Who Still Talked about the Extermination of the Armenians?

Document technical information

Format pdf
Size 523.0 kB
First found May 22, 2018

Document content analysis

Category Also themed
Language
English
Type
not defined
Concepts
no text concepts found

Persons

Paul the Apostle
Paul the Apostle

wikipedia, lookup

David Niven
David Niven

wikipedia, lookup

Friedrich Naumann
Friedrich Naumann

wikipedia, lookup

Franz Werfel
Franz Werfel

wikipedia, lookup

Clara Zetkin
Clara Zetkin

wikipedia, lookup

Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna

wikipedia, lookup

Franz Halder
Franz Halder

wikipedia, lookup

Arthur Symons
Arthur Symons

wikipedia, lookup

Carl Heinrich Becker
Carl Heinrich Becker

wikipedia, lookup

Organizations

Places

Transcript

Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
WHO STILL TALKED ABOUT THE EXTERMINATION
OF THE ARMENIANS? IMPERIAL GERMANY
AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
SECOND GERALD D. FELDMAN MEMORIAL LECTURE
DELIVERED AT THE GHI WASHINGTON, APRIL 7, 2011
Margaret Lavinia Anderson
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY
When I told my husband that my next project was going to be on the
Armenian genocide, his eyes opened wide. “Don’t think it’s going to be
like studying the Holocaust,” he warned. “There’s a big difference between the German-led genocide of the Jews and the Turkish genocide of
the Armenians.” “Oh yeah?” said I, “and what’s that?” (I was expecting to
get a History 101 lecture on “The Uniqueness of Each Historical Event.”)
His answer brought me up short: “The Turks won their war.”
Think about it. Imagine, he said, that Germany had prevailed in World
War II, or at least (and this is actually closer to the Turkish case) had
fought the Allies to a stalemate. What would the study of the Holocaust look like now? Imagine that those (literally) tons of Nazi documents had not been captured and microfilmed for libraries around the
world. Imagine that access to Germany’s archives was controlled by
second- and third-generation successors of the Nazi state; that German schoolchildren were taught that Germany’s Jews had fought for
Russia and that “deporting” them was an act of self-defense. Imagine
that it was a crime in Germany to say in print that their leaders had
been genocidaires, and that as recently as 2007 someone who did say
it had been assassinated by nationalist fanatics.
And I did think about it. I remembered a conversation with my
Berkeley colleague, Gerald Feldman, shortly after he returned, in
1997, from a colloquium he had given at Istanbul’s Koc University,
on the Deutsche Bank and the Baghdad Railway. He had mentioned
the “nightmare” the Armenian genocide had posed for Bank officials
during the war. After the talk, one of his hosts – dean? department
chair? he wasn’t sure – came up to him with a warning: “Do not speak
of the killing of Armenians if you ever wish to lecture here again.”
Norma Feldman still remembers the chill that comment cast over
the subsequent Festessen.
Academic freedom has made considerable progress in Turkey since
1997. True, in 2005 a conference of Istanbul historians on “Armenians
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
9
1 Most prominently, Taner
Akçam, Ermeni Meselesi
Hallolunmuştur: Osmanlı belgelerine göre savaş yıllarında
Ermeniler’e yönelik politikalar
(İletişim, 2008).
2 Selim Deringil, “’The
Armenian Question Is Finally
Closed’: Mass Conversions of
Armenians in Anatolia during
the Hamidian Massacres of
1895-1897,” Comparative
Studies in Society and History
51.2 (2009): 344-371, 344.
3 Heath Lowry, “The U.S.
Congress and Adolf
Hitler on the Armenians,”
Political Communication and Persuasion 3.2
(1985): 111-40. The
article was written before
Lowry attained the
Princeton post, during
his employment at the
Institute of Turkish Studies, housed at, but not
a part of, Georgetown
University. Lowry’s case
against Lochner makes
much of the reservations
of the “noted historian,”
William L. Shirer – another
newspaperman.
4 “Zur Ansprache Hitlers vor
den Führern der Wehrmacht
am 22. August 1939. Eine
quellenkritische Untersuchung,” Vierteljahrshefte für
Zeitgeschichte (VfZ ) 16 (1968):
120-49. Hitler‘s remarks,
taken together, must have
lasted at least four hours, and
the fact that only one of these
brief reconstructions mentions
the Armenians is no evidence
that Hitler didn‘t say it; the word
“Schweinehund” also doesn’t
appear in all of them. Adm.
Boehm’s subsequent, selfserving challenge (unrelated to
the remark about Armenians)
was rebutted by Baumgart
with evidence from the diary of
Lt. Col. Hellmut Groscurth in
Vf Z 19 (1971): 294-304.
10
in the Late Ottoman Empire” had to be canceled after the Justice
Minister denounced its organizers on the floor of parliament for
“stabbing Turkey in the back” and police told university officials that
they could not guarantee the participants’ safety. But the conference
did eventually take place – four months later. Turkish translations
of work published abroad on the genocide have appeared.1 And at
least one historian teaching at a Turkish university has published an
article that uses the g-word to describe what happened to Armenians
in 1915 – admittedly, in an American journal.2
Still, the defenders of Turkey’s official narrative have not ceased
to police the boundaries of their political correctness, repeatedly
impugning data that are non-controversial among most historians
outside the country. Take Hitler’s jeering query, flung out at the
meeting of his commanders at Obersalzberg, on the eve of the
German invasion of Poland: “Who still talks nowadays about the
extermination of the Armenians?” Princeton’s Atatürk Professor
of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies, Heath Lowry, has challenged the authenticity of this remark, arguing that the text of
Hitler’s August 22, 1939, peroration, in which the line appears, was
unknown before 1942, when it was quoted in a book written by a
mere “newspaperman,” the A.P.’s Berlin Bureau Chief, Louis Lochner.3
Claiming to be the first to disclose Lochner’s role as conduit, Lowry
also asserts that the document’s “provenance … has never been
disclosed, investigated … much less established.” In fact, Winfried
Baumgart’s painstaking detective work, published almost two
decades before Lowry’s attack, established the document’s congruence with the notes scribbled on the spot by Admiral Wilhelm
Canaris – of all the sources for Hitler’s August 22 remarks, the most
trustworthy and superior to those (privileged by Lowry) written that
evening from memory by Admiral Hermann Boehm and General
Franz Halder.4 The Lochner text had been entrusted to him by an
emissary from what would come to be known as resistance circles.
He immediately turned it over to the British embassy, and within
three days of the Obersalzberg conclave it had been translated and
sent to Whitehall.5
5 The ribbon copy, with the
circumstances of its transmission, is in the National
Archives at Kew: Ambassador Neville Henderson’s
papers, FO 800/270 ff.
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
288-91. It was published
in Documents on British
Foreign Policy, ed. E. L.
Woodward and R. Butler,
3rd ser., vol. 7 (London,
1954), docs. 257-260, and
in Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik, Serie D, vol.
7 (Baden-Baden, 1956),
Nr. 193, p. 171-72n1. I
thank Gerhard Weinberg
for this information.
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
This lecture will not go into the evidence for whether or not it was
Hitler who included the famous query about the Armenians in his
Obersalzberg monologue, for both attack and defense of the text
obscure a greater reality. Suppose it could be proven that the text
had been enhanced by Hitler’s opponents, as Lowry suggests, “for
propaganda purposes,” to make the Führer appear “in an extremely
negative light” to allies and others. Such an enhancement would only
underscore the iconic status of the Armenian genocide as the apex
of horrors conceivable in 1939.
