Saturday, January 31, 2009

U.S. Congress and Adolf Hitler on the Armenians

by United States Congress
Posted: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 at 12:26 PM CT

Experts from Congressional Speeches on the Armenians

SENATOR RUDY BOSCWITZ, R-Minn. (CR-Senate, 4/25/84, p. S4852): When Hitler first proposed his final solution, he was told that the world would never permit such a mass murder. Hitler silenced his advisers by asking, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
Today, I join my colleagues in answering Hitler by pledging the truth.
SENATOR CARL LEVIN, D-Mich. (CR-Senate, 4/24/84, p. S4703): But, regrettably it was soon forgotten, not by the surviving Armenians, but by most of the rest of the world. So that when Adolf Hitler planned his invasion of Poland and the destruction of the Jewish people, he was able to scornfully state, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
SENATOR HOWARD METZENBAUM, D-Ohio (CR-Senate, 4/24/84, p. S4719): Three years ago, in a speech given here in the Capital rotunda, Elie Wiesel, Chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, made a telling point.
Professor Wiesel said: "Before the planning of the final solution Hitler asked "Who remembers the Armenians?" He was right. No one remembered them, as no one remembered the Jews. Rejected by everyone, they felt expelled from history."
CONGRESSMAN LES ASPIN, D-Wis. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2977): Two decades later, when adolf Hitler was planning the elimination of the Jewish people, he is reported to save said, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN HOWARD BERMAN, D-Calif. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p.H2982): It should be a source of concern to all of us that to this day Turkey does not acknowledge, despite eyewitness accounts, either the facts or its historical responsibility; for the line from Armenia to Auschwitz is direct. The holocaust of European Jewry has its precedence in the events of 1915 to 1922. "Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians, " Hitler told his generals on the eve of the extermination of the Jews. The horrendous events of World War II overshadowed the Armenian genocide, and it is only recently, through the peaceful efforts of the Armenian groups, that the rest of the world has once again begun to recognize the collective agony of the Armenian people.
CONGRESSMAN THOMAS BLILEY, R-Va. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2979): Mr. Speaker, I know that the actions of the Ottoman Government did not lead directly to the forced starvation of the Ukraine by Josef Stalin, the gas chambers of Auschwitz, the gruesome slaughter of the Cambodians. Idi Amin's death campaign in Uganda, and the more recent actions in Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, but I know that human nature, even a warped and infamous human nature, needs the comfort of believing that it can get away with something before it proceeds. As an example I would cite Adolf Hitler's statement concerning the final solution for the Jews of Europe when he said, "Who now remembers the Armenians?" If more proof is needed then we can all look up Idi Amin's frequent statements of his adoration for Adolf Hitler as a man who knew how to handle a problem.
CONGRESSMAN EDWARD BOLAND, D-Mass. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2975): The silence with which the community of nations greeted the decimation of the Armenian people may have emboldened those who would later perpetrate similar acts. It certainly had an effect on Adolf Hitler who while planning the extermination of millions of Jews was asked how the world would respond a program of mass murder. In reply Hitler said, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
CONGRESSWOMAN BARBARA BOXER, D-Calif. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2977): The repeated denials of these well documented crimes of the Ottoman Turkish regime call to mind the Nazi maxim that a big lie if often repeated becomes truth. Hitler himself cited the Armenians massacres as evidence that humanity cares nothing for the murder of a people.
CONGRESSMAN JIM COURTER, R-N.J (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2977): But here can be no could that this ignorance of history's darker events aids those who perpetrate them, and those who would do son in the future. It is known that Hitler cited that fact that the Armenian genocide was little known, little discussed and little remembered in his time. We can only imagine the conclusions he drew from this fact.
CONGRESSMAN MERVYN DYMALLY, D-Calif. (CR-House, 4/12/84, p. H2924): Today, historians argue about the number of Armenians actually killed. Others claim that no genocide took place at all. This is a devastating conclusion to the survivors, whether they be Americans, Lebanese, Egyptians, French or citizens of any other country..... If we deny the Armenian Genocide - a historical event that has been well documented - we echo the words of Adolph [sic] Hitler who said, "Who still talks nowadays, of the extermination of Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN EDWARD FEIGHAN, D-Ohio (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2971): But only twenty years after the fact, the century's first genocide was the "forgotten genocide." As Hitler paused on the edge of his own reign of terror, he asked "Who remembers the Armenians?" And no one had. A world blind to the lessons of history saw them repeated on a wider scale.
