews from the holocaust, along with the help of his wife, Mihrinissa Ulkumen.

In July 1944, the Germans (the Gestapo) had ordered all the Jewish people on the island to gather at the headquarters to register for “temporary transportation to a small island nearby”, but in reality, they were gathered to be transported off to the gas chambers. Selahattin Ulkumen, the 30 year old Turkish Consul General, approached the German commanding officer, asking for the release of the Jews, and not only including the Turkish citizens, but also their relatives. At first the commander refused, stating that under the Nazi law, all Jews were Jews and had to go to the Concentration Camps. Ulkumen responded with “under the Turkish law all citizens were equal. We didn’t differentiate between citizens who were Jewish, Christian or Muslim."

Due to his continuous efforts, close to 50 Jewish people’s lives were saved. He had finally managed to convince the German commanding officer, with evidence proving that Ulkumen had recalled "The German commander said that, according to Nazi laws, all Jews in their eyes were Jewish and had to go to concentration camps because Germany needed more manpower. I knew what their real purpose was - to kill them in the gas chambers. I objected. I said that, according to Turkish law, we didn't differentiate between whether a citizen was Jewish, Christian or Muslim. According to Turkish law, all citizens are equal. I convinced him. I said that I would advise my Government and that it would cause an international incident. Then he agreed." Though in reprisal, the Nazi authorities soon bombed Ulkumen’s house, fatally injuring his pregnant wife, Mihrinissa, and caused her death one week after the birth of the couple's son, Mehmet. Selahattin was then detained and departed off to Piraeus, the mainland of Greece, where kept prisoner there for the remainder of the war.

After the end of World War 2, and once Hitler had fallen from power, Ulkumen was set free. He returned back to Turkey,where he remained in the Turkish Diplomatic service for another 34 years, serving in Europe and later as Consul General in Beirut and Cairo

and as Deputy Secretary General of CENTO (Central Treaty Organisation, aimed at committing Middle Eastern countries to mutual co-operation). He retired at the age 65 and died at the age of 89 during his sleep on July 7, 2003.

In 1989, Ulkumen was awarded the title of “Righteous Among Nations” for his efforts for the Jews throughout the war. A tree was also planted in his honour at the "Path of the Righteous". In 2001 he was presented with the Supreme Service Medal, Turkey's highest honour.

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