22 September 2007
Imagine that the same country insists that Jews were killed because they were disloyal to Germany and were also guilty of killing German soldiers during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Bizarre? Fiendish? Ridiculous statements which do not deserve a response?
Yet something very similar has been asserted by Turkey - for over 90 years. Despite hundreds of books by genocide scholars, tons of documents in German, Austrian, British, French, American and Russian archives, eyewitness accounts, diplomatic reports and countless Western newspaper reports, Turkey inexplicably denies that, in 1915, it committed a deliberate, government-organised genocide against its Armenian minority.
It should be noted that unlike the Holocaust deniers, such as Ernst Zundle and James Keegtra, who constitute the lunatic fringe of society, the historical denial of the Armenian Genocide is being carried out by the Turkish government, which enjoys total control over the country's resources and maintains tight control over access to state archives, and the penal system, to suppress dissenting viewpoints.
Recently Poland, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the Vatican, the European Parliament, Lebanon, Cyprus, Uruguay, the Council of Europe, more than 40 states of the United States of America, and also the states of New South Wales and South Australia in Australia, all reaffirmed the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide.
The intention of these debates and motions is to address the injustice that took place over 90 years ago and to play a positive role in the healing process for the survivors and their descendants. The debate is about joining the international community and sending a message to despotic regimes that the civilized world will not tolerate crimes against humanity, no matter when or where they happen. The debate is about condemning any attempt to rewrite history, and finally, it is about learning from the mistakes of the past to prevent future genocides.
Unfortunately, Turkey has chosen to misinterpret the intent of these initiatives. A perfervid propaganda campaign and a revisionist version of historic facts have been spread to distort the intentions of these initiatives.
Because of the Turkish government's refusal to face the country's dark past, the process of healing - so essential to international peace and harmony - has not even begun for Armenians. As genocide scholars have shown, the last stage of genocide is the denial of that crime.
While officially Turkey denies its responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, some brave and righteous Turks have begun to address the issue. Turkish intellectual Taner Akcam wrote in the Turkish newspaper Yeni Binyil (October 1, 2000):
"The manner in which the Armenian question is being discussed is in itself indicative as to what is the main problem of our country. We do not possess the culture affording open debate about mass murders. We are devoid of the moral foundations which enable us to condemn such crimes. One needs to have a sense of sorrow in order to be able to speak of the great human tragedies; but we do not possess such a sense of morality. Look at all the things written about this topic. In them you don't find a single sentence, a single word that recognises the tragedy."
The Armenian Community does not bear any animosity towards the Turkish Community. On the contrary, we sympathise with the Turkish people. They have been misled for too many years by their own government. We are confident that once the Turkish government halts its campaign of falsification of history and focuses on the Genocide issue with hysteria the Turkish people will acknowledge the misdeeds of their predecessors and extend a hand of friendship to the Armenian people.
Significantly, over 10,000 Turks, members of the German-Turkish Association Opposed to Genocide, signed a petition on December of 2000 stating:
"What we have learned at school (in Turkey) is a forgery of history." They asked the Turkish Government to repent for the crime of Genocide which "we feel morally obliged to end their (Armenians’) disillusions and agony". Furthermore the association asked for "international condemnation of the crimes committed against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian-Greeks."
The recognition of the Armenian Genocide is a moral and ethical issue. We owe it not only to the victims and survivors of the Genocide but to mankind, to prevent future crimes against humanity.
We should not allow Hitler’s contemptuous remark "After-all, who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?" to haunt us forever.
FACTS & FICTIONS OF TURKISH DENIAL
The Turkish government in its propaganda campaign uses a battery of digressions, excuses, half-truths, and obfuscations in its arsenal of denial. Below we will examine some of these claims and outline the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, by using mainly Turkish, Austrian and German sources to expose the distortions of the Turkish government. As Turkey's allies during WWI, Austria and Germany could hardly be accused of an anti-Turkish attitude.
FICTION # 1: The Armenian deaths do not constitute Genocide
Hundreds of historians, scholars, Holocaust and genocide experts and statesmen have confirmed that the Armenian massacres were a typical case of genocide. Jurist Raphael Lemkin, who drafted the UN Convention on Genocide and coined the term "Genocide" in 1948, on many occasions cited the attempt to annihilate the Armenians as a clear case of genocide as defined by the UN Convention on Genocide. In his autobiography, Prof. Lemkin wrote: "I identified myself more and more with the suffering of the victim, whose numbers grew, as I continued my study of history. I understand that the function of memory is not only to register past events, but to stimulate human conscience. Soon contemporary examples of genocide followed, such as the slaughter of the Armenians in 1915."