CONGRESSWOMAN GERALDINE FERRARO, D-N.Y.(Quoted in the Armenian Reporter, July 26, 1984, p.2.) I have dwelled on the Armenian genocide not because it is unique as a flagrant abuse of human rights, but precisely because it is not unique. The world knew about the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews ñand failed to act. Those failures spread the shame of these unspeakable crimes against humanity far beyond those directly responsible for them.
The events in Turkey in 1915 and in Germany in World War II, and in Cambodia in the 1970's, are of course not directly related. The madness and brutality of the perpetrators of each genocide had their own tragic basis.
But there is a strong tie in the world's silence in the face of each of these horrors. We can only be haunted by the words of Adolph Hitler, who said, in embarking on his "crazed attack" on the Jews. "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Now, today, years too late for the millions killed in the Nazi gas chambers and Khmer Rouge execution centers, we stand to say that we speak of the annihilation of the Armenians. And of the Jews, and of the Cambodians. We stand to remind the world of these crimes against humanity, that we may prevent future crimes.
CONGRESSMAN HAMILTON FISH, R-N.Y. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2982): In speaking of the consequences of the Jewish Holocaust, Adolf Hitler once remarked: "Who remembers the Armenians?" Indeed it is our responsibility to do just that; remember that which we would rather choose to forget.
CONGRESSMAN WILLIAM FORD, D-Mich (CR_House, 4/24/84, p. H2981): Even Adolf Hitler used past events to shape his own policies. In 1939 as he was beginning his invasion of Poland, Hitler ordered the mass extermination of its inhabitants, commenting, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Humanity's failure to remember the genocide of an entire people scarcely 25 years earlier gave Hitler the go ahead to exterminate millions of innocent people.
CONGRESSMAN SAM GEJDENSON, D-Conn. (CR-House, 4/25/84, p. E1766): In the now infamous quote, Adolf Hitler, before beginning his Holocaust against the Jews, referred to international indifference in the face of the Armenian genocide, "Who," he asked, "remembers the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN WILLIAM GREEN, R-N.Y. (CR-House, 4/2/84, p. H2972): When Hitler was about to begin the Holocaust and a member of his staff asked him what the world would think, Hitler is reported to have replied, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN RICHARD LEHMAN, D-Calif. (CR-House, 4/12/84, p.H2793): Questioned by an aide about his policy of Jewish genocide, Hitler said: "Who after all now remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN BRUCE MORRISON, Conn. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2979): Adolf Hitler took advantage of the world's amnesia, looking at the Armenian genocide as a precedent for his own Holocaust perpetrated against Europe's Jews. Hitler said, in a chilling remark made in 1939. "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN NICHOLAS MAVROULES, D-Mass. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2979): Sadly, however, the Armenian genocide would be surpassed by the Nazi holocaust in the 1930's and 1940's. Adolf Hitler, in an attempt to explain away his maniacal slaughter, would ask with a laugh: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
CONGRESSMAN CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2976): It is of paramount importance that we do not let this tragedy be forgotten with the passage of time. This act of inhumanity, based on religious and nationalistic grounds, was as terrible as any manmade catastrophe to that time yet only two decades later Hitler could ask, "Who remembers the Armenians?" Perhaps if the world had paid more attention to the plight of the Armenian massacre later tragedies could have been averted.
CONGRESSMAN JAMES SHANNON, D-Mass. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2973): This act of wholesale annihilation set the stage for Hitler's attempted extermination of the Jewish people. He justified his plan to doubting coconspirators with the reasoning that no one remembered the Armenian genocide which had taken pace only 15 years earlier.
CONGRESSMAN HENRY WAXMAN, D-Caliph. (CR-House, 4/24/84, p. H2981): This day server to remind us that this first genocide of our century served as a precedent for the holocaust of World War II when more than 6 million people were destroyed by a government leader who responded: "Whoever cared about the Armenians?" When it was suggested that world opinion would not allow the Nazis to get away with their attempt to eliminate the Jewish people.
APPENDIX II: Excerpts from the Lochner Version of the August 22, 1939, Obersalzberg Speech Dealing with the Planned Invasion of Poland Lochner, 1942, p.2: Our strength consists of our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter ñ with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It's matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me.
