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HomeHeadlineUnveiling Emmanuel Carasso: Unionist Involvement, Wealth Accumulation, and the Enigmatic Relationship with...

Unveiling Emmanuel Carasso: Unionist Involvement, Wealth Accumulation, and the Enigmatic Relationship with Zionism

Dr. Yuksel Nizamoglu*

One of the significant figures of the late Ottoman Empire period who left their mark on the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihat ve Terakki), which was influential in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, is Emmanuel Carasso.

Although Carasso is better known for being part of the delegation that delivered the decision of deposition to Abdulhamid in 1909, he was also among the informants of the Abdulhamid era. After the decline of the Committee of Union and Progress, his new homeland would be Italy due to the trials he faced.

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INFORMANT CARASSO

Emmanuel Carasso was born in 1862 into a Jewish merchant family settled in Thessaloniki. Although his family name is written as “Karasu” in Turkish, it appears as “Karasso” in many sources and as “Carasso” in foreign sources. While Carasso’s grandfather came from Italy to Thessaloniki, his application for Italian citizenship was rejected as he could not prove his “Italian roots,” leading the family to claim Spanish citizenship by identifying as “Sephardic.”

After the proclamation of constitutional monarchy in 1908, Emmanuel Carasso also became an Ottoman citizen in order to run for parliament. He received a solid legal education in Thessaloniki and began working as a “litigant” or lawyer. Despite his involvement in the Young Turk movement, it is evident that Carasso sent intelligence reports to Sultan Abdulhamid.

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As is known, after Abdulhamid’s dethronement, a decision was made to examine these intelligence reports by forming a commission, but they were later burned. Nevertheless, a small number of reports, as mentioned in some publications and confirmed by some from the Ottoman Archives, can still be found. In one report with the inscription “Emanuel Carasso, one of the lawyers from Thessaloniki,” Carasso openly informed on the Young Turks in Thessaloniki, requesting measures to be taken against harmful newspapers published in Europe that were being read in certain places, with the Police Directorate turning a blind eye.

In another report, he reported on the arrival of “anarchists” to Thessaloniki and their attempt to go to Istanbul, stating that their intention was to join the Young Turks, referred to as “erbab-ı fesad” at that time, in short, he used the language of the Abdulhamid regime to call the ‘Unionists’ “troublemakers.”

He also complained about illegal Bulgarian activities in other documents. However, due to the burning of the reports, it is not possible to know which other reports Carasso provided and their contents. Despite his spying efforts for Sultan Abdulhamit, Carasso was arrested and interrogated during his trip to Istanbul with Talat Bey (Paşa) in 1908, but he did not reveal the names of his friends during the interrogation.

After the proclamation of constitutional monarchy, he was elected as a deputy from Thessaloniki in the elections, and in 1912, he was elected as a deputy from Thessaloniki again. After the loss of Thessaloniki, he became a deputy from Istanbul. Following the 31 March Incident, the Unionists, who passed the decision to depose Abdulhamid from the parliament, formed a delegation for the proclamation of deposition. This delegation was composed of representatives of the communities that constituted the Ottoman Empire within the framework of the Committee of Union and Progress’s “unity of elements” idea.

The former Minister of the Navy, Arif Hikmet Pasha, Armenian Catholic Aram Efendi, Albanian origin Esat Toptani Pasha, and Jewish Emmanuel Carasso were among the members of the delegation. The reason for Carasso’s presence in this delegation is interpreted as “the revenge of the Zionists against the Sultan who did not sell land in Palestine” in the subsequent years.

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Sultan Abdulhamid II, Ruler of Ottoman Empire

Firstly, it should be noted that the claim that he was the chairman of the deposition delegation is not correct. Indeed, in various researches and an interview published in a German newspaper, it is indicated that the chairman of the delegation was Esat Toptani Pasha. The deposition order and the decision were also verbally communicated by Toptani; questions about where the former sultan would live, his safety, and his livelihood were mostly answered by Toptani.

