What if Germany denied the Holocaust? That’s how Armenians feel

In my recent Jerusalem Post and Huffington Post articles, I explain why the U.S. and Israel should formally acknowledge a word coined by Dr. Raphael Lemkin. It’s the same word that he used to describe the slaughter of the Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. Lemkin can be seen in this 1949 CBS interview clearly stating, “I became interested in genocide because it happened so many times… It happened to the Armenians, then after the Armenians, Hitler took action.”

The man who invented the word clearly states on television, for all future generations to see, that “it happened to the Armenians.”

If anyone knew the definition of the word, it was Lemkin. After all, the word didn’t exist until he created its definition in 1943. Therefore, there’s no debate. There’s no doubt among historians that what happened to the Armenians wasn’t a mere case of “massacres” or “tragedy,” but rather a textbook case of genocide.

How do we know? In addition to the overwhelming evidence, which is cited by members of the U.S. Congress as part of their resolution to formally acknowledge murder of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, the man who invented the word is on tape stating “genocide” occurred under the Ottoman Empire.

If you disagree, then take up your grievance with Dr. Raphael Lemkin or replay his words during the CBS interview.

It happened, and as stated by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Armenian genocide emboldened Adolf Hitler to feel that he too could evade history’s wrath:

Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?

As a result, the Armenian genocide has been formally acknowledged by Pope Francis, over 20 nations including France, Canada, and Russia, the European Parliament, members of the U.S. Congress, and genocide scholars around the globe.

Furthermore, Europe is taking the lead in advocating official recognition. According to The New York Times, Turkey is being pressured by the European Parliament to acknowledge its history:

The European Parliament adopted a resolution Wednesday commemorating the centennial of the Armenian genocide and urged Turkey to recognize that event.

Turkey has pledged to disregard the European Parliament, the European Union’s legislature, which has passed similar measures twice before.

But this one was particularly likely to add fuel to the historical debate over the characterization of the genocide, which began in 1915 and took place over several years during World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. The debate gained momentum on Sunday after Pope Francis referred to the event as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”

… At least 20 countries and the Council of Europe and European Parliament have passed bills that recognize the mass killing as Armenian genocide, while countries like Switzerland and Greece have called for criminal charges against those who deny it.

The European Parliament, in addition to countries and historians around the world have no problem officially recognizing history. History is history, and while Turkey might refuse to acknowledge its historical role in the genocide preceding the Holocaust, everyone from the European Parliament to the Pope has officially recognized the Armenian genocide.

However, let’s take a moment to switch places.

Imagine for a moment that the Nuremberg Trials never existed and WWII had not ended with Eisenhower and Soviet armies liberating the death camps. Imagine Germany had not made the effort to formally acknowledge the unimaginable evil of the Holocaust and solemnly accept its role in the death of millions. What if Germany after the fall of the Third Reich had acted like Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire?

What if Germany had never acknowledged the Holocaust?

Imagine the pain we’d all feel; the hurt inside and the anger that six million Jews, including 1.5 million Jewish children, were not acknowledged by their murderers as human beings who perished in a planned and orchestrated genocide.

This is how Armenians around the world feel about Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide.

Interestingly, there was a time in my life (even after decades of formal acknowledgement from every nation on the planet) where I clung to Deborah Lippstadt’s landmark book titled Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth & Memory.  In the book, Lippstadt documents and analyzes “historians” who engaged in revisionist history and pseudo-historical diatribes to try and claim that the Holocaust either never existed, or wasn’t as horrendous as once thought. According to a BBC article written by Lippstadt, this form of denial is a mix of overt lies and the façade of historical analysis:

According to deniers, Jews have perpetrated this hoax about the Holocaust on the world in order to gain political and financial advantage, and it was in fact Germany that was the true victim in World War Two…

Deniers dismiss confessions by German perpetrators that a ‘Final Solution’ to the ‘Jewish question’ was indeed a part of the Nazi programme – by saying the confessions were produced under torture…

Some deniers posit that the Jews said to have been killed under the Nazi regime actually survived the war, and succeeded in avoiding detection by going to places such as the Soviet Union or the United States…

Most of all, deniers focus on the extermination camp run by the Nazis at Auschwitz. They claim – despite overwhelming documentary and physical evidence as well as eye-witness accounts by both perpetrators and victims – that it was not an extermination camp.

Like the Armenian genocide deniers, Holocaust deniers find creative ways to say that genocide never happened, because of course, their “research” claims six million Jews could not have perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Sound familiar?

If it does, that’s because Turkey is still denying the Armenian genocide with the same tactics Holocaust deniers have used to deny the Holocaust. So if the tables were switched, then how would we react? If Germany had never been forced to acknowledge the gas chambers, Einsatzgruppen, death camps and planned murders of six million Jews and millions of other human beings, then how would we all feel?

We’d feel like the Armenians.

We’d feel the anguish that they continue to experience even to this day, and we’d work to get President Obama to abide by his campaign promise of formally acknowledging the Armenian genocide. If Deborah Lippstadt’s book is still relevant in 2015, after all the evidence and the mountain of research illustrating the horrors of the Holocaust, then deniers of the Armenian genocide must be silenced by global recognition of slaughter under the Ottoman Empire.

Germany is an example of a nation that not only acknowledges its past in a noble manner, but also acknowledges the Armenian genocide. It’s a global leader, not simply economically, but also in a moral sense because it’s faced it’s past, and doesn’t evade responsibility for its history. Germany today could not be as influential in the world had it not come to terms with the Holocaust.

Sadly, Turkey has failed to take Germany’s example.

The U.S., and especially Israel, should formally recognize the Armenian genocide, one hundred years after the planned annihilation of the Armenians. After all, their murders gave Hitler enough confidence to carry out the Final Solution. As Raphael Lemkin looks down upon all of us from the vantage point of having created the word, we should all be diligent in recognizing what the Armenian experienced and what Turkey denies: The Armenian Genocide.

About the Author
H. A. Goodman is an author and columnist published in numerous publications and websites.