share

 Home | News | Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocide News

Tehlirian’s Specter Returns: Germany’s Lower House Artfully Acknowledges and Regrets Armenian Genocide

by Ludér Tavit Sahagian — Massachusetts, USA. June 17, 2016.
The Massachusetts-based author specializes in international relations and diplomacy.

Posted: Monday, June 20, 2016 at 08:07 PM UT


Armenians, Assyrians and Greek activists in Berlin Germany, June 15, 2016.
Armenians, Assyrians and Greek activists in Berlin Germany, June 15, 2016.

Armenians, Assyrians and Greek activists in Berlin Germany, June 15, 2016.

Armenians, Assyrians and Greek activists in Berlin Germany, June 15, 2016.

Armenians, Assyrians and Greek activists in Berlin Germany, June 15, 2016.

Armenians, Assyrians and Greek activists in Berlin Germany, June 15, 2016.

Armenians, Assyrians and Greek activists in Berlin Germany, June 15, 2016.

Following 101 years of dithering and nearly two decades of intense German civil society advocacy and petitioning, Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag, finally joined the national parliaments of nearly thirty countries on June 2, 2016 by acknowledging the veracity of the (ongoing) Armenian Genocide and regretting the German Kaiser Reich’s complicit role in the Genocide.

Over a hundred German-Armenian community members and other truth-and-justice seekers had gathered to welcome the landmark decision of German lawmakers both outdoors under the late spring sun and inside the parliamentary chamber. Turkey impulsively recalled its ambassador to Germany in protest and has threatened Germany with an “action plan” against it.

The symbolic resolution entitled “Remembrance and Commemoration of the Genocide of Armenians and Other Christian Minorities in the Years 1915 and 1916” passed overwhelmingly, with one dissenting vote and one abstention via an open ballot in a nearly half-attended quorum.

The unified text, agreed upon by the parliamentary factions of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union, Social Democratic Party and Green Party, is built on a series of premises, followed by policy prescriptions for the federal government and a justification statement.

It is a significant upgrade over the Bundestag’s June 2005 resolution entitled “Remembrance and Commemoration of the Expulsions and Massacres of Armenians in 1915.”

The Bundestag vote was preceded by consecutive passionate speeches by German parliamentarians urging their colleagues not to be cowed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s admonitions of harm to Berlin-Ankara relations and to vote in favor of the motion. Expensive “Say the Truth” advertisements with Forget-Me-Not flowers representing the Armenian Genocide’s Centennial were placed in top national newspapers in the days leading up the vote. Several conscientious letters were also sent in by leading German grassroots activists, academicians and church heads in conditional support for the pending resolution.

Additionally, two widely-promoted, but poorly-attended counter-protests organized by local and regional Turks were held in front of Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s central and most-visited location, waving Turkish and Azeri flags and spreading genocide denial over the microphone. Their main mottos were “Parliaments Are Not Courts of Law,” “The Bundestag is Not a Tribunal” and “The Bundestag is Not Competent [to Deal with Such Matters].” Per police estimates, no more than 1,500 out of approximately 3-3.5 million German Turks, with “special guests” including fervent denier Dogu Perincek, who had flown in from Turkey for a day, attended each of the controversially-permitted actions.

Immediately following the vote, the “Recognition Now” civil society initiative held an hour-long commemorative vigil in front of Brandenburg Gate with representatives of all communities which have suffered genocide in the former Ottoman space, who alongside their worldwide compatriots expressed appreciation for the resolution’s passing. Ruling Turkish politicians and some right-wing Turkish newspapers issued slanderous words and threats of prosecution, loss of Turkish citizenship and direct physical harm to the eleven principled German MPs of Turkic extraction who had voted for the human rights measure following years of silence, hesitation or opposition to doing so. This unfortunate targeted vilification could have been partially avoided had the measure been prudently promoted mainly by ethnic German MPs representing all four parties in the Bundestag, instead of by German-Turkic MPs like Cem Özdemir of the Green Party and Sevim Dagdelen of the Left Party, in the period leading up to the vote.

