A Sephardi Turkish Patriot explores the life of Gad Franco (1881–1954), a prominent Sephardi journalist, then a lawyer and a jurist, who worked relentlessly for the Jewish community’s belonging to the national Turkish polity, and for the consolidation of the rule of law. This historical biography, written by his grandson, takes the reader from fin-de-siècle Izmir, to the Istanbul of the Roaring Twenties and beyond, tracing his footsteps, including his opposition to Zionism, which he considered a threat to assimilation. The world of Sephardi Jewry, the convulsions and conflicts of the late Ottoman Empire, and the birth, ruthless consolidation, and promising reforms of the young Turkish Republic, provide the context to his intriguing life story. Inflamed by ethno-nationalism, the harassment of minorities deepened in the 1930s, peaking during World War II. By then a wealthy, respected Jewish community spokesperson and staunch Kemalist, Gad Franco was dealt an exemplary punishment in a shocking campaign to Turkify the economy, imposed on all minorities. His dramatic downfall at the hands of the Government shook his beliefs to the core. As their belonging to the nation had been so brutally denied, half of Turkish Jews migrated to Israel in the 1950s, putting an end to Gad Franco’s lifelong hopes of integration and acceptance.
Anthony Gad Bigio, an architect and urban planner, has worked internationally and served as senior urban specialist at the World Bank for two decades. Subsequently a graduate professor of urban planning, he now advises international agencies and pursues his personal writing projects.
Foreword by Aron Rodrigue
Part I: Imperial Transitions
Chapter One: Jewish Life in the Ottoman Empire
Chapter Two: Journalism and Activism in Izmir
Chapter Three: The Young Turk Revolutions
Chapter Four: Zionism and Anti-Zionism
Chapter Five: The Empire’s Collapse
Part II: The Republic – Promises and Betrayals
Chapter Six: The War of Independence
Chapter Seven: The Republic and its Reforms
Chapter Eight: Jewish Life in the Turkish Republic
Chapter Nine: Kemalism and Turkification
Chapter Ten: The Jewish Community Under Threat
Chapter Eleven: The Journal of Juridical Studies
Part III: Banishments and Departures
Chapter Twelve: Turkey and the Second World War
Chapter Thirteen: The Wealth Tax and the Labor Camp
Chapter Fourteen: Aftermaths of the Downfall
Chapter Fifteen: Who Left, Who Remained
About the Author
Who, or what, could turn an Ottoman-Turkish patriot into a repenting Zionist? The Turkish state. In this biography of Gad Franco, his grandson reveals the destiny of a lawyer, an intellectual, and an activist, whose enthusiasm for his native land in late Ottoman and early Republican times ended in utter disappointment under the shameful policies of the 1940s.
Anthony Gad Bigio’s excellent book illuminates the multifaceted life of Gad Franco, situating it adeptly amidst the historical events of his time. This work is more than a biographical account of a figure marked by tragedy. It also provides a sensitive exploration of the complex conditions and hurdles that Turkish Jewry experienced during the shift from imperial rule to nation-state.
By focusing on a particular—albeit particularly active–individual life, Anthony Gad Bigio guides us through the complex events of the late Ottoman Empire and early Republic of Turkey. His account of his grandfather's life balances large-scale, national history with intimate details of family life. In doing so, he helps us connect grand historical narratives with their effects on the lives of actual people.