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Catastrophe at Smyrna

Matthew Stewart traces the roots of the Greco-Turkish war of 1921-22, and the consequent refugee crisis, to the postwar settlements of 1919-20.

On September 15th, 1922, the fires of a raging holocaust began finally to burn themselves out. Smyrna (present-day Izmir), the gem-city of the Turkish Aegean, had gone up in flames. Over breakfast that day readers of the London Morning Post were informed that Turkish regular troops had set fire to the Greek, Armenian and European quarters of the city, while ensuring that no damage was done to Turkish neighbourhoods. Future estimations would set the death toll as high as 100,000. For two days while the fires raged, and for some two weeks after, the citizens of this once-lovely and essentially Hellenic city experienced brutality and neglect on a massive scale. George Horton, seasoned US Consul and witness to these terrible days, would later write:

One of the keenest impressions which I brought away with me from Smyrna was a feeling of shame that I belonged to the human race.

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