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October 27, 1989 - Image 103

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-10-27

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During \NOM War 11 e
with spies, saboteurs, defedo,,
parnalists, art
lover.s, assa,

Foreign policy and Mideast
expert Barry Rubin's book
examining intrigue-filled World
War II Istanbul contains some
fascinating revelations.


Washington Correspondent


Barry Rubin, chronicler of intrigue.

arry Rubin is a man
who takes a long view
of the Near East. And
from that perspective, the
current tangle in the region
seems almost tame com-
pared to the seething in-
trigues that centered on
Istanbul during World War
II. •
Rubin, a fellow at the For-
eign Policy Institute of
Johns Hopkins University
School of Advanced Inter-
national Studies and a fellow
at the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy, has
parlayed his interest in the
roots of the current Middle
East dilemma into a fast-
paced new book, Istanbul
Intrigues, that reveals the
critical role played by
Turkey's historic city during
the war — and the dramatic,
sometimes tragic impact
that events there had on Eu-
rope's doomed Jews.
"It was a very exciting
city during the war," Rubin
says. "And from the stand-
point of the fight against the
Nazis, it was a critical city."
Istanbul, Rubin says, was
the crossroads for the intel-
ligence services of both the
Allies and the Nazis, and the
Zionists used Istanbul as an '
embarkation point for clan-
destine immigration to Isra-
el and as a listening post
into the dark core of Nazi-
occupied Europe. The first
reports about Auschwitz
came through Istanbul.
At least 17 different intel-
ligence agencies operated in
Istanbul in the. early '40s.
Information peddling was a
major industry; according to
Rubin, some 200 profession-
al forgers plied their trade in
this espionage hub. At the
beginning of the war, Istan-

bul was the focus of Nazi in-
terest in expansion into the
Middle East; later, it played
a part in the plans of dissi-
dent Nazis who hoped to de-
pose Hitler and approach Al-
lied leaders with offers of
peace. "I was amazed at the
number of prominent people
who were in Istanbul during
World War II," Rubin says.
"One of them was Teddy
Kollek; I interviewed him
about his activities. Among
other things, he was in-
volved in gathering informa-
tion about Hungary; he'd
call Budapest and get the
weather reports, which
would then be used for Al-
lied bombing." Also in
Istanbul were Martin
Agronsky, the network cor-
respondent, Winston
Burdett, another correspon-
dent who was actually feed-
ing information to the Rus-
sians, and a young represen-
tative of the Vatican,
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli,
who years later became Pope

John XXIII. Like an academ-
ic sleuth, Rubin combed re-
cently released Office of
Strategic Services (OSS) re-
cords for clues about some
of the remaining mysteries
of World War H. One of
Rubin's discoveries involved
the way Allied intelligence
services learned that the
Germans would invade the
Soviet Union. "I was able to
bring out the details for the
first time," Rubin says. "It
was because railroad work-
ers and refugees arriving in
Istanbul, questioned by
Zionist intelligence people,
reported major troop con-
centrations in Eastern
Poland." The intelligence
was passed on to Moscow,
where Joseph Stalin chose to
ignore it—with disastrous
results. Rubin's interest in
Istanbul began when he was
doing his doctoral disserta-
tion in history. "I came
across letters from Laurence
Steinhardt, who was the
U.S. ambassador to Turkey

during most of the war," he
says. "Steinhardt was the
first American Jew to hold
several ambassadorial posi-
tions; he was friendly with
Franklin Roosevelt, and he
encountered a lot of anti-
Semitism. One of the things
I found in his correspondence
were signs that some of the
people in the State Depart-
ment had pressed him about
sounding or appearing 'too
Jewish: They wanted him to
cooperate in ensuring that
too many Jews didn't come
into the United States as
refugees." This strong thread
of anti-Semitism in American
diplomacy, Rubin suggests,
was to haye a horrifying im-
pact on Steinhardt's actions.
Eager to survive within the
WASP stronghold of the
'State Department,
Steinhardt wrote a damag-
ing assessment of the refu-
gees trying to flee Europe.
In Steinhardt's judgment,
many of these Jews were ac-
tive in the Zionist Labor


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