This is the story of Istanbul--but also of Turkey, the Balkans, and the eastern Mediterranean--during World War II, based on extensive interviews and the use of archives, especially those of the OSS, which I was the first to see for this region. The book is written as a cross between a scholarly work and a real-life thriller. The status of Turkey as a neutral country made it a center of espionage, a sort of actual equivalent of the film “Casablanca.”
Aspects of the story include the Allied-Axis struggle to get Turkey on their side; the spy rings set up in the Middle East and the Balkans; the attempts of Jews to escape through Turkey; the Allies’ covert war in Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and other countries; and the first accurate account of how the Germans recruited the British ambassador’s valet as a spy, who could have been their most successful agent of the war if only they had listened to his warnings. Other interesting stories include America’s first faltering attempts to establish its own intelligence agency and the affair of the efforts to bring about Hungary’s secret surrender to join the Allies, both of which ended in disaster.
The book was published by McGraw Hill in 1989 with a paperback from Pharos/MacMillan in 1992. It was then published by Bosphorus University Press in 2002. The Turkish edition was published as Istanbul Entrikalari in 1994 and reprinted in 1996, 1999, and--by Dogan--in 2007
With material enough for a score of espionage thrillers, Rubin ( Modern Dictators ) offers a behind-the-scenes view of WW II from the vantage point of neutral but vulnerable Turkey, conveying the fear- and adventure-fraught atmosphere of strategically important Istanbul. There, as desperate refugees, fleeing before the Nazis' advance through the Balkans, struggled to survive by any means, some as Allied agents, spies from both sides hobnobbed and vied for the favors of beautiful women. Aided by access to Allied and Axis archives and by interviews with dozens of former agents, the author weaves a wealth of data into his smooth, spine-tingling narrative. He brings to life characters such as the Vatican's vicar to Istanbul, Angelo Roncalli (who was to become Pope John XXIII), who aided victims on both sides, and a British ambassador's valet who worked for the Germans--one among hundreds of agents and informers employed by 17 intelligence services. Rubin also records rivalry among U.S. agencies, most of whom, he claims, were amateurs compared to the British. Photos not seen by PW.