Monday, January 26, 2015

Istanbul Intrigues

During World War II, Turkey 'teemed with spies
defectors, diplomats, assassins, journalists,
and a future pope.'
Here are a few snippets from this very interesting non-fiction read by Barry Rubin (that I bought at least ten years ago but never read until now):

  • Istanbul was Germany's backdoor to the Middle East and the Allies' secret passageway into occupied Europe. It became a center of espionage and intrigue for both sides.
  • No less than seventeen foreign intelligence services operated in Turkey during the war. The stakes were high, and the measures taken were desperate.
  • Istanbul was no place for the innocent or unwary. Over 200 people made a living by wholesaling information to both sides and retailing it to journalists.
  • Diplomats of opposing sides who had been poker-playing friends until war broke out now looked through each other without a flicker of recognition.
  • Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli, a poor Italian priest who would later become Pope John XXIII, was assigned as the Vatican's legate and apostolic vicar to Istanbul's few Catholics during this time period.
  • The only way the Allies could profit from Turkey's neutrality was to use the country as a secret base for gathering intelligence and supporting European resistance movements. These missions had to be accomplished in a way that would avoid any provocation which might make the Germans attack or the Turks expel the Allies
  • "Few people realize how very difficult Turkey's position is and how dangerous a game she has been playing. ... Turkey has rendered her greatest service to the Allied cause by retaining her precious neutrality."
Happy Reading!


  1. I love books about WWII, fiction and nonfiction, and read Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon a few years ago. Thanks for this recommendation!

    1. Hey, my library actually owns a copy of Istanbul Passage... I looked it up and it sounds interesting; I might have to check it out. Thanks back! :-)

  2. This sounds like a very interesting read. Congrats on reading another book off your shelf! Was this one well-written? I might have to try it the next time I am in the mood for "intrigue."

    1. Some chapters were more interesting than others; there were a couple of chapters that I just skimmed. So, I liked this book, but I don't know if I'll keep it. It's one I'm glad I finally read, but probably won't ever read again.