“The 2016 resolution, to be explored in detail in the following sections, has special meaning for all of humanity, considering Germany’s owning up to its past genocidal crimes and the fact that the Armenian Genocide was carried out right before the eyes of German military officers and officials, who as key allies of the Ottoman Empire directly assisted the Turks in the planning, execution and cover-up of this great crime against humanity.”

 — Ludér Tavit Sahagian

The 2016 resolution, to be explored in detail in the following sections, has special meaning for all of humanity, considering Germany’s owning up to its past genocidal crimes and the fact that the Armenian Genocide was carried out right before the eyes of German military officers and officials, who as key allies of the Ottoman Empire directly assisted the Turks in the planning, execution and cover-up of this great crime against humanity.

Humanism Up Close

The Bundestag “pays tribute to the victims of expulsion and massacres, which were committed against the Armenians and other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire…deplores the actions of the former Young Turk government, which led to an almost complete annihilation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.” Armenians’ “fate exemplifies the history of mass extermination, ethnic cleansing, expulsions and even genocides, which characterized the 20th century in such a terrible way” – taken verbatim from German President Joachim Gauck’s April 23, 2015 speech at an Armenian Genocide Centennial event in Berlin and the Bundestag debate the day after.

The Bundestag “regrets the inglorious role of the German Empire, which, as a principal ally of the Ottoman Empire, did not try to stop these crimes against humanity, despite explicit information regarding the organized expulsion and extermination of Armenians, including also from German diplomats and missionaries…The German Empire bears complicity in the events.”

Per the Bundestag, “honored” are not only victims “of the unimaginably cruel crimes,” but also all of those good Germans and Turks who defied respective government orders and “devoted themselves to the rescue” of genocide survivors.

This “commemoration of the German Bundestag is also an expression of particular respect for the probably oldest Christian nation on earth.”

The Bundestag calls for “an honest appraisal” and “constructive analysis” of history and emphasizes the importance of “fac[ing] the dark chapters” of one’s own past and for “the Turkish side to openly deal with the former expulsions and massacres.” “The commemoration of the Armenian victims of the massacres and displacement” should be seen as a means “to stay alert and to prevent that hatred and destruction threatening people and nations over and over again” and “a contribution to integration and peaceful coexistence.” “Germany sees itself in a particular responsibility in this regard” and remains committed “to contribut[ing] to a broad public discussion” on this issue as well as “supporting scientific, civic and cultural activities in Turkey and Armenia…within budgetary capacity.”

The resolution urges the continuation and intensification of “the recently started preservation of the Armenian cultural heritage” in occupied Western Armenia and Cilicia, in today’s eastern and southwestern part of Turkey, as well as “support, within budgetary possibilities, [for] German initiatives and projects in science, civil society and culture which deal with the analysis of the events of 1915/1916.”

The text’s concluding justification section delineates the “greatest and most serious catastrophe in the several thousand-year old history of the Armenian people,” stating that “numerous independent historians, parliaments and international organizations consider the expulsion and extermination of the Armenians as genocide,” whose commemoration, along with their religion and language, constitute a fundamental part of Armenian identity. It adds that “the former government of the German Empire was informed about the persecution and murder of the Armenians, but remained inactive…refrained from putting effective pressure on their Ottoman ally,” ignoring the pleas of German Protestant missionary Dr. Johannes Lepsius, among other prominent German public and private figures, through his quickly-banned and -confiscated “Report on the Situation of the Armenian People in Turkey.” It posits: “Contrary to the facts, Turkey denies to this day that the expulsion, persecution and murder of Armenians was based on systematic planning or that the mass extermination during the resettlement measures and the massacres committed were intended by the Ottoman government…A reconciliation between the two nations is only imaginable if the events that occurred 100 years ago are fundamentally clarified and the facts are no longer denied.”