Elsewhere in the book he writes: "...A bold plan was formulated in my mind. This consisted [of] obtaining the ratification by Turkey [of the proposed UN Convention on Genocide. Ed] among the first twenty founding nations. This would be an atonement for [the] genocide of the Armenians.” Numerous non-Armenian and non-partisan historians have verified the reality of the Armenian Genocide.
The International Association of Genocide Scholars, an eminent body of scholars who study genocide, during its 1997 convention, adopted a resolution unanimously reaffirming that: "The mass murder of over a million Armenians in Turkey in 1915 is a case of genocide which conforms to the statutes of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It further condemns the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government and its official and unofficial agents and supporters."
On April 23, 1999, more than 150 distinguished scholars and writers (among them Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney, Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott, in addition to Deborah E. Lipstadt, Norman Mailer, Helen Fine, Robert Melson, Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Harold Pinter, Roger Smith, Daniel Goldhagen, Susan Sontag, William Styron, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates, Alfred Kazin, Grace Paley, D.M Thomas,) published a declaration in the Washington Post stating: "We denounce as morally and intellectually corrupt the Turkish Government's denial of the Armenian Genocide." They went on to recommend to governments around the world to "refer to the 1915 annihilation of the Armenians as Genocide."
On June 9, 2000, 126 Holocaust scholars (among them Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Prof. Israel Charney, Prof. Irving L. Horwitz, Prof. Steven Jacobs, Prof. Steven Katz, Dr. Elizabeth Maxwell, Prof. Saul Mendlowitz, Prof. Jack Needle, Prof. Samuel Totten) published a statement in The New York Times: "...affirming that the World War I Armenian Genocide is an incontestable historical fact and accordingly urge the governments of Western democracies to likewise recognize it as such."
FICTION # 2: The Armenian deaths were the result of a rebellion and inter-communal fighting
The cornerstone of the Turkish Government's policy of denial is that what happened during WWI was inter-communal violence and the result of the Armenian rebellion. It was communal infighting if the organised attack by an empire's army on an unarmed minority can be described as such.
In August 1914, all Armenian men between the age of 20 and 45 were conscripted in the Ottoman Army. How could the remaining unarmed Armenian population of mainly women, children and elderly people even contemplate an armed struggle against a majority population backed by a mighty empire, and ally of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires?
The consensus among German and Austrian officials who were in Turkey at the time was that there was no general coordinated rebellion by the Armenian population. In a seventy-two page report to Berlin (September 18, 1916), German Ambassador Count Wolff Metternich wrote: "There was neither a concerted general uprising nor was there a fully valid proof that such a synchronized uprising was planned or organised." Describing the futile and spotty Armenian resistance, Dr. Max Erwin Scheubner-Richter (German vice-consul in Erzerum, in eastern Turkey), wrote in a dispatch dated December 6, 1916: "They (the Turkish Leaders) were planning on fabricating, for the benefit of Allied Powers, and alleged revolution stirred up by the Dashnak (Armenian) party.
They also planned to inflate the importance of isolated incidents and acts of self-defense by the Armenians and use it as an excuse to deport the targeted population which then would be massacred by escorting gendarmes and assorted gangs." Turkish Historian Professor Halil Berktay, on October 9, 2000, during an interview with the Turkish newspaper Raidikal, stated: "The activities of the Armenian guerrilla bands were generally localized, small-scale, and isolated."
Vice-Marshall Joseph Pomiankowski, Austro-Hungary's military plenipotentiary, who during the war was attached to Ottoman general headquarters, described the self-defence of the Armenians as follows: "The Van uprising certainly was an act of desperation. The local Armenians realised that the general butchery against the Armenians had started and that they would be the next victims." Collapse of the Ottoman Empire (1928).
FICTION # 3: The Armenians collaborated with Turkey’s enemies
Chief among Turkish government distortions is the accusation that during the First World War Armenians sided with the enemy - Tsarist Russia. At the time historic Armenia was occupied by two empires - the Ottoman and the Russian. Since imperial Russia oppressed Armenians (just as it oppressed its own citizens), there was no love lost between the Armenians and Russians.
Armenians were conscripted in the Tsar's army - just as their brothers were in the Ottoman army. Rather than acting as a fifth columnists, Armenians in Turkey were fighting their own brothers on the Russian side - to defend Ottoman Turkey. It’s estimated that about 250, 000 Armenians were conscripted into the Turkish Army.
