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Asylum on the Bosphorus

Documentary Film / 2001 / 86 Min.

Photo: Still from the film

“Asylum on the Bosphorus” is about the life of two German refugee children living in Istanbul during the Nazi era, a hitherto little known chapter in the history of German-Turkish relations.

From autumn 1933, a considerable number of oppositional and Jewish professors, scientists and artists fled with their families to Istanbul and Ankara. The Kemalist republic founders needed scholars to complete their revolution, and academics fleeing from the Nazis needed a place of refuge. “Love at first sight” for both sides. Over 800 German refugees spent the war years in Turkey. Among them were composers like Paul Hindemith or city planner Ernst Reuter, the first mayor of West Berlin. The politically persecuted Germans in Turkey had privileges, earned well, and respected by the local population. Not without reason, they played a significant role in the development of a modern educational system in Turkey, especially in medicine, law, architecture and art.

Based on this background, “Asylum on the Bosporus” actually tells the stories its main protagonists: Adelheid Scholz, who was 75 years old at the time of the shooting, and Cornelius Bischoff, who had completed his 73rd age. In Istanbul - a vast, fascinating place for adventure for both children - Adelheid attended the German school there, Cornelius, the Austrian Catholic school.

Adelheid’s father, Prof. Gerhard Kessler, was an economist and was appointed to the University of Istanbul. He laid the foundations for rural cooperatives in Turkey and contributed significantly to the establishment of modern trade unions in the country. Meanwhile, the family went to pieces. His wife became bedridden, Adelheid’s older sister returned to Germany and became an official of the Nazi girls’ organization. Afterwards, together with Nazi diplomats in Istanbul, she organized the “liberation” of the mother and Adelheid - the two sons of the family were resolute Nazi opponents. The three women arrived in Germany on 1st September 1939, the beginning of the Second World War.

Cornelius didn’t know that his mother was Jewish until he came to Turkey. His father, a social-democratic carpenter, found work in a shipyard in Istanbul. As Cornelius depicts, the Bischoff family was well off: “The world is on fire. While people were dying all over the world, we were enjoying ourselves on the Bosporus.” But when Turkey, after long hesitation, declared war in on former ally Germany in 1944, all German citizens, including the Bischoff family, were interned to the steppes of Anatolia.

The post-war experiences of Adelheid and Cornelius and cinematic encounters with their offspring also underline: “Once an exile, always exile”.

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Written and
directed by

Nedim Hazar

Director of photography

Pavel Schnabel

Produced by

Troja Film Produktion, ZDF, Goethe Institut

First broadcast

3Sat, CNN-Türk

Festivals

Frankfurt Film Festival

Istanbul - 1001 Documentary Film Festival

Jerusalem Film Festival

Samos Film Festival

Nürnberg - German-Turkish Film Festival

Boston Turkish Film Festival

Press Gallery

Adelheid Scholz

(1926 -2015)

After the war, Adelheid went back to her father in Turkey and trained as a nurse. Years later she settled in Aachen. Her experiences influenced the work of her daughter, sculptor Brele Scholz.

Cornelius Bischoff

(1928 -2018)

Cornelius studied law and wrote scripts in Hamburg. He became known through his translations of the novels of the Turkish-Kurdish author Yaşar Kemal into German. Part of his family now lives in Istanbul.

Press

Gallery

Photos: Stills from the film


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