The Bundestag resolution concludes with a reference to the wartime archives of the German Foreign Office. Based on the reports of German ambassadors and consuls in the Ottoman Empire, they “document the systematic execution of massacres and expulsions” and “constitute the most important government record of the events of that time.”

Atypical German Imprecision

Despite its constructive elements, the Bundestag resolution is rife with errors and deficiencies, some of which are dangerous to the advancement of the Armenian Cause and attainment of restorative justice.

First, the resolution’s title implies that the genocide victims were not majorities in their occupied homelands, but minority subjects of an empire whose human rights were greatly violated in acts of genocide that now should only be remembered and commemorated.

Shades of its 2005 resolution, the Bundestag hides mostly behind the statements and quotations of third-parties, shrouded in evasive, superfluous and denial-friendly speech, instead of issuing its own statement on the genocidal crimes using direct, precise and first-person formulations that are not subject to arbitrary interpretation. A single sentence such as “the Bundestag publicly recognizes the Armenian Genocide,” as is found in the succinct French Law of January 2001, does not exist in the resolution. There are only two explicit references to the Armenian Genocide – one each in the title and the text. The remainder of the text deals only indirectly with the Genocide.

The resolution also presents a victims’ hierarchy, placing Jews on top, followed by Armenians, Assyrians and omitted Greeks at lower levels. These genocides are equally “unique,” as cited in the resolution concerning the Jewish Holocaust, in the totality of the cataclysmic loss and pain they have inflicted on each victim group.

Furthermore, the main genocides in the former Ottoman space occurred not just during 1915-1916, the dates specified in the resolution, but lasted up until the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923 and continue to the present-day.

Related Information
 
KAISER WILLIAM II, IN THE UNIFORM OF A TURKISH FIELD MARSHAL  He remained acquiescent, refusing to intercede, while his allies, the Turks, murdered anywhere from 600,000 to 1,000,000 Armenians.  This assassination of a whole people was the worst outcome of the Prussian doctrine — that anything is justified which promotes the success of German arms.  After the massacre was over, the Kaiser decorated the Sultan, precisely as in 1898, after Abdul Hamid had just massacred 200,000 Christians, he visited that potentate and publicly embraced him.KAISER WILLIAM II, IN THE UNIFORM OF A TURKISH FIELD MARSHAL

He remained acquiescent, refusing to intercede, while his allies, the Turks, murdered anywhere from 600,000 to 1,000,000 Armenians.  This assassination of a whole people was the worst outcome of the Prussian doctrine — that anything is justified which promotes the success of German arms.  After the massacre was over, the Kaiser decorated the Sultan, precisely as in 1898, after Abdul Hamid had just massacred 200,000 Christians, he visited that potentate and publicly embraced him.”This is an official telegram sent by Henry Morgenthau Sr. on July 16, 1915 to what he describes a process of 'race extermination' in regards to what was happening to the Armenians at that time. Morgenthau served as the United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913-1916 and so this work comes from the United States State Department.

 — Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Sr.
United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, 1913-1916
 
Ambassador Morgenthau's Story (PDF, 15 MB)

The resolution regrets the actions of only the German Kaiser Reich (1871-1918) and not the political assistance and support that four German successor states have provided Turkey to this day. It also renders German complicity strictly in the manner of knowing and staying neutral, offering not one clause that implies apology, responsibility and steps toward reparations by the German state to the Armenian people for its chief accomplice role in this genocide, including benefits gained from Armenian slave labor during the construction of the Berlin-Baghdad Railway.

It also lauds that the Bundestag with all party heads had occupied itself with this genocide on April 24, 2015, while refraining to explain why the resolution was not passed on that important centennial date.