When Enver Pasha (the Turkish War Minister) was defeated by the Russians at Sarikamish, "It was Armenian soldiers who saved him from being killed or captured by the Czarist forces" (David Marshall Lang and Christopher Walker, The Armenians: Report 32, Minority Rights Group, 1998). Moreover, Enver is on record for having "praised, in February 1915, the loyalty and bravery of the Armenian soldiers under his command." (Christopher J. Walker, Armenia: The Survival of a Nation, London, 1980).
The Turkish government launched its genocide against the Armenians at least three months after the Armenian soldiers had been already disarmed, taken to labour camps and eliminated. Furthermore, in his book The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire (1992) Alan Palmer concluded: "...neither group [the Dashnaks or Hunchaks political parties] had links with the Russian government, as Ottoman apologists claim."
FICTION # 4: The Armenians were relocated for their own safety
In an Orwellian touch, Turkey has recently begun to refer to the deportation of Armenians to the deserts of Syria as a "relocation" ... saying it was "for their protection, from dangerous areas." It would seem that the Jews were also "relocated" from Danzig to Dachau for their protection. An empire notorious for mistreating its minorities (Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Arabs, Assyrians...) apparently decided to "protect" Armenians and send women and children, without food or water, on foot, to the searing desert of Syria, to die of hunger and exposure. The few thousand women and children who made the journey's end in Der-el-Zor were suffocated and burned alive in caves - by eager Turkish soldiers, impatient to complete their assignment.
Others were massacred by Circassian and Chechen murder-squads. If the Turkish Government's concern was to move Armenians from the war front why were countless Armenians deported from the hinterland, thousands of miles away from the war front? The testimony of Ali Fuad Erden, Chief of Staff of Jemal Pasha, the Commander-in-Chief of the Fourth Ottoman Army, debunked Turkey's lame excuse when he wrote in his memoirs: "There was neither preparation nor organisation to shelter the hundreds of thousands of the deportees."
Selim Deringil, professor of history at Bogazici University in Istanbul, in an article published in 1998, wrote: "No historian with a conscience can possibly accept 'the civil war' line, which is a travesty of history. ...it is also nonsense to put forward the civil war argument as justification for the deportation and murder of innocent people from places as far removed from the war zone as Bursa."
Wolfdieter Bihl, in his 1975 book, The Caucasus Policy of the Central Powers (Part 1), unequivocally proves that Ankara's deportation of the Armenians was a ruse. He wrote: "...[The authorities] did not bother to deport the Armenians; rather, massacres were perpetrated on the spot. In a singular bloodlust torture and slaughter were resorted to...these measures were not limited to the theatres of war but were extended to the Black Sea coast, Cilicia and Western Anatolia." The German Ambassador Hans Wangenheim, Ambassador to Turkey 1912-October 25, 1915, in a July 7, 1915 report, stated: "...the manner in which the matter of relocation is being handled demonstrates that the [Turkish] government is in fact pursuing the goal of annihilating the Armenian race in Turkey."
FICTION # 5: The Armenian Genocide was not planned or state-sponsored
One of the disingenuous Turkish arguments is that the Ottoman Turkey had no intention or the ability to carry out a plan of exterminating the Armenians at a time of war, because the Turkish Army was pre-occupied with fighting on many fronts. It is claimed that the killings were revenge attacks by local populations. This too has been often refuted by impartial historians and even by some Turkish officials and scholars.
General Vehib Pasha, Commander of the Turkish Third Army, wrote in a deposition that was read during the March 29, 1919 session of the Turkish Government Court Martials: "The massacre and destruction of the Armenians and the plunder and pillage of their goods were the results of decisions reached by Ittihad (the ruling party) Central Committee...The atrocities were carried out under a program that was determined upon and involved a definite case of premeditation."
enator Resit Akif Pasha, President of the post-war State Council, declared in November 1918, during the debate on the Armenian massacres: "While humbly occupying my post of President of the State Council, to my surprise, I came across a strange [combination] of official orders. One of them, the order for deportation, was issued by the notorious Interior Minister. The other, however, was an ominous secret circular issued by Ittihad's Central Committee. It directed the provincial party units to proceed with the execution of the accursed plan, whereupon the brigands went into action and atrocious massacres were the result."
Mustafa Arif, Interior Minister of Turkey (1918-1919), in a Turkish newspaper interview in December 1918, stated: "Unfortunately, our wartime leaders, imbued with a spirit of brigandage, carried out the law of deportation in a manner that would surpass the proclivities of the most bloodthirsty bandits. They decided to exterminate the Armenians, and they did exterminate them. This decision was taken by the Central Committee of the Young Turks and was implemented by the government."