I have issued the command ñI'll have anybody who utter one word of criticism executed by a firing squad - that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy.
Accordingly, I have placed my death head formations in readiness ñ for the present only in the East ñ with orders to them do send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space [lebensraum] which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?
NCA, Volume VII, p. 753: Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality. Ghenghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees only in him a great state builder. What weak Western European civilization thinks about me does not matter.
I have given the order, and will have everyone shot who utters one word of criticism that the aim of the war is not to attain certain lines, but consist in the physical destruction of the opponent. Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my "Death's Head units" with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?
The Times, November 24, 1945, p. 4: Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality. Ghengis Khan had millions of women killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees in him only a great State-builder. What the weak European civilization thinks about me does not matter.
I have given the order, and will have everyone shot who utters one word of criticism...
Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my Death's Head units, with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?
APPENDIX III: Excerpts from the Nuremberg Versions of the August 22, 1939, Obersalzberg Speech Dealing with the Planned Invasion of Poland Us-30 [1014-PS]
TMWC, Vol. II, pp. 290-291NCA, Vol. III, pp. 665-666DGFP, Vol. VII, pp. 205-206
Destruction of Poland in the foreground. The aim is elimination of living forces, not the arrival at a certain line: Even if war should break out in the West, the destruction of Poland shall be the primary objective. Quick decision because of the season.
I shall give a propagandistic cause for starting the war ñ never mind whether it bi plausible or not. The victor shall not be asked, later on, whether we told the truth or not. In starting and making a war, not be Right is what matters but Victory.
Have no pity. Brutal attitude. 80 million people shall get what is their right. Their existence has to be secured. The strongest has the right. Greatest severity.
Quick decision necessary. Un shakable faith in German soldier. A crisis may happen only if the nerves of the leaders give way.
First aim: advance to the Vistula and Narew. Our technical superiority will break the nerve of the Poles. Every newly created Polish force shall again be broken at once. Constant war of attrition.
New German frontier according to healthily principles. Possibly a protectorate as a buffer. Military operations shall not be influenced by these reflections. Complete destruction of Poland is a military aim. To be fast is the main thing. Pursuit until complete elimination.
Boehm, August 22, 1939 TMWC, Vol. XLI, p.25: The goal is the elimination and destruction of Poland's military power even if war should begin in the west. A swift, successful outcome in the east offers the best prospects for restricting the conflict.
A suitable propaganda cause will be advanced for the conflict. The credibility of this is unimportant. Right lies with the victor.
We must shut and harden our hearts. To whomever ponders the world order it is clear that what is important are the war ñlike accomplishments of the best....
We can and must believe in the value of the German soldier. In times of crisis he has generally retained his nerve, while the leadership has lost theirs....
Once again: the first priority is the swiftness of the operations. To adapt to each new situation to shatter the hostile forces, wherever they appear and to the last one.
This is the military goal which is the prerequisite for the narrower political foal of later drawing up new frontiers.
Halder, August 22, 1939, DGFP, Vol. VII, p. 559: Aim: Annihilation of Poland ñ elimination of its vital forces. It is not a matter of gaining a specific line or new frontier, but rather the annihilation of an enemy, which constantly must be attempted by new always.
Solution: Means immaterial. The victor is never called on to vindicate his actions. We are not concerned with having justice on our side, but solely with having justice on our side, but solely with victory.
Execution: Harsh and remorseless. Be steeled against all signs of compassion!
Speed: Faith in the German soldier, even if reverses occur.
Of paramount importance are the wedges [which must be driven] from the southeast to the Vistula, and from the north to the Narev and the Vistula.
Promptness in meeting new situations; new means must be devised to deal with them quickly.
New Frontiers: New Reich territory. Outlying protectorate territory. Military operations must not be affected by regard for the future frontiers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Israel, Turkey and the politics of genocide