Displaying commitment to “the special historical responsibility of Germany,” the resolution stresses the need for “new impulses” to “overcoming old divisions” and “seeking paths of reconciliation and understanding” between Armenia and a Turkey that continues the crime of genocide, enjoys all the fruits of genocide, suppresses within its current borders victims and recognizers of genocide, occupies the bulk of indigenous Armenian lands annexed by genocide, and assists ally Azerbaijan to finish along Armenia’s and Artsakh’s eastern borders the act of genocide.

In open support for reviving the defeatist Armenia-Turkey Protocols of 2009, the Bundestag backs “the long overdue improvement of Turkish-Armenian relations,” “the memory and the normalization of inter-state relations,” “the resumption of diplomatic relations and the opening of the shared border,” “the commemoration and reappraisal of the expulsions and massacres of the Armenians of 1915,” “a commission for the scientific study of the historic events,” the “rapprochement, reconciliation and a forgiveness of historical guilt between Turks and Armenians” and “the stabilization of the Caucasus region.” The words “commemoration” and “reconciliation” are explicitly used nine and ten times respectively throughout the text.

The resolution’s calls for wider inclusion of the genocide “issue” in German school and out-of-school curricula, teaching materials and research initiatives dealing with the history of ethnic conflicts of the 20th century can only be welcomed if it is introduced mandatorily and part of examinations, as German public schools’ self-driven learning structure quite often emphasizes only voluntary reading and instruction. A pilot program has already been run in the federal state of Brandenburg.

The resolution frees modern Turkey of guilt for the ongoing crime of genocide. The text adds that “a distinction has to be made between the guilt of the perpetrators and the responsibility of those alive today.” There is nothing on eliminating or overcoming the consequences of this great crime, specifically on land return, reparations and concrete liability of Turkey. It is no wonder that official Ankara’s fervent reactions immediately following the vote have speedily softened.

Rejecting, upon the recommendation of the German Foreign Office, the Left Party’s petition for unconditional admittance of co-responsibility in the Genocide was another major mistake.

The resolution’s justification section repeats “expulsions” and “massacres” several times, downplaying the fact that these were all systematically-planned death marches of an unprecedented genocide.

An international law council or expert must also determine if use of the term “Völkermord” (literally “the murder of peoples” and historically a synonym for “war” and “mass murder”) carries the exact juridical meaning and implications as the term “genocide” (“Genozid” in German) per the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

Dynamic Armenian and Greek diplomacy during the resolution’s drafting may have ensured the adoption of a more valuable resolution.

Errors and deficiencies aside, the Bundestag resolution is an unforgettable testament to the German people’s cardinal respect for human rights and justice.

“Never Again” or “Yes Again”?

“Armenia-Resolution,” “Armenian-Resolution” and “Armenians-Resolution” (and very rarely “Armenian-Genocide-Resolution”) are the main headlines dominating the German-speaking media and press landscape since the resolution’s June 2nd adoption – a minimization or soft form of denial. These have been juxtaposed by generally-favorable editorials, opinions and letters by several enlightened German writers and readers, especially in Berliner Morgenpost, Bild, Der Tagesspiegel, Die Tageszeitung, Die Welt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Junge Welt, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Neues Deutschland and Süddeutsche Zeitung – all of which include one or two descriptive sentences on the Armenian Genocide. Stuttgarter Zeitung of Germany’s manufacturing hub and prominent weeklies Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, Focus and Stern, some of whose latest printed editions include not a single word on the subject or cite the “G-word” strictly in quotation marks, are among the exceptions. Owing to increasing Turkish threats against German parliamentarians of Turkic extraction, never in recent decades has the Armenian Genocide received such continuing coverage in Germany than this month.

