Orphans of war! .. – Ugur Dunder

The first convoy of war orphans was sent to Germany.

“Suddenly it started to snow. It’s raining cats and dogs. Roads are deserted. The smoke of burnt dung settled in the house. Black crows roam the ashes on the roadside. Slippery sled tracks stretch through the ice like a bluish pale belt. The sleds here are thin and beautiful. The sleds are thrown on the horse’s back and wrapped around the legs. The driver of the sled bends over to where the passengers are sitting and tries to warm up. Sometimes terrifying blizzards and fog ruin people’s sense of distance, then these sled tracks show the way. The sound of sleds on the snow, the roar of horses pulling the sleds, gives the impression that one is moving towards eternity.


In the air came a gray bird with a pink beak and blue striped wings, zigzagging and singing in a sharp and hoarse voice. When it landed, its chirping increased. He looked around. Trembling, she looks for something to eat. Snow was white everywhere. There was nothing to eat. I’m sorry I went, sprinkled with breadcrumbs. Frightened, he flew away with great difficulty.

I can’t explain how I felt for that bird. I suddenly thought of the orphans of Kars, Ardahan and Erzurum, trembling like birds and looking for food in the snow. Orphans of war …

I could not save this bird from starvation from the cold, but I saved the orphans of that war from starvation from the cold.

For me, the teenage suit was a big one. It was about educating and caring for thousands of war orphans.

Now I will tell you the experience of the orphans of the Ottoman war who were not aware of the existence of those who wanted to revive the Ottoman Empire …


The Ottoman Empire fell into a very difficult situation due to the endless war and thousands of children were orphaned. The rising cost of children, whose number has exceeded 10,000 in Darul Aitams and is increasing day by day, is beginning to become a burden for the palace administration. By 1917, the entire Ottoman Empire had not found the resources to care for the growing number of orphans …

In fact, there was money as well as wealth … Orphans could be well cared for. But the palace did not cut its expenses, the palace workers, the principals continue to live a luxurious life.

Now I will talk about the inside of this unknown and always trying to hide and what happened to the orphans of that poor war.


In the Balkans and World War II, thousands of homeless children fell to the ground, leaving many orphans. A dormitory for the orphans was established on November 25, 1914, at the suggestion of the Ottoman Minister of Education Ahmet Shakru Bay: ‘Daruletam’, meaning ‘orphan’ dormitory ‘… The purpose of establishing Daruleitam is actually good; Providing shelter, care, nutrition and education for orphans and children in need of protection, ensuring their future by specializing in a craft …

Due to the war, orphans are being held in these institutions, which are open in Istanbul and several other cities. But the Ottomans lost so many native children in the war that the number of children in Daruleitams reached about 20,000. According to some, the shelter, care and feeding of these children is now a ‘burden of the state’ and needs to get rid of this ‘overpopulation’!

Apart from the protracted war, financial difficulties, and difficulty in obtaining food and supplies, the biggest reasons are Due to the limitless expenses of the Sultan and his followers and their luxury and luxury, this war cannot be handed over to the orphans. And after a while, Daruleitams closed, starting from the outskirts of the city. Some children who could not find a place in the province were transferred to Istanbul. Administration of orphans gathered in Istanbul ‘City Yachting School’With the closure of Darulitams it became extinct in history. In this way thousands of wars fall in the middle of orphans. Then begins the tragic situation that hurts real people.


The number of children whose fathers were killed in the war is much higher for the Ottoman Empire. Negotiate with ally Germany. Germany wants orphans from the Ottoman Empire … because Germany has a ‘labor shortage’ and the war economy needs cheap, even free labor.

A cooperation agreement with Germany was signed immediately. According to it; Orphans from the Ottoman Empire will be sent in droves to Germany, where they will be given to masters working in mining, agriculture and other handicrafts, and will have to learn a profession. This is called children.

In the first batch, 314 orphans, ages 14-16, were transported to Berlin by military train from the Circassian train station in late April 1917. The journey takes 10 days. Because the ‘Balkan speed train’ traveling from Istanbul to Berlin in 3 days is known to be expensive!

The first expatriates on German soil were an estimated 500 Ottoman prisoners during the Second Siege of Vienna. Most of them ended up in forced emigration by converting to Islam. Among them were priests; Those who plant their vineyards and gardens and produce wine …


These Ottoman orphans were the second expatriates in German territory.

When the military train arrived at the Berlin train station, 314 children aged 14-16 got off the train and looked at the crowd which was watching them with confused, anxious and curious eyes. Without knowing it, they will work in the mines wherever they go. Of the Ottoman orphans, 200 were sent to work in the mines and 84 children were sent to work in the fields. The number of those who left to teach crafts was only 30.

