Denial and its Unfortunate Diversity

The timing could not be more appropriate. The trailer is out for the movie Denial, directed by Mick Jackson and starring Rachel Weisz as historian Deborah E. Lipstadt. Lipstadt is being sued for libel by David Irving, the infamous decades old Holocaust denier. Irving demands to see signed documents ordering the extermination of European Jews. Moreover, he claims there were no gas chambers at places such as Auschwitz because he has architectural drawing to contrary. For Irving and his kind, a crime against humanity lacking a full spectrum of documentation – by the perpetrator – means it simply didn’t happen. As we know Irving lost the trial, now both academically and is financially bankrupt.

Earlier this month another effort in genocide denial was effectively exposed and it too involved orders for the extermination of an entire people. In this case it was the Ottoman Turkish state’s orders for the extermination of the Armenians under cover of WWI. Prof Lipstadt herself drew the parallel, “The Armenian genocide comes the closest to the Holocaust.” and not surprisingly their denials are as similar.

A professor of genocide studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, Dr. Taner Akcam has written extensively on the genocide of the Armenians and Turkish denial. Having recently spent time in the Turkish archives, he came across evidence that refutes the contention of two other Turkish historians in their 1983 book, The Talat Pasha “Telegrams”: Historical fact or Armenian fiction?, by Şinasi Orel and Süreyya Yuca. The authors claim that the official state telegrams ordering the systematic extermination of Armenian and the plundering of their property are fake and are Armenian forgeries. Orel and Yuca succeeded in forcing many historians to ignore these telegrams as they appear on the surface to be tainted. Also, 35 years ago it was nearly impossible to gain access to specific areas of the Turkish archives unless it was state-sanctioned. Thus, no historian could refute the Orel and Yuca claims based on archival evidence. Any Armenian historian would be denied access to those specific archives.

What Akcan did, and a summary can be read here, is to show that there was indeed an Ottoman Official named Naim Effendi who had access to these secret telegrams. An Armenian, Aram Andonian, claimed to have purchased a set of these telegraphic plates from Naim Effendi and later published some of them in the early 1920s. Orel and Yuca claimed there was no Ottoman Official stationed in Aleppo by the name Naim Effendi that would have been associated with these telegrams. Akcam showed there was. Orel and Yuca claim state telegrams would not be written on lined paper (as Andonian published). Akcam showed many such examples. Orel and Yuca claim that because dots and lines associated with the Ottoman (Arabic) script were off by less than a millimeter from their perfect position, they must have been written by a non-Musim. Orel and Yuca claim the encryption method that exists in Andonian’s photographic plates were not used during WWI. Akcam showed it was used extensively during that time. Akcam found the memoirs of Naim Effendi that independently chronicle many items that are in these telegrams. There is anecdotal evidence as well, as events in time and places correspond to what are on these many of these telegrams. And to the dismay of revisionists and deniers, these telegrams are signed.

While the claims of Orel and Yuca have been countered, this still does not prove that the photographic plates that detail the extermination of the Armenians are authentic, nor is there evidence they are fake. A reasonable way for the Turkish government to recast a shadow over these telegrams is for the government to simply release the encryption keys used throughout this period. A computer algorithm could also be used. One may wonder, doesn’t the Turkish government have these telegrams in their archives? They most probably have been expunged just as Nazis tried to cover-up their crimes at the last minute. The Turks had more time than the Nazis did after WWII, as the Turks came out of WWI unscathed relative to having committed genocide.

For Holocaust deniers, what is necessary is to feed uncertainly and doubt to those have an ideological perspective or are simply uninitiated. With Turkey, it is state-sponsored denial., fulfilling the same function. Many millions, probably hundreds of millions, of dollars have been spent by the Turkish government in genocide denial over the past 40 years or so.

Not only are the Jewish Holocaust and Armenian genocide similar, but the methods used in their respective denials are similar. Other than deniers wanting signed orders, Holocaust deniers selectively choose their own Jewish population numbers in Europe, claiming there were barely 6 million Jews to exterminate. Turks also claim there were not even a million and a half Armenian to exterminate. Holocaust deniers claim aerial photos of Auschwitz show a calm camp, just as Turkish deniers claim no Armenian were exterminated in quiet Istanbul, yet diplomatic missions and even German reporters describe daily quotas of Armenians being marched to their deaths, including outlying villages of Istanbul, the capital. Turkish deniers claim that the word genocide hasn’t been invented until 1944, so there couldn’t be genocide in 1915. That is like saying nobody died from smallpox until the term was invented.

About the Author
David Davidian is a lecturer at the American University of Armenia. He has spent over a decade in technical intelligence analysis at major high technology firms.
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