My lecture aims at supplying the empirical basis for what is implicit in that sarcastic query, regardless of who posed it: that the
Armenians and their extermination had once excited considerable
“talk.” Secondarily, I shall raise the question, without resolving it, of
whether talk has consequences. The question implies an audience
that thought so; otherwise, why the sneer about talk’s transience,
aimed at reassuring those about to embark, perhaps reluctantly,
upon exterminations of their own? Finally, a demonstration of the
ubiquity of talk about the extermination is evidence, prima facie, that
an extermination occurred.
Talk about the extermination of Ottoman Armenians began in the
mid-1890s, when Abdul Hamid II’s massacres, with an estimated
100,000 victims, provoked an international outcry. In England, the
House of Commons demanded that the Royal Navy force the Dardanelles and remove the sultan. The normally so fractious French
united – from Dreyfusards to the monarchist Right – in pro-Armenian
activism. In Russia, intellectuals from Chekhov to the philosopher
Solov’ev raised nearly 30,000 rubles for Armenian relief, while little
Switzerland collected a million francs (that’s more than 10 million in
today’s purchasing power) and more signatures on an Armenophil
petition than any petition in Swiss history. Americans held “Armenian Sundays,” when participants fasted to send the money saved
to “starving Armenians.” By 1925, forty-nine countries were sharing
these rituals of symbolic sacrifice.
Germany was slow to start, but by late 1896 young Johannes Lepsius
had spearheaded a movement supporting Armenians, making
him briefly (in the words of a supporter) “the most famous man in
Germany.” Lepsius came from a family of distinguished academics
and intellectuals. His father was the founder of German Egyptology; his grandfather, a friend of Goethe and the Grimms; his greatgrandfather, the Enlightenment publisher Nicolai. (His nephew, by
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
11
the way, is the Bundesrepublik’s most famous living sociologist.)
But Lepsius himself was a rural pastor – soon made unemployed
by Church authorities who disapproved of his activism. (I’ll come
back to him.) With the new century, massacres became fewer, closer
to pogroms, until 1909, when 20,000 more Armenians were slain
in Adana province, reviving anew talk about the extermination of
Armenians.6
We must distinguish, of course, between noise in the public square
and the intense but discreet exchanges in the corridors of power. To
merge these two conversations was vital for Armenophils; to keep
them apart, the goal of statesmen of all countries. For sooner or later
“talk” meant pressure, and the last thing policy-makers wanted was
the kind of moralizing speech that might limit their own freedom of
action. Any restraints on Ottoman sovereignty, they feared, would
compromise the Ottoman Empire’s survival – and risk unleashing a
war of all against all, in Anatolia, certainly, and perhaps in Europe.
Thus, in the poker game of Great Power politics, as the historian
Marion Kent has noted, “The Ottoman Empire held one trump card.
This was the general desire of the European Powers for it to survive
as a political entity.”7 The Ottomans could play that card just as easily
against Western humanitarianism as against Western imperialism.
Thus the louder the outcry over the Armenians’ plight, the more
Europe’s foreign offices cooperated in their studied efforts at silence.
Yet behind closed doors, talk continued, as stacks of diplomatic files
make clear. Discussions grew more heated with the Balkan Wars of
1912-13, when the Ottoman Empire lost more than 20 percent of its
population and almost all of its European territory. Europe’s “sick
man” appeared to be breathing his last. The collapse of Ottoman
authority in the Balkans was expected to spread to Asia Minor, where
whole new crops of separatists were emerging, from Beirut to the
Persian frontier.
6 Sources for these two
paragraphs are in my article
“‘Down in Turkey, Far Away’
Human Rights, the Armenian
Massacres, and Orientalism in
Wilhelmine Germany,” Journal
of Modern History 79.1 (March
2007): 80-113.
7 Marian Kent, “Introduction,” in
idem, ed., The Great Powers and
the End of the Ottoman Empire
(London, 1996), 1-4, 1.
12
Would Armenian nationalists join the fray? Or would the returning
Ottoman army, bitter over its Balkan losses, take out their anger on
Armenian villagers? At the prospect of ethnic conflict that might spill
across the Caucasus, Russia began threatening to occupy Eastern
Anatolia if credible protections for Armenians were not implemented
immediately. Suddenly, preventing a massacre of Armenians became
the task of every statesman committed to peace. For violence in Asia
Minor, if it triggered Russian intervention, would surely be met by
Austrian counteraction in the Balkans – with the risk of a general
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
war. As Russia pressed and Turkey dithered, Germany deployed, with
British approval, four cruisers to Turkish waters. And talk got louder.8
Led by demonstrations in London, Paris, Sofia, and Cairo, Armenians
and their supporters petitioned the president of France; sent appeals
to the Hague Court and to Britain from India, Burma, Japan, and
Southeast Asia; and sent pleas to Germany, from Constantinople,
Yokohama, Manchester, Frankfurt, and Potsdam.
At least one German diplomat recognized a crisis when he saw one.
Ambassador Baron Hans von Wangenheim urged Berlin to instruct
its representatives in Turkey to intervene to stop the abuses of Armenians and even, in emergencies, to act as their “really effective
protectors.” It was time, he thought, to grasp the nettle of Armenian
Reforms. Wangenheim’s proposal required scuttling a sacred diplomatic convention: to hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil of a
friendly state’s domestic “arrangements” – the very convention that
had kept the Kaiser’s government on a non-interventionist path during the massacres of the 1890s.
Wangenheim’s bosses in Berlin disagreed.9 With the outcome of
the Balkan wars still so uncertain, “rolling out the Armenian question,” the new foreign secretary, Gottlieb von Jagow, sighed, was the
last thing he wanted. But talk about imperiled Armenians could no
longer be hushed. The London Times ran 88 items on them over the
course of 1913. In Paris, Pro Arménia, a journal defunct since 1908,
resumed publication. Speeches and queries in the British, Italian, and
German parliaments reflected and contributed to the disquiet. Jagow
was forced to concede that the situation in the Orient had become
“the most pressing of all political questions.”10 Whether he and his
counterparts liked it or not, they had to talk about the Armenians.
The consequence? The workload of Europe’s exhausted diplomats,
already crushing thanks to the ongoing Balkan crisis, increased
dramatically. In June 1913 alone, over 75 missives on the Armenian
matter crossed the transoms of the Wilhelmstrasse. In Therapia,
Baron Wangenheim was chained to his desk, his longed-for family holiday repeatedly postponed. Uncertain whether the future lay
with the Armenians or the Turks, German diplomats began to work
both sides of the street at what today is termed, euphemistically,
the “peace process.” With London’s cooperation, Germany labored
to square the circle: to secure protections for the Armenian minority
that would not undermine Ottoman sovereignty – and thus obviate
Russian intervention and all that might follow.
8 Sir E. Grey to Amb. Sir G.
Lowther, June 19, 1913,
in British Documents on the
Origins of the War 18981914, ed. by G. P. Gooch
and H. Temperley (London,
1936), vol. 10, pt. 1: 460,
doc. 516. On the confusion
over where to send warships, see Die Grosse Politik
der Europäischen Kabinette,
1871-1914. Sammlung der
diplomatischen Akten des
Auswärtigen Amtes (Berlin,
1922-24) (hereafter: GP),
vol 38: 17, 18-19, 20n,
28-29, 32-33, 32-33n.
9 Wangenheim to Bethmann
Hollweg (hereafter BH),
Feb. 24, 1913, Nr. 38;
on the rejection of
Wangenheim’s proposal,
see A. Zimmermann, minute of Mar. 5, and G. Jagow
