Bosporus Germans

Bosporus Germans are those ethnic Germans living and settled in Istanbul since the second half of the 19th century.

Nineteenth century

The first generation came a few decades before and especially during the three political visits of Kaiser Wilhelm II to Constantinople (Istanbul), the capital city of the Ottoman Empire (on October 21, 1889, and on October 5, 1898, as the guest of Sultan Abdülhamid II; and on October 15, 1917, as the guest of Sultan Mehmed V.) The Taksim German Hospital was opened in 1852. Most of the initial German settlers in Istanbul were craftsmen, industrialists and soldiers. Baron Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz, also known as Goltz Pasha, who was the chief advisor of the Ottoman Army for many years; and General Otto Liman von Sanders, who was a successful commander of the Ottoman Army during World War I, may be the most famous of them in the military field.

Some of the most beautiful Bosporus villas, such as the Krupp and Huber Villa; or the German Fountain (1900) and Haydarpaşa Railway Station[1] (1908) in Istanbul are still a relict of the German influence in the late Ottoman Empire. Most of the German engineers and craftsmen who worked at the construction site of the Haydarpaşa Train Station later established a small German neighbourhood in the nearby Yeldeğirmeni quarter of the Kadıköy district, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Previously, the German architect August Jachmund had designed the Sirkeci Train Station[2] (1890) on the European side of Istanbul, and the nearby Deutsche Orient Bank Headquarters[3] (1890) in the Sirkeci quarter, within the boundaries of the Eminönü district, during the last year of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in office. Both of these train stations would play an important role in the Berlin-Istanbul-Baghdad Railway project which would enhance the economic and political ties between the German and Ottoman empires, and allow Germany to by-pass the British-controlled Suez Canal for reaching the lucrative markets and resources of the Orient by extending the railway line further south to the port of Basra on the Persian Gulf.

There were also many Germans in Istanbul who supported the Young Turk movement and nurtured its relationship with the SPD as well as the German Liberals around Friedrich Naumann. From the circle around Naumann came Ernest Jäckh (1875–1959), purveyor of Young Turk propaganda (and later professor at Columbia University.) Jäckh however did not live in Constantinople for too long and can't be considered a "Bosporus German" in the true sense. Another visitor to Constantinople during the First World War was Theodor Heuss, a friend of Naumann and Jäckh, who designed the German Cultural Centre in Constantinople and later became the first Federal President of Germany from 1949 until 1959. Active Social Democrats in Constantinople included Alexander Parvus (1867–1924) (in the city from 1910–1914), and Dr. Friedrich Schrader (1865–1922) ("İştiraki" {translation: Socialist}, active 1891-1918).

In his book "Flüchtlingsreise", Schrader describes the preliminary end of the German community in Istanbul, when, according to Article 19 of the ceasefire agreement between the Ottoman Empire and the Entente powers, Germans and Austrians were to be expelled within one month. Germans were detained on the steamer Corcovado, formerly the swimming HQ of the German Mittelmeerdivision, some, like Schrader, tried to avoid detention and subsequent deportation by fleeing to Germany via Odessa and the war-torn Ukraine.[4][5][6] Some Germans could stay, for example Paul Lange, the Master of the Sultan's Music, with his immediate family, who were however deported shortly after Lange was buried in Istanbul in a state funeral with great pomp, as one of the last major events of the dying Ottoman Sultanate.[7]

Twentieth century

The second generation came as refugees fleeing the Third Reich. The former Mayor of Berlin Ernst Reuter (1889–1953) and his son Edzard, later the president of Daimler-Chrysler may be some of the best known. Austrian architect Clemens Holzmeister (1886–1983) was also effectively in exile in Turkey. Among them were also many poorer Germans who lived in Anatolia in poverty and despair. They called themselves "Haymatloz" (in German: Heimatlos for homelandless), according to a stamp the Turkish authorities printed in their passports.

Twenty-first century

Currently there is a "third generation" of various expatriates, supporting the Turkish textiles, construction and automotive sectors as well as other industries; or simply enjoying the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey; or married to Turks. One of the most famous members of the current German community in Turkey is the football trainer Christoph Daum (1953- ).

The Deutsche Schule Istanbul (1868) and St. George's Austrian High School (1882) are well-attended German-language schools in the city. Istanbul Lisesi (1884) is a Turkish high school which teaches in German as the primary foreign language and is likewise recognized as a Deutsche Auslandsschule (German international school) by Germany.

Istanbulites with West European roots are in general called Levantines (originally a term used for describing the Genoese, Venetian and French traders operating -and settled- in the East Mediterranean, i.e. the Levant), apart from the Sephardic Jews who migrated to the Ottoman Empire from the Iberian peninsula following the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and eventually became Turkish citizens, and the local Greeks (the most influential of whom were known as the Phanariots) whose numbers have dwindled due to the often tense political disputes between Turkey and Greece, and in part because of economic hardships. There is also a small number of Polish families organized in Polonezköy (or Adampol as it is alternatively called), a village on the Asian side of the Bosporus which is famous for its lush green nature and dairy products.

See also


  1. Emporis: Haydarpaşa Train Station, Istanbul
  2. Emporis: Sirkeci Train Station, Istanbul Archived April 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. Emporis: Deutsche Orient Bank, Istanbul Archived October 31, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Ischtiraki: November 1918: The British enter Istanbul, Guardian Witness, Summer 2014, part 1/3
  5. Ischtiraki: November 1918: The British enter Istanbul, Guardian Witness, Summer 2014, part 2/3
  6. Ischtiraki: November 1918: The British enter Istanbul, Guardian Witness, Summer 2014, part 3/3
  7. Schlegel, Dietrich: Paul Lange Bey – Ein deutscher Musiker im Osmanischen Reich, Mitteilungen der Deutsch-Türkischen Gesellschaft, 115(12/1992), S. 36-47
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