On September 19, 1922, as tens of thousands of refugees remained crammed onto Smyrna’s Quay, Turkish soldiers on horseback waded into the crowd every night to snatch young women.
There was a near constant moan from the destitute and suffering mass of people that occasionally rose to steady and sustained screams.
The Allied ships in the harbor found that they could quiet the refugees by running their big lights over the Quay to disperse the Turkish soldiers.
Ernest Hemingway captures this nightmarish detail in his famous short story “On the Quay at Smyrna.”
Although Hemingway never got to Smyrna, he had learned of the refugees’ suffering from a British officer in Constantinople who had just returned from the city.
The following excerpt comes from Hemingway’s story, capturing another gruesome detail about the Smyrna Catastrophe:
“The worst, he said, were the women with dead babies. You couldn’t get the women to give up their dead babies. They’d have babies dead for six days. Wouldn’t give them up. Nothing you could do about it. Had to take them away finally.”
On this same night, Mustafa Kemal celebrated his victory at a party arranged by his new woman, Latife Hanum, who captivated him as he danced well into the night.
Boston University Professor Lou Ureneck covers the story of the Smyrna Catastrophe in remarkable detail in his 2015 book titled The Great Fire.
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