to Wangenheim, Apr. 22.
Nr. 369, GP, vol. 38:
10-15; 30-31 and 30n.
10 Jagow to Wangenheim,
June 10, 1913, Politisches
Archiv des Auswärtigen
Amtes (hereafter: PAA),
Nachlass (NL) Wangenheim;
J to C. J. G. Eisendecher,
July 24, 1913, PAA, NL
Eisendecher 3/5.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
13
At the same time, through former pastor Lepsius, Jagow opened relations with Armenian leaders to win them for a compromise – and
to insure their goodwill should compromise fail. Although not the
dramatic course correction that Baron Wangenheim had wanted,
Jagow’s expenditure of diplomatic capital on behalf of an OttomanRussian-Armenian accord demonstrated how acute the danger in
Eastern Anatolia was felt to be: to its populations, to the Turkish
Empire’s survival, to European peace.
On February 8, 1914, Germany succeeded in brokering such an accord. Turkey ceded some of its sovereignty in Eastern Anatolia (to
a Dutchman and a Norwegian, commissioners representing the
“international community”), and Russia stopped threatening to occupy it.11 Would these “Armenian Reforms” stabilize Ottoman rule?
Or would they, as some hoped and many feared, deliver it the coup
de grâce? Whatever the answer, the reforms did not quiet talk about
the Armenians. And nowhere, perhaps, was that talk louder than in
Germany.
11 R. H. Davison, “The Armenian
Crisis, 1912-14,” American
Historical Review 53.3 (April
1948): 481-505; W. J. van
der Dussen, “The Question of
Armenian Reforms in 19131914,” Armenian Review 39
(Spring 1986): 11-28.
12 Sponsors: NL C. H. Becker,
Geheimes Staatsarchiv
Preußischer Kulturbesitz (GStA
PK) I. HA Rep. 92, and Hermann
Goltz, “Die ‘armenischen
Reformen’ im Osmanischen
Reich, Johannes Lepsius und
die Gründung der DeutschArmenischen Gesellschaft,”
75 Jahre Deutsch-Armenische
Gesellschaft. Festschrift (Mainz,
1989), 4-76, 46.
14
In June 1914, a German-Armenian Society, aimed at fostering warmer
relations between the two peoples, held its inaugural gala in Berlin.
The very existence of such an organization betrayed the Foreign Office’s tilt. Only the sun of official favor could explain how an outfit
with a board composed of Lepsius, another pastor, a journalist, and
six unknowns from the tiny Armenian colony in Berlin, had managed to collect the dazzling names, ninety-six in all, that graced
the German-Armenian Society’s appeal for members: four generals;
the leaders of the Reichstag’s two liberal parties; the Conservative
president of Prussian Chamber of Deputies; and important representatives of business, church (for example, the court preacher, Ernst
Dryander), and academia – including the historians Hans Delbrück
and Rudolf Oncken.
Yet the desire to be in the government’s good graces cannot explain the support of such glitterati as Germany’s most celebrated
painter, Max Liebermann; the social theorist Georg Simmel; the
winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize for Literature, Rudolf Eucken;
and the young novelist Thomas Mann, who would capture the
same honor in 1929. These men must already have been talking
about the Armenians. And the editors of three of Germany’s most
influential dailies on the list of sponsors seemed to promise that
from now on, talk on behalf of the Armenians would reach an ever
widening public. 12
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
It was not to be. Within weeks, Europe was at war. On August 2,
Germany signed a secret alliance with the Ottoman Empire. The
German-Armenian Society suddenly became a political embarrassment. Its rival, the German-Turkish Union, now had a mission. The
latter’s managing director, Ernst Jäckh, was put on the government
payroll, running a one-man development office for the new alliance.
Behind the scenes, “Jäckh-the-Turk,” as he was called, spied on
prominent Armenophils. Openly, his job was public education; its
real aim: to sell Turkey to his countrymen.
It was not a difficult task. By the time the Ottoman Empire actually
entered the war – on October 31, 1914 – the German public was reeling
from three months of the deadliest combat of the entire conflict. With
losses of 265,000 men – killed, wounded, and missing in action – in
the first month alone, Germans hardly needed incentives to embrace
the Turks as saviors.
The alliance proved a Full Employment Act for anyone with a colorable claim to expertise on the Ottoman Empire. German orientalists,
long marginal in the academic pecking-order, rejoiced in their newfound prestige. Overnight the anemic enrollments in C. H. Becker’s
course on Turkey soared. Even language classes boomed. “Everyone,”
Professor Becker crowed, “wants to learn Turkish now!” His Göttingen counterpart, Enno Littmann, was amazed by the Turcomania.
“Everything possible is appearing about the Orient and Islam,” he
marveled. Among the things now “possible” was a publication entitled “The Evolution of Turkey into a Rechtsstaat” – this, in 1915.13
Even as Ernst Jäckh and company were marketing the Ottoman
Empire as the land of tolerance, Turkey’s ruling cadre, a hard-line
subset of the Young Turks’ Committee of Union and Progress (CUP;
henceforth, Unionist), were driving Armenians to their deaths. By
late April 1915, Germans in Turkey had begun to witness expulsions
of Armenians from their villages. In May, deportations, accompanied
by pillage, rape, and mass murder, snowballed. In July, the Italian
consul in Trapezunt suffered a nervous breakdown under the weight
of these sights.14
But those who wanted the world to know what was going down in
Eastern Anatolia faced formidable obstacles. In May 1915, not just
Armenians but all Western teachers, doctors, and missionaries were
barred from using the mails. Then their telephones and telegraphs
were confiscated.15 Envoys of neutral powers were forbidden to en-
13 Becker to Dr. Hafner, Mar.
20, 1916, NL Becker fol.
788. Littmann to B, Mar.
26, 1915, ibid. fol 4579;
L. Freiherr von Mackay,
“Die Entwicklung der
Türkei zum Rechtsstaat,”
Deutschland und der Orient
(Berlin, 1915), 33-41.
14 Heinrich Bergfeld, Consul
at Trapezunt, to BH, July
9, 1915, PAA Türkei 183
vol. 37. The Auswärtiges
Amt’s vast archive on the
genocide is now being
published online, along
with English translations,
thanks to the long work
of Wolfgang and Sigrid
Gust, to whom all of us
are enormously indebted.
The Gusts list documents
according to date, followed
by the suffix DE and then
a number for each document posted on the same
date. In the above case,
it is 1915-07-09-DE002. Hereafter, whenever
a document has been
posted on their web site,
I shall cite that (www.
armenocide.net) in preference to a PAA citation.
15 Dr. Ruth Parmelee,
Harpoot, diary entry, June
8, 1915, Parmelee Papers,
Box 1, Hoover Archives.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
15
crypt their telegrams, and their letters were opened. Only the German
embassy’s diplomatic pouch remained a secure conduit for candid
information on these gruesome events. Would it be willing to forward
such explosive information? When, that April, a German consul tried
to forward to Germany an account of a pogrom from a teacher at a
German orphanage by including it in his bag, Ambassador Wangenheim refused to accept it until he had extracted a promise that the
material would be released “neither through the press nor any other
way.” Even then, it took two months, and repeated requests, before
the teacher’s superiors in Frankfurt were allowed to receive the report,
and then only in an oral, sanitized redaction.16
Turkey’s leaders usually denied their purpose – to rid Anatolia of its
Armenians – even when they conceded that massacres were taking place.
Thus it was that Baron Wangenheim, who had protested sporadic
brutalities against Armenians in the winter of 1914, at first accepted the
Turkish story the following spring that the deportations were a military
necessity, aimed at removing actual and potential fifth columns from
the path of Russian invaders. As for the massacres that befell the deportees as they trudged away? They were regrettable failures of military
discipline, which could happen in any wartime situation.