Armenia’s country profile on the German Foreign Office’s website still denies the veracity of the Armenian Genocide, using defamatory terms like the “accusation of genocide against 1.5 million Armenians raised by Armenia” and the “massacres and deportations of 1915/1916.” German Ambassador to Armenia Matthias Kiesler’s dodging of the crucial “G-word” and talk of this world not being “black and white,” when Armenians are incontestably unacknowledged and unrequited victims of genocide, during a June 7, 2016 interview on Yerevan-based CivilNet TV, is another clear case of government denial. Additionally, unconfirmed reports state that Germany is finalizing a deal with Turkey to upgrade housing and aircraft facilities for German forces at Turkey’s Incirlik airbase – on lands forcefully seized from Armenian Genocide victims – to support airstrikes against ISIS targets. With some 280 German troops already at the base, this implies Germany’s continued complicity in the Armenian Genocide.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was controversially absent alongside the vice-chancellor, foreign minister and other senior officials on the day of the vote that she indirectly backed – also meant to reaffirm Germany’s international commitment to “Never Again.” Immediately following the vote, in an attempt to quell Turkish ebullition, she stoically presented the fact of the Armenian Genocide as “a difference of opinion on an individual matter” with Turkey, while showering words of praise on the strategic and multi-vectoral character of German-Turkish relations. There is no known evidence of her ever having used the “G-word” publicly in reference to the Armenian Genocide in her entire political career. At a recent press conference with visiting Azerbaijani President Aliyev, she reiterated her support to the formation of a commission of historians between Armenia and Turkey, which would imply starting anew all attained research and conclusions on the Genocide. Had she dared to act in a same manner regarding the Jewish Holocaust perpetrated by Germany’s predecessor state, she would certainly have been pressured to resign.

Political and legal action against acts of genocide in the timeliest, most unambiguous and justice-oriented manner is always essential. Otherwise, the message to the entire world is “Yes Again” to similar crimes against humanity.

Resolution’s Significance

The adopted Bundestag resolution, neither a law nor a binding legal statement signed and sealed by the country’s Bundesrat and President, is a legislative piece serving mostly German national interests and predicated on political gamesmanship ahead of summer recess. Since senior government officials responsible for foreign policy, trade and defense deliberately skipped the vote, the positive threads of this vote will not translate into government policy. The Green and Left Parties appear to be the main winners of this resolution process in the eyes of the German electorate.

The resolution effectively serves as a straightjacket to restrain increasingly authoritarian and aggressive Turkish leaders, especially swellhead President Erdogan, whose hysterical and baleful words of late toward European leaders have reached new, unacceptable heights. Furthermore, it is a distanced face-saving move for Chancellor Merkel following several recent grandstanding trips to Turkey and months of intensive pandering to Turkish whims to stem the refugee flow into Europe at the expense of democracy and human rights even within Germany. It is also a yellow card to Turkish citizens expecting visa-free travel in the Schengen Area and furtherance in relations between still-genocidal Turkey and the civilized EU in the near future.

The resolution is, nevertheless, a one-stop moral victory over a century of German pragmatism and a partial step forward in the noble quest for restorative justice for the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek peoples. The parliament of yet another major country – never mind the EU’s largest Turkey ally and trade partner, host of the world’s largest Turkish Diasporan community and itself responsible and apologetic for the Jewish/Roma/Sinti Holocausts, among others – can be checked off for having indirectly recognized the genocides against Armenians and other Orthodox Christians, symbolically regretted its high-level of participation in the genocides and increased global perception and denunciation of these great crimes.

Germany is no longer the missing piece on the global map in terms of parliamentary acknowledgment and remorse for the Armenian Genocide. It still remains one, however, in terms of the necessity for univocal state and government recognition and condemnation, criminalization of the Genocide’s ubiquitous denial, official permission for the erection of Armenian Genocide Memorials on central public lands nationwide, the renaming of infrastructure and removal of graves glorifying genocidaires in Germany, and the provision of long-overdue German remands to the Armenian people. The same applies in handling Germany’s genocide of Herero, Nama and other indigenous peoples in modern-day Namibia during 1904-1908.

Weight of Armenian Genocide

The massive weight of the Armenian Genocide – the longest-running and most-complete genocide in modern human history – is indeed shifting, adding fresh momentum to 101 years of sociopolitical unity, activism and scholarship by principled peoples of all backgrounds across the globe.