The question that should be asked here is whether Carasso participated in the delegation with the aim of “taking revenge from the Sultan Abdulhamid.” For example, although Esat Pasha entered the delegation as the representative of the Albanians, in Carasso’s narrative, it is mentioned that he “hated the Sultan to death” due to the incident where Abdulhamid’s brother was assassinated by a hired killer on the Galata Bridge.

In contrast, apart from the “unity of elements” thesis, there is no information about Carasso. Therefore, it seems more reasonable for him to be in the delegation as a representative of the Jewish community due to his role within the Committee of Union and Progress.

IS HE A ZIONIST?

Another significant aspect of Carasso is his involvement in Freemasonry. His upbringing in Thessaloniki, a multicultural city and one of the most open cities of the Ottoman Empire to Europe, was an important factor in his Freemasonry. The Masonic lodges protected by consulates in order to escape the oppression of the Abdulhamid regime, especially the spy surveillance, created an ideal environment in Thessaloniki. This situation was an important reason for leading figures of the Young Turk organization in Thessaloniki such as Talat Bey (Pasha), Rahmi Bey, Mithat Şükrü (Bleda), and Manyasizade Refik Bey to become members of the Macedonia Risorta Lodge.

This lodge operated under the Italian Grand Orient. It is understood from Carasso’s role and influence within this lodge that he opened the doors of the lodge to the Unionists and thus had an impact on the organization. In fact, even after his death, his death notice in The Times stated, “He was the one who proposed that Young Turks should gather in Masonic lodges.”

Carasso’s prominence in certain activities due to both his Unionists and Judaism is evident. He was part of the delegation that signed the Ouchy Treaty with the Italians, and after World War I, he participated in a delegation, which included Chief Rabbi Haim Naum, that rejected American mandate for the Ottoman Empire.

A controversial aspect of Carasso is whether he was involved in the Zionist movement. Jacop M. Landau states that he was “anti-Zionist.” In the memoir of Fethi Okyar, who held significant positions within the Committee of Union and Progress, prepared for publication by Cemal Kutay, it is mentioned that Carasso was part of a Zionist delegation that met with Abdulhamid in 1898 to discuss the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine (Istanbul, 1980, p. 45)).

However, there is no such information in the memoir prepared by Okyar’s son Osman Okyar and Mehmet Seyitdanlıoğlu (Ankara, 1997). In 1911, in response to an accusation in the Meclis-i Mebusan (Parliament), Carasso stated that he was against Zionism and that a proposal to settle Jews in a place other than Palestine was rejected by the commission he was a part of.

He also emphasized the loyalty of Jews to the country they lived in and expressed that Ottoman Jews felt “more affection” towards the Ottomans for opening their doors when Jews were expelled from everywhere. In 1917, Dr. Becker from German Zionists came to Istanbul to meet with Grand Vizier Talat Pasha about the “land demand” in Palestine, and Talat Paşa clearly stated that “the Unionists are against a Jewish homeland, even autonomy, in Palestine.” Later, representing the Unionists, Carasso continued negotiations in Germany.

During this period when the war was being lost and the Balfour Declaration was announced, it can be seen that the Committee of Union and Progress followed a policy of delaying the Zionists and Carasso played a role in this context. Landau also mentions that although he did not sympathize with Zionism, he did not take an opposing stance and did not assist the “Zionist cause.”

ITALIAN CARASSO

Carasso was arrested and placed in the Bekirağa Barracks in 1919. He later chose to leave the country and went to Italy. In 1921, he obtained Italian citizenship. During this time, various charges were filed against Carasso, who had accumulated a “great fortune.” These cases were being followed by the Italian High Commissioner.

Carasso’s main intention was to sell his ships named Arimetia and Bitynia to an Italian shipping company. However, since he did not pay the purchase commission, the incident went to court, and later, the collection was made. Of course, what should be questioned here is how Carasso acquired this wealth.