16 Wangenheim to BH, May
27, 1915, encl. 1 W. Rössler,
Aleppo, to BH; encl. 2 K. Blank,
Marash, to Fr. Schuchardt of
the German Aid Federation
for Christian Charity in the
Orient in Frankfurt, Apr. 14,
1915, www.armenocide.net,
1915-05-27-DE-001; K. von
Neurath to S, June 29, 1915,
ibid. 1915-06-29-DE-001.
Schuchardt, Frankfurt, to AA,
Aug. 20, 1915, encl. 1, K.
Blank, Marash, to S, Apr. 6,
1915; also encl. 3, B.
von Dobbeler, Adana, to
Schuchardt, July 12, 1915:
ibid. 1915-08-20-DE-001.
17 Henry Morgenthau,
Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story
(Garden City, NY, 1918), passim.
18 Mark Levene, War, Jews, and
the New Europe: The Diplomacy
of Lucien Wolf, 1914-1919
(Oxford, 1992), 51, 54.
16
But the deception could not last long. Wangenheim has had a very
bad press, thanks to the American ambassador, Henry Morgenthau.
Writing after the United States entered the war against Germany in
a book that has become standard reading for those interested in the
Armenian genocide, Morgenthau villainized Germany’s ambassador
as an arrogant Teuton, satisfied to see Armenians go to their ruin
so long as it furthered “pan-German” goals.17 But, in fact, much as
he wanted to believe the Young Turk story, the German ambassador
never sacrificed his critical judgment on the altar of the alliance. In
this respect, Wangenheim compares favorably to his British counterpart in St. Petersburg, Sir George Buchanan. In answer to London’s
anxious queries about reports of the Russian army’s mass expulsions
of the tsar’s Jewish subjects along its border, Buchanan answered
that he had not “the slightest doubt” that Jewish treason necessitated such harsh measures, assurances echoed uncritically by other
Brits on the spot – soldiers, journalists, and even scholars.18 Unlike
Buchanan, Wangenheim, although already a dying man, could still
summon the energy to catch the Turkish government in fictions.
And by mid-June, he had concluded “that the banishment of the
Armenians is not motivated by military considerations alone is clear
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
as day.” Indeed, shortly before that, the Minister of the Interior, Talât
Bey, had stated frankly to an embassy official “that the Porte wanted to
use the war to thoroughly clean out its domestic enemies – the native
Christians – without being disturbed by diplomatic intervention from
abroad ...’” On July 7, Wangenheim informed Germany’s chancellor,
Bethmann Hollweg, that the extension of the deportations to provinces
not threatened with invasion, as well as the manner in which they were
carried out, convinced him that their ally was “in fact pursuing the aim
of destroying the Armenian race in the Turkish empire.”19
The ambassador based his conclusion not only on Talât’s comments,
but also on an array of German witnesses: teachers, medical personnel, church people, civil engineers, soldiers – and reports from his
own consular staff, which were detailed and compelling. Germany’s
consul in Aleppo would eventually earn a mild reprimand for his passionate protests against the treatment of the Armenians. Germany’s
man in Mosul was so moved by the famished creatures straggling by
that he fed them himself. If the Foreign Office was unwilling to foot
the bill for the £300, well then, he declared, he’d pay it back to them
out of his own salary, in monthly installments.20
Then there was Lieutenant Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, who
had been seconded to Eastern Anatolia to organize Muslim guerrillas behind Russian lines. Arriving in Erzerum, the heart of historic
Armenia, Scheubner found himself pressed into service to run the
vice-consulate there. Soon he was privy to the same grisly sights.
Unionist hardliners bluntly informed him that their goal was the
“complete extermination” of the Armenians. “After the war, we will
‘have no more Armenians in Turkey,’ is the verbatim pronouncement of an authoritative personage,” the young soldier reported. In
August 1915, Scheubner informed Wangenheim’s stand-in that this
grim goal had been attained – throughout the entire territory of his
consulate.
Scheubner did not deny that there had been Armenian insurgents
here and there. What could be more “natural” for a people so badly
treated? But, in his view “any proof whatsoever” of a “general, intentional, and premeditated uprising by the Armenians is lacking.”
The very extent of the extermination proved the absurdity of Turkish
claims: “… that tens of thousands of Armenians let themselves be
butchered, without resisting, by a handful of Kurds and irregulars
as happened here is surely proof of how very little taste this people
has for fighting and revolution.”21
19 Passage specially marked
by the Auswärtiges Amt’s
pencil. Wangenheim to
Bethmann Hollweg, June
17 and July 7, 1915.
My translations differ
somewhat from that of
www.armenocide.net,
1915-06-17-DE-003 and
1915-07-07-DE-001.
20 Reprimand to Aleppo
Konsul: Zimmermann to
Acting Amb. Hohenlohe,
Aug. 18, 1915, PAA Türkei
No. 183 Vol. 38; Holstein
to embassy, July 21, 1915,
www.armenocide.net,
1915-07-21-DE-012.
21 Scheubner-Richter to
Wangenheim, July 28; to
Hohenlohe, Aug. 5, 1915,
ibid. 1915-07-28-DE-015
and 1915-08-05-DE-002.
My translation differs
slightly from the Gusts’.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
17
Were people inside Germany also talking about the extermination of
the Armenians? War means censorship – and the censor’s strictures
on what might be written about the Ottoman Empire exceeded in
length even such awkward topics as “Belgium” and “U-Boat Warfare.” The principle was simple: “All remarks that could in any way
diminish the reputation of our Turkish allies or be wounding to them
must be avoided.” Any mention of the Armenians had to be submitted
to pre-censorship. In fact, the Zensurbuch made plain, it wanted no
mention of the Armenian question at all.22
22 Oberzensurstelle, Kommunikationsüberwachende Vorschriften
des Jahres 1917 in H.-D.
Fischer, ed., Pressekonzentration
& Zensurpraxis im Ersten Weltkrieg. Texte und Quellen (Berlin,
1973), 194-275; quotes: 266.
23 Elizabeth Khorikian examined
every issue of the Berliner Tageblatt in “Die Behandlung des
Völkermordes an den Armeniern
1915 in der Deutschen
Literatur und Presse von 1915
bis 1925” (Magisterarbeit,
Free University, Berlin, 1989).
Naumann, “Kriegschronik,” Die
Hilfe, March 11, 1915, 150.
24 Access to foreign press: Lothar
Persius, Nov. 16, 1914, and
Eduard Bernstein, Jan. 18 and
19, 1915: Hoover Archive,
Heinrich Kanner Papers
(hereafter KP) Box 2, vol. 2;
Becker to Hellmut Ritter,
Aug. 30, 1915, NL Becker fol.
3521. Erzberger‘s NL includes
French newspaper reports
on the genocide. File 1097,
vol. 3, Bundesarchiv Koblenz
[hereafter BAK].
18
The press got the message. Although the Frankfurter Zeitung, Germany’s most prestigious daily, had a veteran correspondent in
Constantinople, he devoted his insider status to securing interviews
with Unionist leaders and to disseminating their tale of Armenian
treachery. Others did the same. During the genocide year of 1915,
Armenians were mentioned in the Berliner Tageblatt just five times:
two were reprints of rebuttals of Entente atrocity “propaganda” issued by the Ottoman press agency. The other three? Casual asides
in interviews held by the Grand Vizier, by Talât Bey, and by the War
Minister Enver Pasha. And with more than 3 million of their own
sons at the front, with pundits like Friedrich Naumann telling them
that “everything turns on the Dardanelles,” can anyone wonder that
ordinary Germans let their ally’s story of Armenian fifth columns go
unchallenged?23
And yet: numbers alone – on censorship guidelines, news items, German soldiers mobilized – cannot close the question of what Germans
knew and said about the extermination of the Armenians. Unlike in
the Third Reich, where the disclosure of genocide was a capital offense, penalties in Imperial Germany for circumventing censorship
were light. Moreover, in Berlin, and probably in other large cities,
Dutch, French, English, and even Russian newspapers remained
