The Jerusalem Post recently published a wonderful and insightful editorial titled Israel should recognize the Armenian Genocide. The piece illustrates how denial of the Armenian slaughter during the Ottoman Empire emboldened Hitler to orchestrate a future genocide:

Denial allows this evil to fester, like a wound that remains untreated.

Hitler and the Nazi regime looked to Turkey’s festering moral wound for inspiration for their own genocide.

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As Stefan Ihrig points out in his book Ataturk in the Nazi Imagination, “The Nazis had grown up with both the rise of the New Turkey and the Armenian Genocide and they had not forgotten either…. Nazis saw the New Turkey as vibrant and hypermodern because it was following its Fuhrer unquestionably and because it had ‘solved’ the ‘minority problem.’”


As the editorial correctly points out, the Nazis looked at the world’s reaction to the Armenian genocide and learned a dark and frightening reality about global politics. Since nobody held the Ottoman Empire (or the subsequent regime in Turkey) accountable for its crimes against humanity, the Third Reich believed it could implement the Holocaust without long term repercussions.
         
         After all, as Hitler once stated, who spoke about the murder of Armenians?


The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum cites Adolf Hitler’s infamous statement, given during a 1939 speech:

Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness—for the present only in the East—with orders to them to 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?

Imagine, however, if Hitler had concerned himself with the consequences of building Auschwitz, or sending Einsatzgruppen throughout occupied lands to murder innocent men, women and children. If “the annihilation of the Armenians,” as cited by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, had been spoken about throughout Europe and the world before 1933, then would the Nazis have been able to carry out the gruesome task of shipping families by cattle car to death camps? After all, cattle cars were first used to ship Armenians to death, decades before the Nazis rose to power. 

          The phrase “Never Again” has unfortunately failed to prevent numerous other genocides, from Cambodia to Rwanda and Darfur. In addition to the U.S. and Israel’s decision not to use the word “genocide” in relation to the murder of one and a half million Armenians, the world even has a sitting head of state wanted for genocide, without mass protest from world leaders. Responsible for the deaths of over 300,000 human beings, Sudanese President Omar-al Bashir is currently wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court:

Three years after the Security Council requested him to investigate in Darfur, and based on the evidence collected, the Prosecutor has concluded there are reasonable grounds to believe that Omar Hassan Ahmad AL BASHIR bears criminal responsibility in relation to 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Prosecution evidence shows that Al Bashir masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups, on account of their ethnicity. 

 

Despite President Bush labeling the killings in Sudan as genocide, and despite the fact Al Bashir is wanted by the ICC for genocide, countries like China still make oil deals with the Sudanese leader. The world has not demanded that Al Bashir stand trial for his crimes against humanity, primarily because national interest takes precedent over preventing genocide.

          It should be noted as well that President Bush called the massacres in Sudan genocide, but the murder of even more Armenians under the Ottoman Empire still hasn't been officially labeled "genocide" by a U.S. President. 


          Therefore, is the phrase “Never Again” simply a way for us to cope with the magnitude of the Holocaust, or does the world truly mean that genocides must never be condoned or forgotten?

          Sadly, both Israel and the U.S. have placed politics over cherished values and ignored the man who actually coined the word “genocide.” Dr. Raphael Lemkin is not only on television in a legendary CBS interview stating verbatim “first it happened to the Armenians,” but a New York Times article documents his correlation of the Armenians to Hitler’s actions against Jews:

Even after World War II, the fate of Turkey's Armenian population was high on the list of crimes against humanity. The film includes a clip from a 1949 CBS interview with Raphael Lemkin, a law professor who in 1943 coined the term genocide. "I became interested in genocide because it happened so many times," he tells the CBS commentator Quincy Howe. "First to the Armenians, then after the Armenians, Hitler took action."

Therefore, how much more resolute could Dr. Lemkin have been regarding the word used to describe the Armenian slaughter? At a young age, Lemkin researched the Armenian experience during the Ottoman Empire, created a word to describe this atrocity, and linked it to the Holocaust in 1943. The Polish Jew and Yale professor also stated the Armenians faced genocide in a 1948 United Nations lecture, as well as throughout his life on various other occasions.

          The murder of one and a half million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during WWI was not a “massacre” and far more than a “tragedy” or “atrocity.” Dr. Raphael Lemkin was very clear in his belief that the Armenians experienced “genocide.” Lemkin invented the word, so when Turkey’s President Erdogen condemns Pope Francis for rightfully calling it genocide, the Turkish leader also makes a statement about Holocaust Remembrance Day.

          Whenever anyone denies the existence of the Armenian genocide by using semantics as a means of denial, they ignore its relevance to the Holocaust. The memory of the six million Jews, which includes one and a half million Jewish children, is linked to Hitler’s warped viewpoint of the Armenian genocide. When a madman utters the phrase, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” it’s clear that he intended to repeat history.

          Israel, America, and the rest of the world should join members of the U.S. Congress, historians, and the over 20 nations on the planet and formally recognize the Armenian genocide. Like Chinese oil interests in Sudan, or U.S. military ties with Turkey, or Israel’s diplomatic relationship with Turkey, the world can’t allow genocide to come second to strategic interests. We must all honor Holocaust Remembrance Day with one simple act that Dr. Lemkin would have wanted if he were alive: official recognition of the Armenian genocide.

          Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who invented the word “genocide” would have wanted everyone not only to remember the Holocaust, but also display the moral courage of formally recognizing of the Armenian genocide. 


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

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