Globe and Mail online
January 23, 2009 at 1:34 PM EST

President Obama - I love saying those words - has momentarily united the world. Almost. Among the exceptions, though barely noticed by the mainstream media, is the estrangement of Turkey and Israel, previously staunch allies in the turbulent Middle East.
At first blush, this alliance may seem counterintuitive, but in fact it makes good strategic sense for both countries. Israel gets a warm working relationship with one of the largest Muslim countries in the world, while enriching Israel's all-important industrial-military complex. Less than two months ago, for instance, came the news of a deal worth $140-million to Israeli firms to upgrade Turkey's air force. In the hard-boiled, realpolitik terms that determine Israel's strategies, it's a no-brainer. Almost.

In return, Turkey gets military, economic and diplomatic benefits. But it also gets something less tangible, something that matters deeply for reasons hard for outsiders to grasp. As part of the Faustian bargain between the two countries, a succession of Israeli governments of all stripes has adamantly refused to recognize that in 1915 the Turkish government was responsible for launching a genocide against its Armenian minority. Some 1.5-million Armenian women, men and children were successfully killed.

I should make clear that this Israeli position is not held casually. On the contrary. Over the years Israelis, with a few notably courageous exceptions, have actually worked against attempts to safeguard the memory of the Armenian genocide. (The bible on this issue is the excellent book by an Israeli, Yair Auron, called The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide, 2003.)
For many, this may well be a pretty esoteric sidebar to the world's many crises. But readers need to understand that every Turkish government for almost a century now has passionately denied that a genocide took place at all. Yet the vast majority of disinterested scholars of genocide have publicly affirmed that it was indeed a genocide, one of the small number in the 20th century (with the Holocaust and Rwanda) that have incontestably met the definition set down in the UN's 1948 Genocide Convention.
For Armenians in the Western world, even after 94 years, nothing is more important than persuading other governments to recognize this. For Turkish authorities, even after 94 years, nothing is more important than preventing that recognition. In that pursuit, Israel has been perhaps Turkey's most powerful ally. After all, if the keepers of the memory of the Holocaust don't acknowledge 1915, why should anyone else?
But the Israeli-Turkish bargain goes well beyond Israel. Not only is Israel, of all the unlikely states in the world, a genocide denier, but also many established Jewish organizations in other countries, especially the United States, have followed suit. In the United States, those who argue that denying the Holocaust is psychologically tantamount to a second holocaust have taken the lead in pressuring presidents and Congress against recognizing the reality of 1915. Resolutions calling for recognition are regularly pushed by American-Armenians and their many supporters. Jewish groups regularly lead the opposition. Some believe that members of these groups in fact understand perfectly well the rights and wrongs of the case. But a mindset that backs any and all Israeli government initiatives trumps all else. And successfully. Repeated attempts in Congress to pass this resolution has failed, even though the list of nations that now recognizes the Armenian genocide has grown steadily and, thanks to Stephen Harper, now includes Canada.
It is this rather unseemly, if not unholy, Israeli-Turkish deal that has been among the many victims of the latest Israeli attack on Gaza. Whether the Israelis anticipated it or not, the Turkish government turned against its erstwhile ally with a vengeance, pulling few punches. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan accused Israel of "perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction. Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents." Mr. Erdogan described Israel's attack on Gaza as "savagery" and a "crime against humanity."
Israel formally described this language as "unacceptable" and certain Israeli media outlets have raised the stakes. The Jerusalem Post editorialized that given Turkey's record of killing tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, "we're not convinced that Turkey has earned the right to lecture Israelis about human rights." Israel's deputy foreign minister was even more pointed: "Erdogan says that genocide is taking place in Gaza. We [Israel] will then recognize the Armenian-related events as genocide." Suddenly, genocide turns into a geopolitical pawn.
It isn't easy to choose a winner in the cynicism stakes here. Here's what one Turkish columnist, Barcin Yinanc, shrewdly wrote: "When April comes, I can imagine the [Turkish] government instructing its Ambassador to Israel to mobilize the Israeli government to stop the Armenian initiatives in the U.S. Congress. I can hear some Israelis telling the Turkish Ambassador to go talk to Hamas to lobby the Congress."
I'm guessing some readers work on the naïve assumption that an event is deemed genocidal based on the facts of the case. Silly you. In the real world, you call it genocide if it bolsters your interests. If it doesn't, it's not. It's actually the same story as with preventing genocide.
What happens now? Candidate Obama twice pledged that he would recognize the Armenian claim of genocide. But so had candidate George W. Bush eight years earlier, until he was elected and faced the Turkish/Jewish lobby. Armenian-Americans and their backers are already pressing Mr. Obama to fulfill his pledge. With the Turkish-Israeli alliance deeply strained, the position of the leading Jewish organizations is very much in question this time. Whatever the outcome, be sure that politics, not genocide, will be the decisive factor.