on sale. Those unskilled in foreign languages could learn the news
from the Swiss press.24 An information barrier so omnipresent yet
so porous meant that Turkey’s boosters faced the task of rebutting
Entente atrocity reports that they could never be sure anyone had
actually read.
The result was a mass of contradictions. Germans were told by
their press that Armenians were being subjected to a just and necessary response to their treasonous aid to the Russian army. But
they could also read that the Armenian Reforms of February 1914
had “proven themselves absolutely,” that a “friendly relationship”
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
existed between Armenians and their government, based on “firm,
constitutional granite”; that the Armenian elite and German-Turkish
circles were “very close.” Contradictions multiplied when on the very
same page another author blamed the terrible Armenian massacres
(here assumed to be common knowledge) on unruly Kurds, whom
the Turkish government, burdened with a bureaucracy from the
previous regime, could not control.25 (So much for the effectiveness
of those Armenian Reforms....) Competing apologias fueled suspicion
of mayhem and murder.
So, who knew? If we look not at the hard-pressed German-in-thestreet, but at the elites, the close-knit world of movers, shakers, and
opinion-makers, then the answer is clear: everyone. And if we ask,
what did they know? The answer, with equal certitude, is: enough.
Orientalists learned about it early on from colleagues in neutral countries and from students serving as interpreters in Turkey. Some, like
Professor Littmann, were inclined to dismiss an American document
on the Armenian fate. The future translator of Arabian Nights knew a
good tale when he saw one; and anyway, Russia’s expulsion of Poles
and Lithuanians was no less harsh and its persecution of its Jews, as
well as London’s anti-German mobs, were worse. But details from
former students became so copious that eventually, as his colleague,
C. H. Becker, assured him, “the madness…” was “not to be doubted.”
By October 1915, reports of massacres, Becker noted in an essay
whose publication was quashed, “now fill the entire world.”26
Another source was Armin Wegner. Returning to Berlin after serving
as a medic in Turkey, the aspiring writer used readings of his new
work to notify dovish intellectuals, like the art collector Count Harry
Kessler and the journalist Hellmut von Gerlach. Gerlach took the
news to the Federation for a New Fatherland (Bund Neues Vaterland),
whose eclectic clientele stretched from Albert Einstein and the novelist Stefan Zweig, through the usual liberal, socialist, and feminist
suspects (Eduard Bernstein, Clara Zetkin, Ernst Reuter), all the way
up to liberal members of the government. But in his more influential
capacity as the political editor of Die Welt am Montag (circulation
150,000), Gerlach kept faith with his government’s precept: what
happens in Anatolia stays in Anatolia.
Nor was Maximilian Harden, publisher of the fashionable Zukunft,
any profile in courage. Inform the Empress! he advised Wegner.
Emphasize the religious angle, since the Armenians are a Christian
25 E.g., L. Freiherr von
Mackay, “Der Weltkrieg
und das armenische Problem,” Die Hilfe, Sept. 9,
1915, 579-81; Max Roloff,
“Türken und Armenier,”
ibid., 581-82.
26 Littmann to Becker, Oct.
26 [?] and Oct. 29; Becker
to Littmann, Oct. 27,
and Nov. 9, 1915. NL
Becker fol. 4579; “entire
world,” from C. H. Becker,
“Armenier, Türken und Wir”
typescript, ibid. fol. 7836.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
19
people! He himself, he was sorry to say, could do nothing. “The censor
closed our mouths,” Gerlach later explained.27 But how do we assess
the censor’s power, when self-censors were so obliging?
Talk about the “extermination of the Armenians” was not confined to
professors and lefties, as we know from Gerald Feldman’s magisterial
study of the mighty Deutsche Bank in World War I. The bank owned
controlling shares of the Anatolian Railway, and its Constantinople
office was full of what Feldman described as “hair-raising accounts”
of the Turkish government’s determination (as the deputy director
reported to his chief in Berlin, Arthur von Gwinner) “to eradicate”
the Armenians – “the entire line: root and branch.” A quarter of the
population of roughly 2 million, he estimated, had already perished.
Eastern Anatolia was “armenierrein.” “The Jewish pogroms in Russia,
which I know,” he stressed, “are comparative child’s play.”28
27 Hellmut von Gerlach, Die
Grosse Zeit der Lüge (Bremen
[1926], 1994), 116-17; Martin
Tamcke, Armin T. Wegner und
die Armenier: Anspruch und
Wirklichkeit eines Augenzeugen,
2nd ed. (Hamburg, 1996) ,
161-71, 239; Uwe Feigel,
Das Evangelische Deutschland
und Armenien: die Armenierhilfe deutscher evangelischer
Christen seit dem Ende des 19.
Jahrhunderts im Kontext der
deutsch-türkischen Beziehungen
(Göttingen, 1989), 227.
28 F. J. Günther to Gwinner,
Aug. 17, 1915, quoted in
G. D. Feldman, “Die Deutsche
Bank vom Ersten Weltkrieg
bis zur Weltwirtschaftskrise
1914-1933,” in Die Deutsche
Bank, 1870-1995, ed. L. Gall
et al. (Munich, 1995), 138314, 153.
29 “Lifeboat” is Hilmar Kaiser’s
description in his “The Baghdad Railway and the Armenian
Genocide,” in Remembrance and
Denial, ed. R. G. Hovannisian
(Detroit, 1998), 67-112.
30 J. H. von Bernstorff to
Chancellor G. von Hertling,
Apr. 6, 1918, NL Erzberger
1097, vol. 14.
20
What did the Deutsche Bank do with this knowledge? Gwinner’s
man protested to the Turks and reported in detail to his own Foreign
Office. The Railway saved as many Armenians as it could, hiring
even the unqualified for construction and office work. Its “lifeboat”
bears comparison to Oskar Schindler’s, and on a much larger scale.
Gwinner himself designated £1,000 for immediate Armenian relief –
secretly. But he did nothing publicly, nor did he resign as chairman of
Jäckh-the-Turk’s German-Turkish Union, whose goals he continued
to legitimate with his name.29
Other key figures in business – Walther Rathenau, Hugo Stinnes,
August Thyssen – must also have known. Wartime Constantinople was
never off-limits to men with influence (“Every train from the Balkans
brings Germans who want to monkey around with the Turks,” a later
German ambassador complained).30 Stinnes and Thyssen arrived in
the winter of 1916 and talked with Germans who talked about the
extermination of the Armenians. Among the “flood” of Germans on
fact-finding missions was Gustav Stresemann, a rising star of the
National Liberals, who met with newsmen, soldiers, expats, diplomats – and Enver Pasha. Stresemann’s diary leaves no doubt that he
learned exactly what was happening. On day 4 he wrote: “Armenian
reduction 1-1 ½ million.”
Back in Germany, the future chancellor of the Weimar Republic made
his influence felt. To the public, Stresemann’s speeches reflected the
sunny face of the alliance, eulogizing the “tapferen Türken” to receptive audiences. To insiders, however, his picture was grim: on the
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
Ottoman economy, on relations between German and Turkish officers,
on growing xenophobia there. On the Armenian question, however,
Stresemann reversed targets, aiming his guns not at Germany’s
Ottoman ally but at Wangenheim’s replacement, Count Paul von
Wolff-Metternich, for antagonizing the Turks by repeatedly lecturing them on the Armenian question. Was “Herr von Metternich
ambassador of the German empire,” Enver Pasha had sneered, “or
ambassador of the Armenians?” The future Nobel peace laureate
endorsed Enver’s demand that Germany recall its outspoken ambassador.31
Stresemann’s traveling companion, Matthias Erzberger, the leader of
the Catholic Left and by 1916 the most powerful man in the Reichstag, was already well-informed. As director of war propaganda for
neutral countries, Erzberger was kept supplied by the Foreign Office
with the extenuations with which it armed its diplomatic personnel
to rebut challenges about atrocity allegations. But Erzberger also
had independent sources on what he called “this newest burning
