The Blue Raccoon

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Who nowadays talks of the Armenians?"

REFUGEES AT VAN CROWDING AROUND A PUBLIC OVEN, HOPING TO GET BREAD. These people were torn from their homes almost without warning, and started toward the desert. Thousands of children and women as well as men died on these forced journeys, not only from hunger and exposure, but also from the inhuman cruelty of their guards. -- This illustration appears in Henry Morgenthau's account of his ambassadorship for the United States to Ottoman Turkey, 1913-1916.

I want to interrupt my own back-slapping about my slender volume of twice-told tales to make a point that I've not seen in the sliver of what passes for contemporary news media with which I choose to inflict my senses.

This most recent and quite late attempt in Congress to issue some kind of stern rebuke for the mass killings by Turks of the Armenians in 1915 has cropped up just as snarling and sabre-rattling occurs at the border of Turkey and Iraq. Nowhere, in the assessment of this distraction, has there been mention of Hitler's August 22, 1939 excuse for the destruction of innocent lives, just a week prior to the launch of the attack on Poland. Maybe because the remarks, made during one of his harangues to members of the German military high command and state apparatus at his Berghof residence, has undergone various interpretations.

"Our [Nazi] strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter—with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me.

I have issued the command—and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad—that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death's head formations in readiness—for the present only in the East—with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

The statement--though not the entire monologue--has received the description of "purported." John Toland, in his massive biography of Hitler, states in his record of the lecture that it wasn't based on a verbatim account but on notes of officers present. The Armenian statement isn't given by Toland.

From my studies even in Richmond and Virginia history, I've learned that when documents or accounts don't agree, or otherwise given accounts that may overlap except for one strange hole that somehow nobody every thought to fill with a description -- later interpreters are either forced to shove the varying accounts into the footnotes or choose one and punt.

Hell, nobody took notes for Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech, yet this didn't prevent a later writer from constructing one that was, perhaps, close enough to what he may have said at St. John's Church here (which wasn't even called St. John's at the time, but the Henrico Parish Church).

Nor have I heard--and this may mean I don't pay enough attention anymore to what the blathering white noise that passes for our news establishment--if anyone has mentioned that the Clinton administration tried in 2000 to pass a memorial of the mass murder of Armenians but the Turks threatened to shut down U.S. bases.

You can read about this shameful event in man's inhumanity to man here and here.

An excerpt:

    "History, of course, is a hard taskmaster, veined with inconvenient facts and
corrupted heroes as well as the massacre of innocents. The Armenian
community in Turkey had its Allied sympathisers when the Ottoman army was
fighting the British and French in the First World War, and Armenians also
fought in the tsarist Russian army against Turkey. But the proof of genocide
is intact. The Young Turk movement - once a liberal organisation which the
Armenians had supported - had taken control of the dying empire and adopted
a "pan-Turkism" which espoused a Turkish-speaking Muslim nation from
Constantinople to Baku.

Within weeks of their victory over the Allies at the Dardanelles in 1915,
they fell upon the Armenians. Churchill was to refer to
the "merciless fury" unleashed upon the Christian minority. The US
ambassador in Constantinople - himself a Jew - wrote heart-wrenching reports
back to Washington of mass slaughter. Near the Turkish village of Mus,
hundreds of men were lined up on bridges and shot into the rivers,

Behind the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland, I was once taken by a camp
guide to a series of small lakes in which the Nazis dumped the ash of the
crematoria. Beneath the water and ice lay the powdered white bones of whole
cities of people. Yet in the north Syrian desert there are still skulls and
bones in caves and in the clay of river banks. This place of martyrdom is
visited once a year by the local Armenian community to commemorate their
holocaust. They even have a holocaust memorial day. Yet I wonder if a single
non-Armenian reader of The Independent knows what the date is?"

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