Gerald Caplan, author of The Betrayal of Africa, writes frequently on issues related to genocide.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Turkey Confronts a Disputed Period in Its HistoryA group of Turkish intellectuals have taken a bold step to open a public debate on the disputed events of 1915, when the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were forced to relocate, leading to the death of scores of people and the beginning of what the Armenians claim was genocide. Turkey officially denies claims of genocide and maintains that both peoples suffered from interethnic conflicts. The group led by leading academics, writers, and journalists, who are known for their critical position on the official Turkish thesis, has initiated a campaign inviting the Turkish people to sign a petition to apologize for the suffering of the Ottoman Armenians.Having first collected signatures from other intellectuals, the initiators of the campaign, including Baskin Oran, Ahmet Insel, Ali Bayramoglu, and Cengiz Aktar, started to solicit signatures from Turkish citizens on the internet on December 15 ( The website is named “Ozur Diliyoruz” (we apologize). The short and precise petition offers a personal apology yet falls short of demanding the Turkish state to do likewise. The text reads as follows:
My conscience does not accept the insensitivity toward and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice; and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers and sisters. I apologize to them (
The text calls on the Turkish people to confront a controversial episode in their history. The organizers say the signatures are a demonstration of the reaction of individual to their historical responsibility. In their view, many Turks’ knowledge of the deportation of Armenians is based on hearsay, and there is an urgent need to offer people an objective account of the events. Although official history presents these events as mutual massacres, according to the organizers, the reality is much different. They believe that Turkish citizens have a right to learn history outside the official theses, and this campaign might be a step in that direction (Vatan, December 4).Despite the organizers’ optimism, the campaign has already led to divisions in Turkish society. As soon as the news about the petition drive came out, nationalist forces, the staunchest supporters of the official theses, reacted vehemently against the organizers, as reflected in nationalist daily Yeni Cag’s headline: “Ermeni Agziyla Kampanya” (A Campaign Mimicking Armenians) (Yeni Cag, December 5). Nationalist critics questioned the sincerity of the organizers, charging them with being on the verge of hysteria. In a stark response to the organizers’ call for reevaluating the official Turkish stand on the deportation, nationalists maintained that the organizers lacked a basic knowledge of the actual course of history. For the nationalists, the real victims of the 1915 events were the Ottoman Turks. “Every house has memories of people butchered by Armenians. I regard apologizing to the Armenians as an insult to the Turkish nation. People who call themselves intellectuals have not even been enlightened about their own history,” said Zeki Ertugay, a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy from Erzurum (Today’s Zaman, December 6).The MHP leader Devlet Bahceli was outraged by the campaign and issued a written statement. For him, there was no one to whom the Turks should apologize. “The dirty campaign” was “humiliating,” he said, and reflected the extent of “degeneration and decay” being imposed on Turkish society by so-called intellectuals working as collaborators of outside powers. Bahceli blamed the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for creating a fertile environment for this situation. He lambasted the AKP’s recent openings to Armenia, because they compromised national priorities and created inside Turkey a pro-Armenian front that worked to undermine Turkish historical heritage (, December 7;, December 16).Another response to the petition campaign came from a group of retired Turkish envoys who issued a counter-declaration on December 15. Around 50 diplomats, including former undersecretaries of the Turkish Foreign Ministry Sukru Elekdag, Korkmaz Haktanir, and Onur Oymen, maintained that the apology initiative was “unjust, wrong, and damaging to [Turkey’s] national interests.” Their declaration read:
Such a false and one-sided initiative is tantamount to disrespecting our history and betraying our citizens who lost their lives due to the violence perpetrated by terror organizations during the last days of the Ottoman Empire [and] into the Republican era. Although the Armenian relocation, which took place under wartime conditions, resulted in tragic outcomes, the loss and suffering of the Turkish people due to Armenian rebellions and terror attacks were no less than those of Armenians (ANKA, December 12).
The retired diplomats noted that a rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia could not be achieved by such one-sided “compromises,” but what was needed was mutual recognition of each other’s borders and suffering. They went on to challenge the organizers of the petition campaign: “Will there be an apology for the victims of Armenian terror?” Since the Turkish diplomatic corps lost some of its members to terrorism by the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), the envoys’ sensitivity to this issue can be better understood.Although the apology initiative seeks to break taboos, the reactions so far indicate that it might actually re-ignite the controversy and deepen the preexisting divisions. Instead of conversing across the aisle, the parties prefer so far to fortify their dug-in positions on the 1915 events and continue to furnish contrasting “factual” accounts about what took place during that period
—Saban Kardas

