Hitler and the Armenians

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2015), Letters, Volume 23

Sir,—In contradiction to the letter of Dr Pat Walsh (HI 23.3, May/June 2015), it is quite plausible that Adolf Hitler did refer to the Armenians in remarks to senior officers in August 1939. While his words are not fully corroborated, there are good reasons to believe that the quotation is factually true. One of Hitler’s early comrades in the Nazi party, Max von Scheubner-Richter, was German consul in Erzerum (eastern Anatolia) during the First World War. Scheubner-Richter documented the genocide in that city for the Kaiser’s government. Hitler probably received a first-hand account of the mass murders from an important eyewitness. Scheubner-Richter was killed by police gunfire during the Beer-Hall Putsch in Munich in 1923. Walking arm in arm with his leader, he dragged Hitler to the ground and may have saved his life. Mein Kempf is dedicated to Scheubner-Richter (and the other Nazi dead). ‘Who now remembers the Armenians?’ would have been a jolting reminder to the Fuehrer’s listeners of events that happened within their lifetimes. Hitler’s memory for facts is described as ‘formidable’ by his biographer Ian Kershaw. The reference to the Armenians is exactly the sort of erudition that Hitler often used to impress his listeners. It is clear from the context that Hitler was not referring to the Jews but to the Poles. To Hitler, Poles were an inferior Slavic people whom he intended to reduce to a state of serfdom, without civil or human rights. The reference to the Armenians alongside exhortations like ‘Close your hearts to pity. Act brutally!’ (Kershaw, Hitler: Nemesis, 2000) is not only apposite but more likely than not to be factually true.—Yours etc.,

TOBY JOYCE
Navan
Co. Meath

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