One of Turkey's Germans
Constantinople, 19th November 1918: fat-bellied ships move through the cold fog that lies over the Bosphorus. Their Union Jacks make it abundantly clear to the world that "the sick man of the Bosphorus" has been vanquished, along with his allies, the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. The new masters of the mouldering Ottoman empire are England, France and Italy.
The population of Constantinople, as Europeans still called Istanbul in the 19th century, had come out into the streets to celebrate Turkeyʹs entry into the war, euphoric and waving brightly-coloured flags. But for many of them war and defeat ultimately meant only suffering, displacement, expulsion and even annihilation. It also meant the first death of Constantinopleʹs unusual cosmopolitan society and the legendarily vibrant quarter of Pera.
The end of the war also brought a fateful change for the many thousands of Germans who had made their home in the colourful mix of nationalities on the banks of the Bosphorus. When the victorious British feared that Germany might exert its influence there, they ordered the expatsʹ deportation. The Germans were forced to leave their "Kospoli", as some of them affectionately called their new home city. It was the end of the first chapter of the German presence on the Bosphorus.
Schrader, the "Turkeideutscher"
One of these "Turkeideutschen" (Turkey Germans), as they called themselves, was the Orientalist and journalist Friedrich Schrader. Born in 1865 in Sachsen-Anhalt, he studied philology, oriental studies and art history before taking a doctorate in Indology.
He moved to Istanbul in 1892 to teach German language and literature at the American Robert College. There, he lived in Bebek, at the time a neighbourhood with hardly any development on the European side of the Bosphorus, with his first wife, Pauline and his son, Wolfgang. After Paulineʹs death in 1902, she was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Ferikoy and Schrader married Fannitsa, a Bulgarian Jew by birth.
During his Istanbul years, Schrader penned notes that we can read today as personal contemporary documents, suffused with their authorʹs kind-hearted nature. This is how he described the mood in the German expat community after the war, in his book Eine Fluchtlingsreise durch die Ukraine (A refugeeʹs journey through the Ukraine), published in 1919, in which he tells of his spectacular flight from Istanbul to Berlin:
"And so the armistice came and in the agreement, the 19th article read: ʹAll German and Austro-Hungarian subjects are to be evacuated within one month. [...]ʹ And however wildly the mood then wavered between fear and hope, it became ever clearer that the Entente would not draw back from their demand that German and Austro-Hungarian subjects be deported."
But prior to this, Schraderʹs network included not only influential Germans like Paul Lange, the royal director of music at the Ottoman court, but Istanbulʹs cultural elite. Acquainted with writers and poets like Tevfik Fikret, he translated their work into German.
A window on everyday life in Istanbul
After spending a year away in Baku with his son Wolfgang, he returned to Istanbul and in 1908 founded the French and German daily newspaper Osmanischer Lloyd. The paper was aimed at the German-speaking expat community and the economically-dominant francophone Levantine audience in multilingual Istanbul, as Schraderʹs son Wolfgang recalled in notes written in 1979:
"In autumn 1908, having returned to NEW TURKEY, Father took over the German daily newspaper of the same name – NEUE TURKEI – or as this paper was called thereafter: OSMANISCHER LLOYD, and ʹLloyd Ottomanʹ for the French part, since alongside Turkish, French had become the language in Constantinopleʹs Pera quarter."
In his feature articles, Schrader described everyday life, for example, the "little boys and girls who, under the supervision of the good hodja, are inducted into the mysteries of the ʹElif Beʹ." Today, his collected articles are available digitally in the volume Konstantinopel im Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (Constantinople past and present) and have also been translated into Turkish. But Friedrich Schrader was also politically active. He was in touch with the political elite of the Young Turks, whom he essentially supported, but whose policy on minorities he also clearly criticised, along with the attitude of Germany, for – among other things – failing to encourage sufficient cultural exchange.
A "friend to the Turks"
Friedrich Schraderʹs descriptions, which he went on writing until his death in Berlin in 1922, rank alongside Istanbul tales by other Europeans, such as Lady Montagu in the 18th century, or Pierre Loti in the 19th. And yet they stand out for their captivating style, their realism and their authorʹs great depth of knowledge. Friedrich Schrader, described by the Turkish media as a "friend to the Turks," cannot be accused of describing an Orient that never existed, as the Turkish writer Nazım Hikmet said of Pierre Loti.
These days, Jochen Schrader looks after his great-grandfather Friedrich and his grandfather Wolfgangʹs estates of books, notebook jottings and photos. "Like a lot of older people, my grandfather would tell the same stories again and again, and at the time we simply werenʹt interested enough to ask questions," he says. Now Jochen Schrader gives lectures about his familyʹs history, including topics such as his grandfatherʹs part in the Battle of Gallipoli.
While in recent years discussion of refugee deals, arms exports and the imprisonment of Germans in Turkey have placed a strain on German-Turkish relations, Schraderʹs articles shed light on a lesser-known aspect of the two countries and – particularly in light of the wave of academics, artists and journalists emigrating to Germany from Turkey since the attempted coup in 2016 – recall an almost forgotten chapter in the history of German migration.
© Qantara.de 2018
Translated from the German by Ruth Martin