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Intellectuals Launch A Campaign To Apologize Armenians

Some intellectuals and academicians are getting ready to launch a campaign to apologize Armenians for the denial of the “Great Catastrophe” they were subjected to in 1915.

“My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the ‘Great Catastrophe’ that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers, I apologize them.”
This is the text of the campaign that was introduced by Journalist Ali Bayramoğlu, professors Baskın Oran and Ahmet İnsel and Dr. Cengiz Aktar, with the support of some the other academicians. The text will be opened for signature in the internet for one year, starting on the new years day.
“It has been almost hundred years, and it has not been discussed openly”
Aktar told Tülay Şubatlı of daily Vatan why they were apologizing:
“We are apologizing for not being able to discuss, not talk openly about this topic for such a long time, nearly one hundred years.”
“This is a voice coming from individual’s conscience”
Aktar described the purpose of the campaign as such:
“What happened to the Armenians is not well-known; people are forced to forget it, and the subject is highly provocative. The Turks have heard this mostly from their elders, their grandfathers. But, the subject has not become an objective historical narrative. Therefore, today many people in Turkey, with all the good intentions, think that nothing happened to the Armenians .”
“The official history has been saying that this incident happened through secondary, not very important, and even mutual massacres; they push the idea that it was an ordinary incident explainable by the conditions of the First World War. However, unfortunately, the facts are very different. Perhaps there is only one fact and it is that the Kurds and Turks are still here, but the Armenians are not. The subject of this campaign is the individuals. This is a voice coming from the individual’s conscience. Those who want to apologize can apologize, and those who do not should not.” (TK/TB)