Thanks to the Bundestag’s and several other parliaments’ measures on the Armenian Genocide over recent years, as well as Pope Francis’ 2015 watershed reaffirmation, the denial genie is finally out of the bottle and there is no going back. Countless front-page press articles as well as primetime television and radio emissions worldwide are circulating on this pressing issue weeks in a row, sending a powerful signal to world leaders – including Australian PM Turnbull, British PM Cameron, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Georgian President Margvelashvili, Japanese PM Abe, Indian PM Modi, Iranian President Rouhani, Israeli PM Netanyahu and U.S. President Obama – that it is high time that they too follow suit in domino-like style. Turkey and Germany are slowly headed to the docks to adjudicate their co-responsibility in this great crime against humanity, unless, of course, they take higher ground to amicably settle their accountabilities outside of court. And, Armenians are slightly closer to reclaiming their Mount Ararat and reestablishing vibrant Armenian life in the golden plains of Western (Wilsonian) Armenia, abutting democratic and prosperous Armenia and Artsakh.

Righteous Soghomon Tehlirian, deeply disturbed by the sudden decimation of two-thirds of his ancient nation in just a few years, was compelled to assassinate chief genocidaire Mehmed Talaat Pasha on Hardenbergstrasse in Berlin on the morning of March 15, 1921. It was a post-war, though still-genocidal, period when Germany and the rest of the world were looking completely the other way and providing safe haven to major perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. Tehlirian testified that he could not sleep then. With a new political paradigm today emerging based more so on Wilsonian-style human rights and self-determination principles, strongly embodied by this June 2nd decision (ironically 95 years to the day of Tehlirian’s trial start and subsequent acquittal), he and many others revering his specter globally can sleep now in more complete peace.

The Massachusetts-based author specializes in international relations and diplomacy.


 
Motion by the parliamentary groups of CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union), SPD (Social Democratic Party), and BUNDNIS 90/DIE GRUNEN (The Green Party)
Motion by the parliamentary groups of CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union), SPD (Social Democratic Party), and BUNDNIS 90/DIE GRUNEN (The Green Party)

Motion by the parliamentary groups of CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union), SPD (Social Democratic Party), and BUNDNIS 90/DIE GRUNEN (The Green Party)

Remembrance and commemoration of the genocide of the Armenians and other Christian minorities in the years 1915 and 1916

The Bundestag is requested to adopt the following motion:

I. The German Bundestag notes:

The German Bundestag pays tribute to the victims of expulsion and massacres, which were committed against the Armenians and other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire and which began over a century ago. It deplores the actions of the former Young Turk government, which led to an almost complete annihilation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Members of other Christian ethnic groups, especially Aramean/Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, were affected by deportations and massacres as well.

By order of the Young Turk regime, the planned expulsion and extermination of over a million ethnic Armenians began in the Ottoman city of Constantinople on April 24, 1915. Their fate exemplifies the history of mass extermination, ethnic cleansing, expulsions, and yes, of genocides, which marked the 20th century in such a horrific way. We are aware of the uniqueness of the Holocaust, for which Germany bears guilt and responsibility.

The Bundestag regrets the inglorious role of the German Empire, which, as a principal ally of the Ottoman Empire, did not try to stop these crimes against humanity, despite explicit information regarding the organized expulsion and extermination of Armenians, including also from German diplomats and missionaries. The commemoration of the German Bundestag is also an expression of particular respect for the probably oldest Christian nation on earth.

The German Bundestag reaffirms its decision of 2005 (Printed matter 15/5689), which was dedicated to the commemoration of the victims as well as to the historical reappraisal of the events and which aimed at contributing to the reconciliation between Turks and Armenians. During the debate on the centenary commemoration day on April 24, 2015, in the German Bundestag, speakers of all parliamentary groups and in particular the Federal President, on the eve of the debate, condemned the genocide committed against the Armenians, commemorated the victims and called for reconciliation. The German Empire bears partial complicity in the events.