In the Ottoman Archives, it can be seen that Carasso and his shareholders established the “Paşabahçe Kiremit ve Tuğla Fabrikası Osmanlı Anonim Şirketi” (Paşabahçe Brick and Tile Factory Ottoman Joint Stock Company) in 1910 to operate a factory in the İncir village of Paşabahçe. Four years later, it is determined that Carasso and his partners established another company for factory trading, production, and commerce in the textile sector (BOA, A. JDVN. MKL. 51/3, 56/37).

This situation suggests that Carasso’s wealth might be the result of these economic activities. However, another reason might be his role as the “Supply Inspector” during World War I. Indeed, Roni Margulies writes that he worked as a “food stocks manager.” Considering the black market during the war, allegations against Chief of Logistics İsmail Hakkı Pasha, and the “Vagon Trade” corruption, he may have been involved in various corrupt activities.

Indeed, after the Armistice, he was arrested for “selling a large amount of grain for the army and the people and transferring its money to a German bank.” It is also understood that his assets were frozen due to this and other allegations. He was released from this detention with the efforts of the Jewish community and later with an improperly granted bail and found a solution by obtaining Italian citizenship.

Carasso, who spent the rest of his life in Istanbul and some Italian cities, later settled in Trieste and passed away in June 1934. His daughter Ester brought his body to Istanbul and buried him in the Jewish cemetery in Arnavutköy.

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In conclusion, Carasso was born as a Spanish citizen, became an Ottoman citizen in 1908, and passed away as an Italian citizen in 1934 but was buried in Istanbul. Considering his journalism during the Abdulhamid regime, his presence in the deposition delegation, his Masonic activities, his activities within the Committee of Union and Progress, and allegations of corruption against him, it can be said that Carasso was a “contradictory figure trying to benefit from these events,” as approached by the Italian researcher Locci.

Although his support within the Committee of Union and Progress appears to be exaggerated, it is clear that Carasso’s importance in the Committee of Union and Progress is related to his role within the Macedonian Risorta Lodge in Thessaloniki. However, he was never one of the prominent figures of the Committee of Union and Progress like Enver, Cemal, and Talat Pashas. Probably, the Committee of Union and Progress and Carasso acted towards each other with a “win-win policy.”

Afterward, he also stood out as a representative of the Jewish community in some events. Another aspect of Carasso is that he is “famous but unknown.” Especially in the Islamic conservative circles, exaggerated interpretations are made about him, yet many points about him remain unenlightened. In conclusion, more detailed information is needed regarding the reasons for his presence in the deposition delegation and his attitude towards Zionism.

This article was first published in TR724 and translated into English by Politurco.

  • Dr. Yüksel Nizamoğlu is an Historian focuses on Ottoman Balkans, Middle East Studies, and Military History. PhD. 2010. Istanbul University.

Selected Bibliography:

  • C. Kaypalı, “Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Son Dönem Masonları” (Masonic Figures in the Late Ottoman Empire), Mimar Sinan, 2004, pp. 132.
  • E. Locci, “İtalya ile Türkiye Arasındaki İlişkilerde Emanuele Carosso” (Emanuele Carosso in the Relations Between Italy and Turkey), 2013, pp. 160.
  • Z. Uçak, “Emanuel Karasu ve Siyasi Faaliyetleri” (Emanuel Karasu and His Political Activities), MÜ SBE Master’s Thesis, Istanbul, 2015.
  • N. Alkan, “Karasu ve Abdülhamit İle İlişkisi” (Karasu’s Relationship with Abdülhamit), Toplumsal Tarih (Social History), 2008, pp. 170-171.
  • M. Çolak, “Alman Siyonistleri ve Sadrazam Talat Paşa: Yahudilere Yurt Bulma Meselesi” (German Zionists and Grand Vizier Talat Paşa: The Issue of Finding a Home for Jews), XVIII. TTK Kongresi (18th Turkish Historical Society Congress), Ankara, 2018, Vol. 5.
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