The Study of the Human Past

“Refugees from Greece and the Dodecanese to Turkey during WWII (1941-1944)”

Lamprou Alexandros

Research ProposalConferenceResearch ResultsShort BioPublications

Summary of the Research Proposal

Based on archival and bibliographic research in Turkey and Greece and informed by refugee-studies and recent works on the displacement of populations and refugee-management during the Second World War and the post-war Europe, this project calls for the study of wave of refugees fleeing Greece and the Dodecanese to Turkey between 1941 and 1944. Designed to overcome the lack of scholarship in this field, the project’s aim is to offer a comprehensive presentation of refugee waves to Turkey, through quantitative and qualitative analysis and to study the refugee-management by the Turkish state and the Greek government-in-exile taking into consideration both states’ political and ideological concerns, financial, military and diplomatic considerations, and ethnic, gender and class-based biases.

This research project was funded by the Research Centre for the Humanities (RCH), with the support of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation.

To view the conference’s program in Greek, click here.

Research: “Refugees from Greece and the Dodecanese to Turley during WWII (1941-44)”

Researcher: Dr. Alexandros Lamprou

The research project Refugees from Greece and the Dodecanese to Turkey during WWII (1941-44)” was funded by the Research Centre for the Humanities (RCH) for the year 2018, with the support of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation.

The project has used archival material, memoirs and secondary literature from both Turkey and Greece to study the refugee movement to Turkey and the Middle East from Greece and the Dodecanese during World War II. The first part of the work done was the ‘mapping’ of the refuge movement with the laying down of its geographical origins and chronological framework and the compiling and analyzing of statistical data on the gender, age, origin, etc. The second part studied the management of refugees by Turkey and the Greek government-in-exile.

More than 60.000 refugees from Greece and the Dodecanese fled to Turkey during World War II. The flight started in April and May 1941. First to cross the border were parts of the Greek army in Thrace. They were temporarily interned in camps in Turkey until, by the beginning of 1942, some returned to Thrace with others were sent to the Middle East to continue the fight.

During the whole of the occupation of Greece (till the autumn of 1944), a steady movement of officers and young men willing to enlist crossed the Aegean to Turkey in small groups assisted by clandestine resistance groups, Greek and British intelligence agencies. But next to this steady flow of men, thousands of civilians were also displaced as a result of famine, repression and combat.

The first massive flight occurred in the spring and summer of 1941 with almost 12.000 Greek Muslims from Thrace fleeing to Turkey due to the repression of the occupying Bulgarian authorities. Famine caused a second wave of civilian refugees in the spring and summer of 1942 – around 12.000 mainly from Chios. The third large wave came from the island of Samos and the Dodecanese in late 1943 caused by military operations between allied troops and German forces. Again more than 15.000 crossed to Turkey, among them thousands of civilians.

In managing the refugees from Greece and the Dodecanese Turkey differentiated between Muslims and non-Muslims refugees. The Turkish aim concerning the latter was to have them as soon as possible transferred to the Middle East. And apart from the first refugees in 1941 and the massive refugee wave in 1942, when many refugees had to be housed and fed for some months in Turkey, refugees were generally swiftly dispatched from the Turkish shores to the Middle East within days of their arrival.

The Turkish policy concerning Muslims was different. The Muslim refugees from Thrace and the Dodecanese, although Greek or Italian citizens, were not sent to the Middle East. Rather they were accepted as refugees and managed as such by Turkey. The Thracian refugees were quickly given land and property, and a large part of them was swiftly given Turkish citizenship, as if they were not expected to return. In contrast, the Muslims from the Dodecanese were kept in the province adjacent to the islands and send back as soon as the occupation ended.

Although the official Turkish policy was to maintain the Muslim communities in Thrace and the Dodecanese, in practice Turkey followed this policy only in relation to the latter and not with the Thracian Muslim refugees. In the war conjuncture of 1941 and early 1942, that was probably due to the estimation that the Bulgarian authorities occupying Thrace would never accept back the Muslims they had themselves displaced. In contrast, in 1944-5 the outcome of the war was certain and the Dodecanese had not yet been given to Greece. Thus, in 1944-5, the return of the refugees from Rhodes and Cos was seen as imminent, while it was clearly related to Turkey’s ambition to have a say in the post-war fate of the Dodecanese.

Alexandros Lamprou studied History and Ethnology (BA, 2000 Democritus University of Thrace), Middle Eastern History (MA, 2001 Manchester University) and Turkish History (PhD 2009, Leiden University). He is currently teaching Modern Greek history and Turkish-Greek Comparative history at the Faculty of Languages, History and Geography, Ankara University. He has formerly taught Modern Turkish History at the University of Crete. His research interests include state-society relations, social engineering projects and petitioning. He is currently doing research on the Greek refugees to Turkey and the Middle East during the Second World War.





Selected Publications

  • Lamprou, Alexandros, Nation-Building in Modern Turkey: The People’s Houses, the State, and the Citizen 1932-1951, London: I.B. Tauris, 2015
  • Lamprou, Alexandros, “Negotiating gender identities during mixed-gender activities: amateur theatre in the 1930s and 1940s in Turkey”, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 42/4 (2015), 618–637
  • Lamprou, Alexandros, “Nationalist mobilization and state-society relations: the People’s House’s campaign for Turkish in Izmir, June – July 1934”, Middle Eastern Studies 49/5 (2013), 824-39.