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06.05.2009 Feature Article

The Ottoman Empire - Rise and Fall

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WHAT WAS then called a holiday-job, (Ferienarbeit), was loved by students from many angles. It brought you into contact with the working-class, (Arbeiterklasse), and in the process, gave you access into their way of life in their homes.

It did something else too, putting some extra-money into your pocket, - a situation every student loved. I am talking of post-World War II Federal Republic of Germany.

It is important to remind my readers, now and again, that the Federal Republic of Germany had a whopping fifteen million jobs to give out to whoever wanted a job, and that these jobs were mainly not blue-colour jobs, but menial types of jobs in the branch of reconstruction, following allied bombings to defeat the Nazis. It virtually flattened the country.

One day, after an afternoon break, when most workers take the heaviest meal of the day, one unit of a paper-processing factory returned to work to discover many men were trying to pull apart two young men who were at each others throats. A Greek worker had called his Yugoslav colleague a Turk, over rather paltry differences. The supervisor of the unit had to threaten both with instant dismissal, before peace returned. Let me repeat. The provocation was a Greek, calling his Yugoslav colleague a Turk. So, what the heck was wrong with a Turk?

Until the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire stretched from Turkey to South East Europe, South West Asia, and North East Africa. All had to obey, when their Turkish “bosses” gave commands. That was then.

Osman I, (1258-1326), was founder of the Ottoman Empire, which stretched from the 13th Century until the end of the World War I, that ended in 1918. For 600 years, a big part of the world, as described above, was ruled by Turkey. The Turkish language was associated with high culture, and when Turkish officialdom talked, everybody had to listen.

So, what had suddenly changed, since 1912, such that it suddenly had become an insult, when you called a non-Turk, a Turk? The pomp that must have accompanied the Ottoman Empire had evaporated, as Turkey lost World War I as allies to the Germans. Turkey had gone poor, and the emergence of World War II did not help the situation in any way. This non-palatable situation left Turkey virtually “a beggar-nation,” with little, if any, of the pomp of Empire Dom for six-hundred years, still in place.

Turkey alone had more than two million-and-a-half of the ten million immigrant unskilled workers living in what became West Germany, with a population of 65 million. The Turkish community lived under squalid conditions, exploited by unscrupulous landlords to the annoyance of the German authorities, which frequently came under attack from religious circles, not only in Germany, but the entire Western Europe.

The Turk, who frequently was polygamous, with very little education, found getting his way into the German society, fraught with extreme difficulties. He was not the kind of man who walked shoulder high through German streets. He lived mostly in the Ruhr-District, where most of German steel industries, (Krupp, Hoesch, Henschell, Ruhr-Kohle, AG), were housed, hundreds of years before Nazism. These areas were ascribed with such unjustified notoriety, that special attractions had to be attached to job-offers in order to attract any interest at all. And of course, under these circumstances, Turks were found everywhere.

It was difficult for many to believe how and why the Turks allied themselves with the Germans in the War that started in Sarajevo in 1914. There was nothing of it to show after the war that started 20 years later, as the Germans marched on the Poles in 1939, and the war that ended in 1945.

Sadly, it could be seen as egregious, if anyone was called a Turk, if he was not. History is the only organ that tells us what we were yesterday, what we did, and how long we were important for.

None lives, (as individuals), to experience all the pomp, or all the shame, (for want of a better word). I am convinced that American historians, (and I am sure the illustrious Henry Kissinger, a historian, would agree to this), are aware of the fact that the present world-circumstances will not allow American influence to flourish anywhere for six hundred years, like the Ottoman Empire. Chinese influence is just around the corner. How long would a Chinese world influence last? When it is the turn of Africa, (hopefully, after the Chinese), just how long would it last? I have been asking myself, whether we need to wield influence away from where we live. What for? It seems, we do, and perhaps, for trade.

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghanaian Chronicle, © 2009

The author has 1023 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: GhanaianChronicle

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