Who remembers the Armenians?’

Published in Issue 3 (May/June 2015), Letters, Volume 23

Sir,—May I congratulate you on publishing the article by Altay ¸Cengizer, ‘The road to Gallipoli—a Turkish perspective’ (HI 23.2, March/April 2015). It was a greatly informative account that provided much-needed historical context for the Gallipoli tragedy. A few years ago I had the pleasure to hear the ambassador speak at Collins Barracks and he made many of the same arguments to a greatly appreciative audience.

I would, however, like to take issue with two other points made in the same issue regarding a connected subject—that of the 1915 Armenian killings. In Sidelines, Tony Canavan writes that ‘the significance of the genocide is that when Hitler planned to exterminate the Jews he cited the Armenian case as an example of how a state could get away with mass murder’.
Firstly, it should be said that whilst it is often repeated that Hitler asked ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’ there is no valid evidence that he actually said such a thing! The London Times of 24 November 1945, in an article entitled ‘Nazi Germany’s road to war’, cites Hitler, addressing his commanders at Obersalzberg on 22 August 1939, as saying: ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ The article does not claim that Hitler is talking about exterminating the Jews but in fact about creating lebensraum [living space] for German colonisation in Poland on the eve of his assault.

There is also, however, substantial doubt about the authenticity of the document containing the quote that was presented to Louis Lochner of the Associated Press. The original document containing it (L-3) was submitted to the Nuremberg tribunal but withdrawn as evidence in accordance with Rule 10. The person who found the discarded document in the US National Archives, Carlos Porter, noted that the document was probably a forgery since the original German was incorrect in a number of grammatical ways and it had unusual vocabulary. The typewriter used was not a German one, having no capacity for accents, and suspicious spaces existed within the composition.

The Nuremberg tribunal rejected the document as evidence against the Nazis in favour of two other official versions found in confiscated German military records. Neither of these, which have detailed notes of the address, contains the Armenian reference. One is authored by Admiral Hermann Boehm, Commander of the High Seas Fleet. In addition, a third account by General Halder was used to prove consistency with the other two accounts used as evidence and this again makes no mention of the Armenians. This strongly suggests that the Armenian reference was added later by someone who wished to associate Hitler with the events of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. We know from the Roger Casement experience that forgeries are powerful weapons and that paper never refused ink!

One further thing I would like to take issue with was a sentence in your editorial, namely: ‘The Armenians . . . incited to rebellion by the Entente, and by Russia in particular, paid a terrible price and a new word gained common currency—genocide’. This, whilst true in terms of incitement, cannot be true in relation to the use of the term ‘genocide’. This word was not used until 1948, when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The word was coined by the Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin to deal particularly with the recent systematic killing engaged in by the Nazis. It did not, therefore, gain ‘common currency’ after the Great Calamity suffered by the Armenians and was never applied to this event, despite British Parliamentary Blue Books and large-scale war propaganda being issued by the secret information department of Wellington House (which came about on the
suggestion of our own T.P. O’Connor) against the Turks.

I think this is important so that history and propaganda are not blended together as they so often have been in relation to these unfortunate and catastrophic events.—Yours etc.,

Co. Antrim


Copyright © 2021 History Publications Ltd, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland | Tel. +353-1-293 3568