Most of the children worked in iron, zinc, lead and coal mines. The working conditions there were very bad.. Some parts of the mine have to be dug by their hands; They dig with their bare hands, with large wedges or shovels. Ottoman orphans looked tired and heartbroken. Used to dig up toxic dust that causes severe lung disease. These orphans were looking for iron, zinc, lead in the rocks, and black veins of coal in the deepest furnaces in exchange for the harshness of the snow. Young children were transported in narrow, temporary carriages that were at constant risk of collapsing. These poor orphans were inhaling the mineral gases that had accumulated underground with their tiny lungs. These gases cause a type of pneumonia and respiratory disease caused by coughing which lasts till death. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. The casual death toll exceeds that, as the bodies of Ottoman war orphans were buried in the rubble of a collapsed tunnel. Survivors were struggling to survive a chronic disease that destroyed their childhood and youth. These poor orphans had to work in this mine every day for food. Otherwise, there was no way for them to survive. Since they refused to eat soup made with pork and pork broth, they had to eat smooth bread.


The Germans defined the reaction of orphans to the colonial system as ‘barbarism’; Seeing them away from values ​​like work, discipline and loyalty, they resorted to oppression and violence.. The children keep running; German police were sending the detained children back to the mine. But when the officials of the Ottoman state sent them “Learning the profession will make you a worthy worker, you will work for a very good salary” He sent this saying …

Germany told the Ottoman Empire about its plight; ‘They did not agree’ because … according to their agreement; Most children will work in the mines, but 10 percent of them will learn a craft, all children will work for 3 years 3 years for free, they will get some salary after the fourth year, and half of this salary. Will go to the Ottoman kingdom. The Ottomans concealed this inhuman and disgusting treaty … In fact, Germany sent the survivors of the Ottoman orphans back to the Ottoman Empire ‘they are leaving, they are breaking the treaty’. Thus the deception of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire was exposed. However, if the children had not rebelled against slavery and escaped, the Ottoman Empire would have sent another 10,000 orphans to Germany in this manner and freed them from the burden (!) Of these orphans … even 500 children were ready. Sent as new group …


In spite of all this, do you think the rulers of the Ottoman Empire embraced the surviving orphans in shame? No! The Ottoman state chooses from under-age groups and the silent, oppressed and orphaned peasant children of Anatolia and thousands of orphaned Turkish children at war are sent to Germany in groups … then? … no one knows … What is known is that when thousands of Mehmetics were martyred fighting for ‘motherland, flag, religion, faith’, their beautiful lambs with mehendi and their beloved children were lost abroad without mother or father. Helpless and stateless …


I was devastated to learn what had happened to our orphans. I’m really sorry. I’ve been thinking for a few days about what I can do … so when I came to Erzurum as Corps Commander, I decided that there are about 6,000 children in need of care in this area. These children feel their orphanage in the most painful way; They were trying to survive by eating leaves and grass in the streets, tree holes and caves.

I will never forget the pain of the orphans sent to Germany. That’s why I took care of the orphans immediately without wasting time. For them, I have established ‘Gurbuz Boy Army’ in my core.. In those years of poverty, I felt no need for our war orphans. I dress, surround, feed, entertain, educate, teach, make a professional. I helped them grow up to be good children for their country and nation.

I always said: The national struggle is not just with guns and rifles. Four steps were taken to lay the foundation of a civilized and strong state. The most important branch is the child. Because when a child is neglected and enters the society, the level of the society goes down; When he joined the army, the level of the army went down. Children should not be left without care. The best investment of the future is to raise children with care.

This project, which I started, was later adopted in the early days of the War of Independence, and under the direction of Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatুrk, orphaned children were intensively cared for. It is designed to include even non-orphaned children, so that Turkish children can be well fed and raised well. One of the first organizations to be implemented in the War of Independence “Himaye-Itfal Society”The ‘Himaye-Itfal Society’ is a continuation of the Daruleitams, which were closed due to lack of funds during the Ottoman period. It was re-established in Ankara on 30 June 1921 as “Himaye-i Etfal Semiyeti” under the direction of Gazi Mostafa Kamal Pasha.. During the years of the War of Independence his goal was to take care of, protect and nurture children and martyrs who had no one to look after them during the war. In the following years, research on orphaned children continued. Considering the huge economic crisis caused by the war situation in those years, such a structure and support is a very important Turkish miracle. As a continuation of this epic and miracle that should not be forgotten, the name ‘Himaye-e Atfal Society’ was changed to ‘Turkey Child Protection Agency’ in 1935.


The above lines are my favorite novelist brother. Hassan BaranSoon SÖZCÜ BookstoreWill be published by “Kazim Karabeki’s dice, winner of the East” I quote from the book burning my heart.

I am shaken by the suffering and tragic consequences of war-orphans working as slaves in German mines.

I wished that the war would end as soon as possible, thinking that the biggest trauma of the conflict that started with the Russian invasion of Ukraine was the children who were without mothers.

Ugur Dundar Ugur Dundar Click for all articles

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