Colonel Stange, Commander of the 8th Regiment of the Turkish Army sent (August 23, 1915) a secret report to the German military mission to Turkey, headquartered in the Ottoman capital, bringing to the attention of his German superiors the following facts: "The Turks did have a plan [to destroy the Armenians] that was conceived a long time ago. The deportation and destruction of the Armenians was decided upon by the Young Turk [Ittihad] Committee in Constantinople."
FICTION # 6: 1.5 million Armenians did not die
To distract world public opinion, Turkey frequently plays the genocide numbers game. Turkey uses this to dilute the impact of the Genocide and to cast doubt on its veracity. The Genocide issue is not a matter of numbers - even if only 10,000 Armenians had been killed. When a government orchestrates the mass killing and deportation of a defenceless minority - just because the latter are of a different race and religion - it has no moral platform to stand on. According to German Interim Ambassador to Turkey, Radowitz, 1.5 million Armenians died and 425,000 survived (October 4, 1916).
The German parliamentarian, Foreign Office Intelligence Director, and later Cabinet minister, Erzberger, estimated 1.5 million victims. Turkish Historian Halil Berktay, in an interview with the French weekly L' Express (November 9, 2000), stated: "we caused the death of at least 600,000 people in ten months. If we are not racist, we should be feeling the profoundness of such horror."
Rafael de Nogales, Inspector of Cavalry, 2nd Turkish Army, in Four Years Beneath the Crescent (1926) unequivocally stated: "The criminal indifference with which the Ottoman civil authorities contemplated the martyrdom and slaughter of the million-and-one-half Christians who perished during those massacres..."
In his book The Rise and Reconstruction of the Armenian Nation (1919), Josef Maroyart, German historian stated: "Without regard to age or gender 1.5 million Christians were partly murdered and driven into the desert to succumb to hunger or pestilence. The victims did not die as enemies in a regular fight; nor were they killed in the course of rebellion.
Rather, they were murdered by their own government according to a certain plan." Historian Serge A. Zenkovsky, in his book Pan-Turkism and Islam In Russia (1967) wrote: "The massacres in 1914-1916 of one-and-half-million Armenians was largely conditioned by the desire of the Young Turks to eliminate the Armenian obstacle which separated Ottoman Turks from Turks of Azerbaijan, and to prepare the way for the territorial unification of the 'Oguz'. or the southern group."
FICTION # 7: More Turks died than Armenians
To confuse people and to muddy the issue, Turkey and its apologists say that more Turks died during WWI than Armenians. The losses are not interrelated. Armenians had nothing to do with Turkish deaths. Turks had everything to do with Armenian deaths. The Turkish losses were the result of war (Turkey was on the side of Germany and Austria) against France, Britain, Russia and America. The Armenian losses were the result of a government-sponsored plan of extermination.
Even Turkish sympathizers, such as Michael M. Gunter, reject such comparisons: Mr. Gunter wrote: "That even more Turks (than Armenians) also died during World War I is both true, but largely irrelevant to the argument here because most of the many Turkish deaths resulted from hostilities against the Allies, not the Armenians."
FICTION # 8: The British released Young Turk leaders because of lack of evidence
On many occasions the Turkish government cites the so-called "Malta Tribunals," in an attempt to show the West did not find conclusive evidence to try Young Turk leaders for war crimes against the Armenians and thus released them. There were no "Malta Tribunals."
The British camp and affiliated residences in Malta were strictly detention centres, where the Turkish suspects were held for future prosecution on charges of crimes perpetrated against the Armenians. However, largely because of political expediency, the envisaged internal trials never materialised. The victorious Allies, lapsing into dissension and mutual rivalries, chose to strike separate deals with the ascendant Kemalists.
One such deal concerned the recovery of British subjects who were being held hostage by the Kemalist and who were to be released in exchange for the liberation of all Malta detainees. Commenting on this deal for the exchange, which he later deplored as "a great mistake." British Foreign Affairs Minister Lord Curzon wrote: "The less we say about these people [the Turks detained at Malta] the better...I had to explain why we released the Turkish deportees from Malta skating over thin ice as quickly as I could. There would have been a row I think...The staunch belief among the members [of Parliament] is that one British prisoner is worth a shipload of Turks, and so the exchange was excused."
In contrast, the (Dec.1918 - Jan.1919) Turkish military tribunal condemned the Young Turk leadership. The tribunal cited "the massacres against the Armenians" in various parts of the Ottoman Empire. It asserted that these bloodbaths were "organised and executed" by "the Ittihadist [the Young Turk] leaders", a fact which was "investigated and ascertained" by the tribunal. Among those convicted and sentenced to death were Interior Minister, later Grand Vizier, Talat Pasha, and the two top military leaders, War Minister Enver Pasha, and Minister of Navy and Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman IVth Army, Jemal Pasha.