question”; most credibly, Catholic clergy on the spot. From “two
absolutely reliable” men, Erzberger learned that murdered Christians numbered 1.5 million – the same figure as Stresemann’s. “The
Armenian nation,” one of them confided,”is supposed to be pretty
much exterminated.”32
Erzberger had several fish to fry when he arrived in the Ottoman
capital in early 1916. Not least, he wanted to persuade the Turkish
government to turn over any Christian sites in Jerusalem that had
been “vacated” by the Armenian Apostolic Church to his own, Roman
Catholic, church. Still, in interviews with Enver and Talât, Erzberger
did speak up for the Armenians, and back in Berlin he wrote to the
Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne about their plight. He also sought
out the Turkish ambassador and went to the Foreign Office to defend
Ambassador Metternich against his critics.33 Alarmed by all this
negative talk about Turkey, Jäckh, at a board meeting of his GermanTurkish Union, denounced the “rumors” spread by Erzberger and
Stresemann as completely baseless – which testifies to their impact.34
In public, however, the normally so voluble Erzberger did not break
the silence.
And, as a member of parliament, he might have. The arm of the censor stopped at the Reichstag door. Only the noise of his fellows (or
the president’s call to order) could silence a member. But noise and
calls to order were precisely what occurred in January 1916, when Karl
31 Gustav Stresemann,
Balkan Tagebuch, entries
on Jan. 29, 31, Feb. 1,
Feb. 4, Feb. 5, 1916; “Eine
Balkanreise im Weltkrieg.
Nach einem Vortrage
des Reichstagsabg. Dr.
Stresemann,” Annaberger
Wochenblatt, June 21,
1916; [Memorandum]
Mar. 9, 1916, all in PAA,
NL Stresemann, vol. 158.
32 Quote: P[ater] Paschalis to
Erzberger, Jan. 10, 1916.
J. Froberger to Erzberger,
Oct. 15, 1915; Erzberger
to E. Saunier, Oct. 21,
1915. BAK, NL Erzberger
1097, vol. 3.
33 Erzberger to Auswärtiges
Amt, Feb. 25, 1916;
memo Mar. 3, 1916; to
BH, May 27, 1916: all at
the respective dates on
www.armenocide.net.
34 Minutes, Vorstandssitzung,
May 16, 1915. NL Becker
fol. 1913.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
21
Liebknecht, a radical Social Democrat, demanded to know whether
the government was aware that its allies had annihilated “100s of
thousands” of Armenians, and that “Professor [sic] Lepsius” was
calling it “flat-out extermination”?35 Two days later Liebknecht was
expelled from his party.
But murder will out. By 1918, when a Center backbencher returned
from Turkey with news of fresh massacres, Germany’s last ambassador there threw up his hands. “So much has been spoken and
written about the Armenian atrocities that it seems idle to express
oneself on these questions.”36 His exasperation is revealing. It seems
that Germans could not stop talking about the extermination of the
Armenians.
The Protestant clergy, recipients of constant streams of information from their own and international networks, talked most. They
forwarded eyewitness accounts to the government, protested the
press’s complicity in Turkey’s alibis, and badgered the Foreign Office “to put a stop immediately to the murders by our…allies.” In July
1915, the monthly publication of a prominent Protestant charity for
the Near East (circulation 25,000) was among the first, in Germany
or anywhere, to publish details of the genocide – which soon spread
internationally. Reports like these were terrible for allied relations.
But, groaned the chargé d’affairs in Constantinople, Konstantin von
Neurath, an outright “repression of Germany’s pro-Armenian associations” was “naturally out of the question.”37
35 Reichstag exchange: www.
armenocide. net.
1916-01-11-DE-001.
36 Bernstorff to Hertling, Apr.
6, 1918. NL Erzberger 1097,
Bd. 14.
37 Neurath to BH, Oct. 26,
1915 www.armenocide.net
1915-10-26-DE-001. Clergy
protests: E. v. Dryander to
Zimmermann, Sept. 27, 1915,
ibid., 1915-09-27-DE-001;
F. Schuchardt to BH, Aug. 21,
1915, ibid., 1915-08-21-001;
and Feigel, Das evangelische
Deutschland, 230ff.
38 Littmann to Becker, Oct. 26 ?,
1915, NL Becker fol. 4579.
22
Nevertheless, the constant government pressure against negative
publicity took its toll. Yes, the genocide remained on people’s lips;
otherwise that same German Charity could not have collected so
much money for Armenian relief during the war. But in the public
square where talk might have mattered, the Church’s speech remained muffled. Belief requires not only hearing talk from a credible
source. It requires subjecting that talk to public debate. Precisely such
a debate was forbidden.
In recent years, a number of historians have reiterated the Entente’s
charge that Germany was co-responsible for the Armenian genocide – a charge Armenians themselves have long believed. Others
have countered that in the deadly game of Ottoman minority policy,
Germany held few cards. As our once-skeptical Professor Littman
put it: “In any case, would Turkey let us have a voice in a domestic
matter?”38 He knew the answer: not if it could help it.
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
The Entente’s implicit demand that Germany ditch its allies was a
cheap shot – certainly during their Gallipoli invasion, which overlapped almost precisely with the first genocidal push, and even later,
when Turks were tying down a million Entente troops. But there is
something that all of us can demand of a society, even during a desperately fought war: that it not lie to itself.
“Living in the truth:” Václav Havel’s famous line identifies truth itself
as a kind of power, available to men and women who have nothing else. Once someone steps out of the lie, Havel found, “he has
shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the
system ... He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. Living
within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal.” An
alternative threatens its very existence. Truth then becomes “the
power of the powerless.”39
That power was grasped by Johannes Lepsius. The veteran champion of the Armenians had already stepped out of the lie on October
5, 1915, when he invited the German Press Association, which met
weekly in the Reichstag building for government briefings, to hear
what Enver Pasha and Talât Bey had told him about their Armenian
policy.
It was an offer journalists could not refuse. News of Lepsius’s chilling conversations in August 1915 with Constantinople’s strongmen
had already spread by word-of-mouth. Those who remembered how
Lepsius’s 1896 reports from the killing fields were soon published in
translations abroad also knew that this was a man who knew how to
get the world’s attention. Articles circulating in the Swiss press on
the extermination of more than a million Armenians suggested that
Lepsius had already begun.
The next day Under Secretary of State Arthur Zimmermann summoned together the same reporters. While offering lip service to
the Turks’ claim that it was the Armenians who were massacring
the Turks, Zimmermann’s main point was that, since nothing could
be done for them anyway, Armenians were not worth the loss of an
important ally.
Lepsius kept pushing. He spoke to the Wednesday Society, a group
of intellectuals around Hans Delbrück and Adolf von Harnack.40 And
he organized an array of Protestant Church leaders (men with reliable sources of their own), proposing they circulate a mass petition
39 Václav Havel, “The Power
of the Powerless,” in Open
Letters: Selected Writings
1965-1990, ed. Paul
Wilson (New York, 1991),
125-214; esp. 144-45.
40 Ulrich Trumpener,
Germany and the Ottoman
Empire, 1914-1918
( [1968] Delmar NY,
1989), 220-25.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
23
to the chancellor that explicitly reproved the government’s disinformation policy: “It oppresses our conscience that the German press
praises the nobility and tolerance of our Mohammedan allies, while
Mohammedans are shedding rivers of innocent Christian blood.”
The petition predicted a “crippling impact on the morale of German
Christians when they have to look on while their allies destroy an
