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Small burgundy booklet with “TURKIYE CUMHURIYETI PASAPORT” printed on cover.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:
Wojciech Rychlewicz was the Consul General of the Consulate of the Republic of Poland in Istanbul, Turkey between 1937 and 1941. During this period Polish Jews were fleeing the Nazis. Other countries were not interested in absorbing Polish Jews and Turkey did not want to be a host country to so many Jewish refugees. Palestine was under a mandate and the British had a strict quota on Jews. After 1937 Turkey would prohibit Jewish immigration, and while professing neutrality during the war, it nevertheless implemented antisemitic laws and forced labor for Jews. Jews living abroad were denaturalized, exposing them to deportation to death camps.
Rychlewicz understood the precarious situation for Jewish refugees and made the decision to issue false documents alleging that they were Catholics, thus enabling them to emigrate to Latin American countries such as Brazil. Once there they could obtain the requisite visas to enter Palestine and ultimately escape the Holocaust.
This passport with several transit visas was signed by Rychlewicz as an attaché at the Consulate of Poland in Istanbul, during the time he helped Polish refugee Jews. It belonged to Letta Asim Turgut, daughter of the eminent Czech professor, author and physician Prof. Dr. Franz Mracek; and wife of statesman and diplomat Mustafa Assim Turgut Bey, who held posts in both the Stockholm and Sofia Embassies before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ottoman ambassador to Tehran during WW1. Turgut Bey later served as Vienna Ambassador and continued to live here after leaving his post. He returned to Turkey in 1932 after the Republic was proclaimed. His daughter Leyla Turgut was a renowned swimmer and architect.
Assim Turgut died in 1937, and Letta’s transit visas perhaps reflect family circumstances surrounding this matter, and not the existential concerns of Jewish refugees.
6 3/8 x 3 7/8"
Letta Asim Turgut, Mustafa Assim Turgut Bey, Leyla Turgut, Dr. Franz Mracek
"Wojciech Rychlewicz Signed Passport" (1937). Bulmash Family Holocaust Collection. 2023.1.1.