FICTION # 9: The Armenians were well treated
During 500 years of Turkish occupation of Armenia, it was the state policy of the despotic Sultans and their equally cruel governors to regularly mistreat Armenians since they were non-Moslem and were regarded as "infidel" (Gavour), and were deprived the protection of the state against persecution and brigandage.
Only a handful of Armenians led a relatively comfortable life in the capital, Constantinople (Istanbul), where they were tolerated by the government because their various skills and talents were needed. Their situation was similar to the status of the talented Jews in Europe, who had access to the rulers of the countries in which they lived. This phenomenon was so common that they were called Court Jews.
They flourished while their co-religionists were persecuted. In regard to the 40,000 Armenians currently living in Turkey, they are as discriminated against today as their compatriots were at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. During WWII, the Turkish government levied extra taxes on minorities (among them Jews, Armenians, Greeks....) regardless of their income or status: those who could not pay, had their businesses and properties confiscated; they were arrested and sent to concentration camps. In today's Turkey, Armenian churches have been turned into stables, taverns and mosques.
Even today Armenian churches are occasionally bombed and used as target practice (like the famous Aktamar Church in lake Van, SE Turkey), and at times Armenian Cemeteries including Medieval ones are desecrated and destroyed. Moreover Armenian schools are required to have Turkish vice-principles. These are all direct and indirect violations of the terms of the Lausanne Treaty respecting minorities. Richard Davey, in The Sultan and his Subjects (1907), wrote: "...the memorable siege of Erzerum (Karin), in 1627.
The city, after a long and heroic resistance, succumbed to the Turks who put to the sword every Armenian man, woman, and child they could find. Seventy thousand Armenians are said to have perished. Massacres of Armenians also took place on a great scale at Bitlis, Van and Aleppo." In another chapter of the same book, Davey writes: "I have before me, as I write, a report presented to the Sultan in 1876 by the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. It gives a long and concise list of the yearly massacres and vexations to which the Armenians in Taurus regions and in Asia Minor have been subjected during the years extending from 1860 to 1877."
It must be pointed out that during the 1915 Genocide, some righteous Turks, who disapproved of the Genocidal campaign of the Turkish Government, helped Armenians escape the killing fields of Anatolia. Others sheltered Armenians in their homes. The most interesting is the case of the five governors-general who refused to implement the massacre plan. They were promptly removed from their posts and punished for their disobedience of the central government decrees.
FICTION # 10: Hitler did not make his famous statement
Turkey's spin machine attempts to question the authenticity of Hitler's statement "Who remembers nowadays the extermination of the Armenians?" Because the document in question was not used in the Nuremberg trials it does not mean that Hitler did not make the statement.
The reason why Hitler's statement was not included as evidence is because at that time there was uncertainty about the provenance of that document, and the German defence counsel objected to the use of any document related to Hitler.
Many independent sources have confirmed the authenticity of Hitler's 1939 statement. On November 24, 1945 the New York Times published a report titled: "Partial Text of Talks on Poland?" The report includes excerpts of a talk Hitler gave to Herman Goering and the Generals at Obersalzberg on August 22, 1939. In that report, Hitler's statement on the Armenian Genocide is clearly mentioned.
The Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, in its scholarly quarterly, published a series of articles (1968 and 1971) which made a clear reference to Hitler's statement. American specialist on WWII Gerald L. Weinberg in The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany: Starting World War II, 1937-39 and subsequently in a report to the New York Times (June 1985), authenticated the source of Hitler's statement.
The source of the document was none other than Admiral Canaris, Chief of Counter-Intelligence of the German Armed Forces High Command. Admiral Canaris was the main note-taker of Hitler's secret speech. Furthermore, between 1924 and 1943, on five occasions Hitler was quoted stating the Armenian massacres. Edouard Galic in Unmasked: Two Confidential Interviews with Hitler (1971) published two newly uncovered confidential interviews which Hitler gave in June 1931. In his interview with Richard Beriting, the editor of the Leipziger Neuests Nachrichten, Hitler stated: "Everywhere people are awaiting a new world order.
We intend to introduce a great resettlement policy... think of the biblical deportations and the massacres of the Middle Ages... and remember the extermination of the Armenians. One eventually reaches the conclusion that masses of men are mere biological plasticine. We will not allow ourselves to be turned into niggers as the French tried to do after 1918. The Nordic blood available in England, Northern France and North America will eventually go with us to reorganize the world." Hitler allowed Beriting to take shorthand notes, which was a first for Hitler.
Ludwig Krieger, a shorthand expert at Hitler's conferences, during WWII, authenticated Beriting's interview notes.