entire Christian people ... without our side doing whatever is possible to save them.”41
Yet precisely such visions of crippled morale raised anxieties within
the petitioners’ own ranks. Alarmed by their own courage, they wilted
under pressure from Church authorities to scrap a mass signature
drive. Their petition would remain confidential, its signers limited to
men in leadership roles. Even so, within a few days, 49 of the most
distinguished figures in German Protestantism had been persuaded
to sign – an unprecedented step in a Church known for its expansive
interpretation of “Render unto Caesar.” At Lepsius’s urging, Erzberger
got a committee of the Catholic Lay Congress [Katholikentag] to
issue a similar, although more anodyne, statement. Nothing remotely
like this effort – a movement opposing the policies of a wartime ally,
for example, in Britain to protect Russia’s Jews – occurred in any
of the other belligerent powers. Chancellor Bethmann took notice.
Referring to “mounting ... commotion in Germany,” he instructed his
ambassador to inform Turkey’s leaders of the two petitions “at every
opportunity, and emphatically.”42
But Germany’s “mounting commotion” remained private. By December 1915, the Foreign Office had managed to convince most Church
leaders that public talk would be counterproductive for Armenians
(and for Germans). Thus, debate within the Establishment was
aborted before wider circles could learn of it. Outside the columns
of a few religious publications (which usually employed Aesopian
language), there was no public “talk” about the extermination of the
Armenians.
41 BH to Neurath, Nov. 10, 1915,
encl. 1, Oct. 15, 1915, www.
armenocide.net, 915-11-10DE-011.
42 BH to Neurath, Nov. 10, 1915,
enclosing Protestant petition,
Oct. 15, 1915; and Catholic
committee to BH, Oct. 29,
1915: armenocide.net
1915-11-10-011.
24
Yet Germany’s Daniel Ellsberg (or Julian Assange?) kept on. The
pandemonium that broke out in the Reichstag in January 1916 when
Liebknecht referred to Lepsius’s findings was a telling sign that
Lepsius’s very name had become a synecdoche for the embarrassing
genocide. Now Lepsius worked feverishly to put a comprehensive
picture of the genocide into the hands of “every Protestant pastor”
in Germany. The board of his own German Orient Mission, unnerved
by rumors that Lepsius intended to finger Turkey’s government as
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
responsible for the horrors, stepped back. Couldn’t Lepsius leave
that part out? (He could not.) Misgivings grew: What if there were
reprisals against the mission’s schools, orphanages, and clinics?
After initially agreeing to foot the bill for Lepsius’s “comprehensive
picture,” the board decided to withdraw its support.
But let’s be real: How would living in the truth in Germany halt a Turkish killing machine? The lack of a convincing answer helps explain, I
think, why Lepsius found himself working so alone.
In July 1916, Lepsius finished his Report on the Situation of the Armenian
People in Turkey [Bericht über die Lage des armenischen Volkes in der
Türkei], printing 20,000 copies for “every” Protestant parsonage, plus
an additional 500 to send to public figures, the press, and members
of parliament. Lest so many identical parcels mailed in one place
attract attention, his eleven children were conscripted to fan out over
Potsdam, distributing them among corner mailboxes.
How successful were Lepsius’s efforts? It’s hard to tell. In August,
the authorities impounded 191 copies meant for Germany’s elected
representatives. A month later, the Turkish ambassador got wind of
the Report and protested to the military authorities, who ordered the
seizure of any remaining copies. But some of these Reports surely
reached their destinations because by late September, Lepsius had
received an astonishing 24,000 Marks for Armenian relief in response
to the appeal inserted in each copy. We can also see Lepsius’s efforts reflected in the sharp criticism of the government’s handling
of the Armenian issue in the Reichstag’s budget committee that
September,43 as well as in the complaints of a hypernationalist,
speaking that month before a crowd of thousands in Munich, about
propaganda in Germany on behalf of the Armenians.
Lepsius’s Report offers some puzzles worth pondering. Given exploding paper costs, where did an unbeneficed parson with eleven children get the money to publish and mail more than 20,000 copies of a
300-page book? Stamps alone would have cost 4,000 marks. Lepsius
merely cites “friends of the good cause.” Given rationing, where did
he obtain the paper? Another mystery is Lepsius’s continued freedom
of movement. While Entente powers were quick to incarcerate their
critics, Lepsius was threatened only with three days of jail and a 30
Mark fine – and then only in 1917.
Such forbearance suggests ambivalence. Even the policeman charged
with executing the seizure order in September 1916 proceeded with a
43 Goltz, “Armenische
Reformen,” 76-77n115;
Lepsius, Preface, Der
Todesgang, xxv, xxvii; R.
Schäfer, Geschichte der
Deutschen Orient-Mission
(Potsdam, 1932), 90-94;
Vahakn Dadrian, German
Responsibility 194n165;
Government spokesman
to Budget Committee,
Sept. 29, 1916: W. Gust,
ed., Der Völkermord an
den Armeniern 1915-16.
Dokumente aus dem Politischen Archiv des deutschen
Auswärtigen Amts (Springe,
2005), 551-55.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
25
minimum of force and fanfare – and, it appears, commitment. Finding
no one in Lepsius’s office, he simply left a penciled slip on the desk,
announcing the impoundment.44 Apparently, German confiscations,
like German censorship, were expected to be self-enforcing.
The grapevine that informed Germans of the genocide reminds us of
that old riddle: What’s the definition of a secret? Answer: something
told to only one person at a time. With the peace, however, official
secrets of all kinds burst into the open as authors scurried to “update”
their rosy accounts of wartime Turkey.
Openness begat controversy. What had befallen the Armenians
continued to be entwined with politics, most obviously, the politics
of peace-making, as a defeated Germany found itself in the dock,
accused not only of starting the war, but of atrocities in waging it: in
Belgium; on the high seas; in Anatolia against the Armenians. Yet
even at that point not everyone at the Wilhelmstrasse was alive to
how deeply the Ottoman alliance had compromised their country.
Thus, Germany’s delegation to Paris initially included not only their
heroic vice-consul of Mosul, who had succored Armenians, but also
their embassy’s naval attaché, Hans Humann, a pal of Enver’s who
had worked throughout the war as Enver’s mouthpiece. Word that
Ambassador Morgenthau’s memoirs had connected Humann to the
genocide led to the captain’s hasty removal, as an embarrassed Foreign Office, scrambling for damage control, responded with a Flucht
nach vorn: it commissioned the troublemaker Lepsius (!) to publish
its files on the genocide.
Widely reviewed, Lepsius’s Deutschland und Armenien, 1914-1918:
Sammlung diplomatischer Aktenstücke told anyone still in the dark that
a genocide had taken place – with the knowledge of Germany’s own
leaders. (Lepsius also re-published his 1916 Report. Now entitled The
Death March of the Armenian People [Der Todesgang des Armenischen
Volkes], its fourth printing reached 28,000 copies.)
44 Lepsius, Der Todesgang, xxiii-vi;
Steinhauer, Kriminalpolizei
Potsdam, Apr. 1, 1917, GStPK I
Rep. 191 Nr. 3664.
26
Inevitably, the genocide also became part of Weimar politics. Those
convinced their leaders had lied to them throughout the war squared
off against those convinced their undefeated army had been stabbed
in the back – a legend guaranteed to produce natural supporters for
the Young Turks’ own alibi of Armenian betrayal. A chain of Armenian
revenge assassinations in Berlin kept the issue alive, most famously in
1921, when Soghomon Tehlirian gunned Talât down in broad daylight
on the Hardenbergstrasse. Eulogies by prominent Germans at Talât’s