The Bundestag commits to the special historical responsibility of Germany. This includes supporting Turks and Armenians in overcoming old divisions and seeking paths of reconciliation and understanding. This reconciliation process has come to a halt in the past few years and urgently needs new impulses.

German Bundestag, Printed matter 18/8613 -- Translation by Abdulmesih BarAbraham & Miryam A. Abraham

With its commemoration of the unimaginably cruel crimes, the German Bundestag honors not only their victims, but also all of those in the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire, who, over 100 years ago, under difficult circumstances and against the resistance of their respective government, devoted themselves to the rescue of Armenian women, children and men.

In order to deal with the history of ethnic conflicts in the 20th century, school, university, and political education in Germany need to re-analyze the expulsion and extermination of Armenians by including the issue in curricula and teaching materials and by passing it on to future generations. The federal states play a particularly important role in this process.

The German Bundestag also considers the commemoration of the Armenian victims of the massacres and displacement, while taking into account the German role and its presentation to fellow citizens of Turkish and Armenian origin, a contribution to integration and peaceful coexistence.

The German Bundestag also welcomes the increasing number of initiatives and contributions in the field of science, civic society, art and culture in Turkey, which aim at the reappraisal of the crimes against the Armenians and the reconciliation between Armenians and Turks.

The German Bundestag encourages the Federal Government to continue to pay attention to the commemoration and reappraisal of the expulsions and massacres of the Armenians of 1915. Furthermore, the German Bundestag welcomes any initiative aimed at boosting and supporting this concern.

Germany's own historical experience shows how difficult it is for a society to face the dark chapters of its own past. However, a honest appraisal of history is the most important basis for reconciliation within a society as well as with others. A distinction has to be made between the guilt of the perpetrators and the responsibility of those alive today. The remembrance of the past also reminds us to stay alert and to prevent that hatred and destruction threaten people and nations over and over again.

The German Bundestag recognizes the attempts undertaken since 2005 by the representatives of Armenia and Turkey to come together on issues of memory and the normalization of inter-state relations. Still, the relationship between the two states is contentious and marked by mutual distrust. Germany should help Turks and Armenians to come closer to one another. A constructive analysis of history is essential for a common understanding in the present and in the future.

The easing of tensions and the normalization of relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia are also important for the stabilization of the Caucasus region. In context of the EU neighborhood policy and due to its historical role in the German-Armenian-Turkish relationships, Germany sees itself in a particular responsibility in this regard.

II. The German Bundestag calls upon the Federal Government:

  • to continue to contribute to a broad public discussion about the expulsion and almost complete annihilation of the Armenians in 1915/1916 as well as the role of the German Empire, based on the spirit of the debate of the German Bundestag on April 24, 2015 on the occasion of the centenary commemoration,

  • to encourage the Turkish side to openly deal with the former expulsions and massacres in order to establish the necessary foundation for a reconciliation with the Armenian people,

  • to continue to advocate historic reappraisal in order to achieve rapprochement, reconciliation and a forgiveness of historical guilt between Turks and Armenians,

  • to continue supporting scientific, civic and cultural activities in Turkey and in Armenia, which serve the exchange and historic revision between Turks and Armenians, and to sponsor them within budgetary capacity,

  • to actively support the reappraisal of historical events by Turkey and Armenia as a first step to reconciliation and the long overdue improvement of Turkish-Armenian relations by, for example, providing scholarships for scientists or support for civic society initiatives from both countries who are engaged in this context,

  • to encourage Turkish and Armenian government representatives to pursue the normalization of the bilateral relations between both countries,