Bia news center - İstanbul

05 December 2008, Friday

Eternal Damnation of the Spotless Mind

Bernard-Henri Levy,
The New Republic
Published: January 13, 2009

I write this in remembrance of the renowned Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, murdered two years ago, on Jan. 19, 2007, for his comments on the slaughter of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces during WWI ... in horror that the police officers guarding the 17-year-old murder suspect, Ogun Samast, saw fit to take a video in which he proudly held the Turkish flag as they recorded their brief association with him for posterity ... in solidarity with the brave group of 200 Turkish writers and intellectuals who recently signed an online petition apologizing for the massacre, risking their freedom to keep pressure on the Turkish government.
Outrages like Dink's murder will continue. They will continue as long as Turkey, fearing the loss of prestige and alarmed by the possibility that it will be obliged to pay reparations to survivors and their descendants, continues to deny that the Armenian genocide took place. This struggle will continue as long as there are no laws in place penalizing genocide denial -- and these laws are needed not only in Turkey, but around the world.
Critics may say, "It is not for the law to write history." That is absurd. History has been written a hundred times over. The facts have been established, and new laws will protect them from being altered.
In 1929, the British statesman and author Winston Churchill wrote that the Armenians were victims of genocide, an organized enterprise of systematic annihilation. The Turks themselves have admitted it. In 1918, in the aftermath of WWI, Mustafa Kemal -- soon to be granted the honorific "Ataturk" -- recognized the massacres perpetrated by the Young Turk government.
The laws already in place in many countries regarding Holocaust denial do not touch historians -- for them the question of whether the slaughter of the Jews was or was not genocide is no longer at issue. What is at stake is preventing the erasure of such crimes from our society's memory.
Take France's Gayssot law, which criminalized the denial of crimes against humanity, and which as yet has been applied only to denial of the Jewish Holocaust. This is a law that reins in the fringe and extremist politicians who engage in lightly cloaked anti-Semitism and who may be tempted to advocate Holocaust denial. This is a law that prevents masquerades like that of historian David Irving's trial in London in 2000.
Irving brought a libel case against Deborah Lipstadt, author of "Denying the Holocaust," who had labeled him a spokesman for Holocaust deniers. Though the judge ruled in notably strong language that Irving was indeed a Holocaust denier, in the absence of laws penalizing this offense, Irving walked free. Meanwhile, the tabloid journalists and talking heads muddied the issues and ultimately drew more attention to Irving's work, which may well have been his intention all along.
Critics will say, "Where will the law stop?" since technically we could also extend this law to include the denial of the crimes that took place during the colonial era, the publication of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, even the sin of blasphemy. Must we forbid the expression of opinions that do not mirror our own? This is a trap, for two reasons.
First, the law would be focused specifically on genocide, a large-scale criminal enterprise in which, as Hannah Arendt said, someone gets to decide who has the right and who does not to inhabit this earth. Second, the deniers don't just have conflicting or nonconformist opinions. They categorically deny that this horrific crime took place at all.
The logic and pattern of the crime of genocide was clarified and refined over the 20th century, with the massacre of Armenians as a seminal event. Hitler was impressed, nay, inspired by the scope of the Armenian genocide. In August 1939, days before he invaded Poland, he said to his generals, "Who still talks nowadays about the extermination of the Armenians?"
It was a genocidal test firing. It was the basis for the Allies' use of the phrase "crimes against humanity" in their May 24, 1915 statement regarding the massacre of Armenians "with the connivance and help of the Ottoman authorities." It was a reference for the Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin -- who coined the term "genocide" and is responsible for developing our understanding of this crime -- when he was incorporating the definition of "genocide" into the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
I have spent some time perusing the Armenian genocide deniers' literature, which is remarkably similar to the literature on the destruction of the Jews. The same arguments minimizing the number of deaths ("sure, there were some, but not as many as they say") and the same reversing of roles -- just as Holocaust deniers render the Jews responsible for the war and their own martyrdom, their Turkish counterparts claim the Armenians betrayed the Ottomans by allying with the Russians, thus sealing their own fate.
Some may ask, "Can't the truth defend itself?" No, I am afraid not. Consider that in 1942, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, ordered the formation of Sonderkommando 1005, whose mission it was to dig up the dead, to burn their bodies and dispose of the ashes. In one of his memoirs of the camps, Primo Levi recalled that the SS militiamen enjoyed admonishing their prisoners that when the war was over, there would not be a single Jew left to testify and if by chance one did survive, they would do whatever was necessary to make sure his testimony would not be believed.
A similar logic drives those who proclaim to Armenians, "No, your brothers and sisters are not dead. Your parents, grandparents and great-great-grandparents are not dead, as you're so foolishly claiming." Such statements betray the absolute, insane hatred they harbor, against which factual evidence and debate are useless and the truth is impotent.
Laws prohibiting Holocaust denial are expressions of the fact that genocide, a perfect crime, leaves no traces. In fact, the obliteration of those traces is genocide's final phase. Holocaust deniers are not merely expressing an opinion; they are perpetrating a crime.
Bernard-Henri Levy's new book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against The New Barbarism, was published in September by Random House. This article was translated from the French by Sara Sugihara.