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The University of Hartford to host "Visa's for Life" Exhibit by Hikmet ASLAN - 9.4.01

The University of Hartford to host "Visa's for Life" Exhibit Reception to honor Selahattin Ulkumen
The University of Hartford will host a photography exhibit in May 2001 that details the extraordinary efforts of individuals to rescue Jews from the crematoria of the Nazi death camps of World War II. One of those individuals honored in the exhibit is Selahattin Ulkumen, the Turkish Consul on the island of Rhodes during that time. The purpose of this exhibit is to tell, for the first time, an important story of the Holocaust and World War II. It is a history of courage, valor, kindness and the recognition of the value of human life. It is the story of a group of diplomats from around the world, acting as individuals, to confront and overcome evil in its extreme. Collectively, they rescued more than 250,000 lives from the Nazi Holocaust. In 1944, Selahattin Ulkumen was the 30-year-old Turkish Consul stationed on the Greek island of Rhodes. In February 1944, the mission on Rhodes was the only functioning mission of Turkey in the region. In September 1943, Italy had withdrawn from the war and lost control of its island possessions. Soon thereafter, the German army occupied the island and demanded that the Turkish Consulate close its doors. On July 20, 1944 the Gestapo ordered all 1800 of the islands Jews to report for registration pending deportation. Jews had been living on the island of Rhodes since 1492, descendants of refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. Ulkumen heard that all the Jews, including those of Turkish citizenship, were being rounded up and were destined for the Nazi concentration camps. Consul Ulkumen recalled, "I went to the commander -- General von Kleeman - and asked him to release 42 Turkish citizens, who were Jewish by religion. Where a Turk was married for example, to an Italian, I said for humanitarian reasons that the whole family was Turkish. I succeeded in saving 42 persons. Not all of them were Turkish. I don't know how many were not Turks. If I could, I would have saved more Jews, but it was beyond my competence. The 42 were released, but the other Jews were conducted to Auschwitz." After the war, Ulkumen remained in the Turkish diplomatic service for another 34 years, serving in Europe, as Consul General in Beirut and Cairo, and Deputy Secretary General of CENTO (Central Treaty Organization). Ulkumen retired from diplomatic service in 1979 at the age of 65 and now resides in Istanbul. In June 1990, he was awarded Israel's "Righteous Among Nation's" medal. He is the only Turk to receive Israel's highest award. When asked why he had risked his life to save Jews, he replied, " I didn't know the Rhodes Jews. I had no dealings with them. In Turkey I had Jewish friends, in the university. I didn't make any differentiation whether they were Jews or Muslum's. I didn't ask what their religion was. I had no special ties with Jews. I only had humanitarian feelings to every human being. The University of Hartford is honored to be the host of the exhibition "Visas for Life." In the context of this exhibition, the University would like to give special recognition to Selahattin Ulkumen. His personal heroism can serve as a source of pride for all citizens of Turkey as well as a role model for contemporary students. The Turkish community is invited to join President Walter Harrison and other guests at a special showing on May 6, 2001, from 2:00 to 3:30p.m. The exhibit and reception will be held in the Joseloff Gallery, located in the Harry Jack Gray Conference Center.

For more information, please contact Richard Lazzerini or Hikmet Aslan at the University of Hartford's International Center @ 860-768-4870. Hikmet ASLAN International Center Ass. Dir. & Ass. Men's Soccer Coach University of Hartford International Center 200 Bloomfield Avenue West Hartford, CT 06117 Phone#(860)768 4870 Fax#(860)768 4726 E-mail:

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