Barlas, Chayim

Head of the Jewish Agency office in Istanbul

In 1944, during Brand’s arrival in Istanbul, Polish-born Barlas was the head of the Jewish Agency’s office in Istanbul. Located on the edge of warring Europe, Turkey in the East and Switzerland in the West became invaluable venues as listening posts, financial support sources and political assistance stations in all matters concerning the rescue of refugees.

Barlas, acted as liaison with the US ambassador to Turkey Laurence Steinhardt in Ankara. The Istanbul office transferred funds via known couriers to the Rescue Committees in Budapest and Bratislava, tried to gain temporary entry permits into Turkey for refugees presented with a chance of escape and made every effort to pass illegal immigrant ships through to Palestine defying the British naval blockade.

Barlas maintained close relations with the Vatican’s Nuncio to Turkey, the Apostolic Delegate Roncalli, who made every effort to elicit protests from the Pope. As a result of some of his efforts, the Pope sent warnings to the local rulers in Slovakia and Hungary, to Father Tiso and to Horthy, demanding that they put an immediate stop to the inhuman treatment of Jews and to the deportations. Roncalli, the Nuncio to Turkey and Greece became Pope John XXIII.

Barlas headed this important office until the end of the war when he presumably returned to Jerusalem.

 

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