The Armenian Genocide: Debates in France, Israel and Germany

The number of deaths resulting from the Turkish massacres and deportations of Armenians in 1915 and 1916 is estimated to amount to between 1 and 1.5 million victims. The Turks deny that there was any intention to exterminate Armenians and insist that the massacres and deportation were the consequences of war. The world disagrees and calls them genocide.

France has outlawed any denial, a move Turkey denounced as playing politics and claimed was “based on racism.” Talks are continuing.

In Israel, the matter came up in the Knesset last week. Responding to a request by the government to postpone a debate in view of Israel’s fragile relationship to Turkey, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said, “We are calling on the nations of the world not to deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, and we, as Jews and human beings, have no moral right not to do the same [in relation] to another nation. We are not talking about a political matter, but a moral matter of paramount importance.”

The debate did take place.

In Germany, this has been a contentious subject for some time, not least because of the large Turkish population in the country. The main reason, however, is that the German government has been accused of having been complicit. There was a close relationship between the German and Turkish military establishments at the time, and a number of German observers, appalled at what they witnessed, demanded Berlin’s intervention. This was rejected on the grounds that this was not the time to antagonize the Turkish government. Its help was urgently needed for the campaign against Russia.

In this connection, if you have a taste for irony, a story by Khatchig Mouradian deserves attention (source: ZNET).

“Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter was the vice-consul of Erzerum and an officer in the Bavarian army. He had been sent out to eastern Anatolia to organize Muslim guerrillas behind the Russian lines, much like the way some people have argued the Russians were organizing Armenians. However, when he got there, the consul of Erzerum had just been captured by the Russians, and so Scheubner-Richter was made the vice-consul in his place.

“This man constantly protested the treatment of the Armenians to his government. He was also extremely bold in protesting it to the Ottoman government. He got reprimanded by his own government for being too undiplomatic towards the Turks. He took out of his own money to feed some Armenian refugees going through Erzerum. At this stage, he is a true hero.

“After the war, he became a Nazi and in 1923 was shot down in Munich, marching next to Hitler in the Beer Hall Putsch. He was at that time Hitler’s main right-hand man for the party’s finances. Hitler refers to him in letters from the period as Germany’s delegate. He served as the liaison between the early Nazi movement, the military interests, and the business interests.”

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4 responses to “The Armenian Genocide: Debates in France, Israel and Germany

  1. sweet irony.
    sad but true.

  2. Hitler may have manifested anti-semitism at least as early as 1919, well before the Beer Hall putsch. At some point, when told his antisemitism could be to his political detriment, Hitler is reputed to have said “Who remembers the Armenians?”

    When does one call mass murder genocide? Turkish massacres of Armenians occurred even in the late 19th century.

    • Before 1919, Hitler manifested “normal” anti-Semitism. You get good marks for remembering the memorable quote about the Armenians. Also for remembering earlier Turkish atronicities. The U.N. definition of genoide requires “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”

  3. Michael Gundy

    Luigi Barzini, as a journalist of the Corriere della Sera, in 1907 accompanied Prince Scipione Borghese in the famous Peking to Paris motor race, winning it after a journey of two months in an Itala car across China and Siberia. In his book about the event, he recalls passing through Turkey and the wonder of the locals. A minor functionary remarked, “We haven’t had this much fun since the slaughter of the Armenians”.