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
graveside praised him as the “Turkish Bismarck.”45 Lepsius, on the
other hand, testified on behalf of Talât’s assassin, whom a Berlin
jury acquitted – to international approval, but to vilification in Hugo
Stinnes’s Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, whose editor, the former naval
attaché Hans Humann, continued the war against the Armenians
by other means. In attacking and defending Armenians and Turks,
Germans were attacking and defending each other.
The Armenian catastrophe thus meant different things to different
Germans. For some, it meant mourning, and shame. There was
standing room only at St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, in the heart of Berlin,
for a memorial service for the Armenian people. The invitation, from
the German-Armenian Society, acknowledged that the genocide had
always been an open secret. “As is well known,” it said, “during the
World War more than a million Armenians, on orders of the Turkish
government, were massacred or deported to the desert ...” Although
they knew that their countrymen did not feel directly responsible, the
sponsors stated flatly that, because of its Turkish alliance, Germany’s
share in this wrong was greater than that of any other people.46
Most Germans, however, weighed down by their own sorrows, assimilated the genocide into a developing master narrative of German
battles nobly fought, if nobly lost – as we can see in a 1938 biography of Lt. Scheubner-Richter, consul of Erzerum in 1915, written by
his adoring adjutant. In a work published five years after Hitler’s
seizure of power, we might expect a testosterone-poisoned paean
to the healthy ruthlessness of the Young Turks. Instead, the author
lingered over his hero’s vigorous efforts to save Armenians. His preface proudly recalled his young commander in 1919 presenting him
with Lepsius’s newly-minted Deutschland und Armenien, Scheubner
inscribing it to the “memory of common struggles for the honor of
Germany’s escutcheon.…”47
Other Germans drew different lessons. To Hitler, the genocide served
as a warning of the doom that awaited weaker peoples. In 1922, he
cited the fate of the Armenians as what lay in store for Germans – if
no rational solution were found to the Jewish problem.48 Eight years
later, Hitler was complaining of the German press portraying “over
and over, far and wide, the ‘Armenian atrocities.’”49
45 Jäckh, “Talaat,” Deutsche
Politik 14: 315; “Zum
Andenken Talaat Pa-
schas,” eulogy by Count
Bernstorff, Germany‘s last
wartime ambassador to
Constantinople, in Das
demokratische Deutschland
12: 265.
46 Hermann Goltz, ed., Internationales Dr. JohannesLepsius -Symposium (Halle/
Saale, 1986), 276; idem.,
“Sophies Erzählung vom
Tode Hadschi Murats
und Lev Tolstojs kritische
Kulturtheorie der Wiesendistel,” in Myslashchiu
svobod’no imen’m’ i nravom’: zu Ehren von Dietrich
Freydank, ed. Swetlana
Mengel (Münster, 2000),
57-82, 61.
47 Paul Leverkuehn, Posten
auf ewiger Wache. Aus dem
abenteuerreichen Leben des
Max von Scheubner-Richter
(Essen, 1938), 9.
48 Hitler. Sämtliche
Aufzeichnung 1905-1924,
ed. E. Jäckel with A.
Kuhn (Stuttgart, 1980),
775. Also: “Eradication
of Armenia,” Leipziger
Neueste Nachrichten, 1931,
interview with Hitler; K.D.
Bardakjian, Hitler and
the Armenian Genocide
(Cambridge, MA, 1985),
27-28, citing É. Calic, ed.,
Ohne Maske: Hitler-Breiting
Geheimgespräche, 1931
(Frankfurt, 1968), 101
(translated as Unmasked:
Two Confidential Interviews
with Hitler in 1931 (New
York, 1971).
49 “Politik der Woche,”
Illustrieter Beobachter,
May 24, 1930, in Hitler,
Reden, Schriften,
Anordnungen. February 1925
bis January 1933. Vol. 3.,ed.
C. Hartmann et al. (Munich,
1995), doc. 49: 202-206.
Thanks are due to to Peter
Black of the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Museum for this
information.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
27
What is the significance of our story of Germany and the Armenian
genocide? It’s important, I think, because it highlights for us the
enduring tensions between national interests, felt to be vital, and
our obligations to humanity. (As our own Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger opined in 1973, recorded on the Nixon tapes: “…if they put
Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American
concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”50) And it reminds us of the
moral complexities we face in judging what Kant called “the crooked
timber of humanity.”
Let me close with two examples: The 40-year-old career diplomat Count Friedrich-Werner von Schulenburg became consul at
Erzerum in 1916, arriving after the region had been cleansed of its
Armenians. He had heard that there had been massacres, but he
wasn’t having any of it. Such stories, he was sure, were “99/100 %
lies, the result of the colossal cowardice of these people and of the
Orientals’ addiction to exaggeration. Naturally,” he then conceded,
“quite a lot have been beaten to death and even more died on the
way.”51 But it was clear that the new consul thought this was nothing for Germans to get upset about. The man Schulenburg had
replaced as consul was 31-year-old Lt. Scheubner-Richter, who
had protested, intervened, and aided every Armenian he could, and
was finally removed because the Turks refused to have any more
dealings with him.
Both men met violent ends. The hard-hearted Schulenburg died a
hero’s death at Plötzensee in November 1944 for his role in the plot
to assassinate Hitler. Scheubner-Richter met his death eleven years
earlier, in Munich, shot down at Hitler’s side in the unsuccessful
Beer Hall Putsch of November 9, 1923. He was the Führer’s righthand man.
50 “In Tapes, Nixon Rails about
Jews and Blacks,” New York
Times, Dec. 11, 2010.
51 armenocide.net 1916-04-16DE-001.
52 W. G. H., “Vorlesung von Franz
Werfel in der Akademie,” Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Dec. 9,
1932; NL Becker fol. 7399.
28
Even as the war generation aged, the memory of the genocide
remained green. In December 1932, Franz Werfel traveled across
Germany giving readings from Forty Days of Musa Dagh, his epic
novel of Armenian resistance, to capacity audiences. Professor
Becker clipped a review of Werfel’s chapter depicting Lepsius’s
verbal “duel” with Enver Pasha in Constantinople in August 1915.52
Both antagonists were now dead; the empires for which each had
fought, also gone. Yet before other victims claimed the world’s attention, the events in Anatolia in 1915 set the international standard
for horror. Germans were still talking about the extermination of
the Armenians.
BULLETIN OF THE GHI | 49 | FALL 2011
Features
Forum
GHI Research
Conference Reports
GHI News
Much of this lecture is taken from my article “Who Still Talked about the Extermination of the Armenians? German Talk and German Silence,” in A Question of
Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire, ed. Ronald Grigor
Suny, Fatma Müge Göçek, and Norman M. Naimark (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), which provides more documentation. I thank Oxford University
Press for permission to republish.
Margaret Lavinia Anderson is Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. Her Practicing Democracy: Elections and Political Culture in Imperial Germany (Princeton, 2000) was recently translated as Lehrjahre
der Demokratie: Wahlen und politische Kultur im Kaiserreich (Stuttgart: Steiner
Verlag, 2009). A deliberately provocative summary, “Demokratie auf schwierigem
Pflaster. Wie das deutsche Kaiserreich demokratisch wurde,” will appear in
Logos im Dialogos: Auf der Suche nach der Orthodoxie. Gedenkschrift für Hermann
Goltz (1946-2010), ed. Anna Briskina-Müller, Armenuhi Drost-Abgarjan, and
Axel Meißner (Münster/Berlin: LIT, 2011). Anderson has written on responses to
the massacres of the 1890s in “‘Down in Turkey Far Away’: Human Rights, the
Armenian Massacres, and Orientalism in Imperial Germany,” Journal of Modern
History 79 (2007): 80-111.
ANDERSON | IMPERIAL GERMANY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
29
×

Report this document