  • to encourage the Turkish and the Armenian government to ratify the Zurich protocols signed in 2009, which stipulate a commission for the scientific study of the historic events, the resumption of diplomatic relations and the opening of the shared border, to advocate that the recently started preservation of the Armenian cultural heritage is continued and intensified in the Republic of Turkey, to continue to support, within budgetary possibilities, German initiatives and projects in science, civil society and culture which deal with the analysis of the events of 1915/1916. Berlin, May 31, 2016

Volker Kauder, Gerda Hasselfeldt and Parliamentary Group Thomas Oppermann and Parliamentary Group Goring-Eckardt, Dr. Anton Hofreiter and Parliamentary Group

Justification

The annihilation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I was the largest and most serious calamity in the several thousand-year old history of the Armenian people. According to independent estimations, over a million Armenians fell victim to deportations and mass killings. Numerous independent historians, parliaments and international organizations consider the expulsion and extermination of Armenians a genocide. The commemoration of these expulsions and massacres in addition to religion and language is therefore a central part of the identity of these people.

The German Bundestag also commemorates the events in the context of the current remembrance of World War I. The German Empire was a principal military ally of the Ottoman Empire. The former government of the German Empire was informed about the persecution and murder of the Armenians, but remained inactive. The Federal Republic of Germany considers it a responsibility to promote the reappraisal of this crime and to keep its memory alive.

Contrary to the facts, Turkey denies to this day that the expulsion, persecution and murder of Armenians was based on systematic planning or that the mass extermination during the resettlement measures and the massacres committed were intended by the Ottoman government.

Overall, the extent of the massacres and deportations is still doubted in Turkey. However, there are also opposing tendencies. In 2008, there was reason to hope for a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement when the presidents of both countries jointly attended a soccer game and thus demonstrated their willingness for further discussions. The foreign ministers of both countries signed a common protocol in 2009, which, among others, stipulated the establishment of a commission that should investigate the history in a scholarly manner. But until today, neither of the two parliaments has adopted this protocol.

A reconciliation between the two nations is only imaginable if the events that occurred 100 years ago are fundamentally clarified and the facts are not denied any longer. This requires that scholars and journalists in Turkey, who deal with the history of the expulsion and murder of Armenians, can work freely and without fear of reprisals. There are already numerous initiatives in Turkey which deal with the historic revision of the massacres. For some years, the issue has been discussed in the Turkish public in an increasingly controversial manner. These developments are to be welcomed as well as cross-border civil society projects that have been financially supported by the [German] Foreign Office for many years.

The German Empire, as principal military ally of the Ottoman Empire, was also involved in these operations. From the start, both the political and the military leadership of the German Empire was informed about the persecution and killing of Armenians. When the Protestant theologian Dr. Johannes Lepsius presented the results of the research he had carried out in Constantinople during July/August 1915 to the German Reichstag on October 5, 1915, the entire topic was placed under censorship by the German Imperial Government. His "Report on the Situation of the Armenian People in Turkey", which he had directly sent to the members of the Reichstag in 1916, was also banned and confiscated by the German military censorship and handed over to the members of the parliament only after the end of World War I in 1919. Despite urgent petitions by many German personalities from science, politics and the churches, including by politicians such as Philipp Scheidemann, Karl Liebknecht or Matthias Erzberger, and prominent public figures from the Protestant and Catholic Church, such as Adolf von Harnack and Lorenz Werthmann, the German Imperial Government refrained from putting effective pressure on their Ottoman ally.

The files of the [German] Foreign Office, which are based on reports of German ambassadors and consuls in the Ottoman Empire, also document the planned implementation of the massacres and expulsions. They constitute the most important government record of the events of that time. The [German] Foreign Office already made these files available many years ago. In 1998, a complete set of the files on Microfiche was delivered to Armenia. Turkey subsequently also acquired a set.

Translated from German by Abdulmesih BarAbraham and Miryam A. Abraham.



Armenian killings were genocide - German president

Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocide NewsArmenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocide News


Do you have any related information or suggestions? Please email them.

Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocide News