Stefan Ihrig.
Belknap Press 2014.

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Early in his career, Adolf Hitler took inspiration from Benito Mussolini, his senior colleague in fascism—this fact is widely known. But an equally important role model for Hitler and the Nazis has been almost entirely neglected: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. Stefan Ihrig’s compelling presentation of this untold story promises to rewrite our understanding of the roots of Nazi ideology and strategy.

Hitler was deeply interested in Turkish affairs after 1919. He not only admired but also sought to imitate Atatürk’s radical construction of a new nation from the ashes of defeat in World War I. Hitler and the Nazis watched closely as Atatürk defied the Western powers to seize government, and they modeled the Munich Putsch to a large degree on Atatürk’s rebellion in Ankara. Hitler later remarked that in the political aftermath of the Great War, Atatürk was his master, he and Mussolini his students.

This was no fading fascination. As the Nazis struggled through the 1920s, Atatürk remained Hitler’s “star in the darkness,” his inspiration for remaking Germany along nationalist, secular, totalitarian, and ethnically exclusive lines. Nor did it escape Hitler’s notice how ruthlessly Turkish governments had dealt with Armenian and Greek minorities, whom influential Nazis directly compared with German Jews. The New Turkey, or at least those aspects of it that the Nazis chose to see, became a model for Hitler’s plans and dreams in the years leading up to the invasion of Poland.



Hitler at Thorak's workshop. Hitler visiting Thorak's Munich workshop with bust of Atatürk behind him, February 10, 1937 (on the left, Goebbels and Thorak; in the background, the sculpture "The Family", later part of the German pavilion at the 1937 Paris World Exposition).
Photos by Heinrich Hoffmann; Hoffman Collection, Staatsibliothek Munchen


Ataturk Bust by Joseph Thorak Chosen by Hitler as a Nazi Sculpture 


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Thorak was in demand as a sculptor, not only in Turkey. In addition to Atatürk he portrayed the Prime Minister Ismet Inonu, the Interior Minister Şükrü Kaya and the Economy Minister Celal Bayar, but in addition also dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.


Hitler's "Star in the Darkness"

Thorak and the two Fuhrers. Illustration from the chapter "Two Great Men" with busts of Atatürk and Hitler by Thorak in the book celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Turkish Chamber of Commerce in Germany.
Turkische Handelskammer Berlin, ed., 10 Yil Almanya'da Turk Ticaret Odasi/10
Fahre turkische Handelskammer fur Deutchland (Berlin, 1938)


An Atatürk bust by Thorak on the cover of Hanns Froembgen's Atatürk biography.
Hanns Froembgen, Kamal Ataturk; Soldat und Fuhrer, 7ed. (Stuttgaart, 1935)