On August 22, 1939, just days before the outbreak of World War II, Adolf Hitler met with his army generals. When he explained why he had decided to attack Poland, he assured them that the world would keep silent: "Who, after all, speaks today about the annihilation of the Armenians?," Hitler reasoned. This sentence has been quoted countless times as ostensible proof that the Armenian genocide served as a kind of "general rehearsal" for the annihilation of European Jewry. At the Holocaust Museum in Washington, these words are etched on one of the walls.
Approximately 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turks during World War I. It was genocide; however, the quote attributed to Hitler is of dubious provenance. It originated with a well-known American journalist, Louis Lochner, an AP reporter in Nazi Germany and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Lochner reported on Hitler's speech in a book he published in 1942. After the war, Lochner gave a version of the speech to the American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. The prosecutor was not satisfied, because he didn't know the source of the speech, nor under what circumstances it was leaked to the reporter. He dispatched his people to search for the official version.
It turned out that on that day, Hitler gave two speeches. The Americans managed to locate the official version of both; the line about the slaughter of the Armenians does not appear in either. The version Lochner got hold of was apparently a mix of the two. The prosecution in Nuremberg decided not to submit the reporter's version to the court, but did leak it to the press; the prosecutor apologized in court for the leak and claimed it occurred by mistake. At any rate, this is how the citation entered the heritage of the Armenian holocaust.
Turkey, of course, denies that there was an Armenian genocide, and last week it recalled its ambassador from Washington after the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill calling the massacre of the Armenians genocide. This is how history has the power to make history: Denial of the Armenian holocaust is anchored in Turkish misgivings about its identity as a modern nation-state. Although the Turks' position is therefore understandable, it must not be supported. Unfortunately, Israel has removed itself from the nations whose voice ought to be heard on all matters pertaining to the violation of human rights; its military and other interests in Turkey are even leading Israel to lend a hand to the concealment of the Armenian genocide. The Turks are putting the Jews, and Israel, at the center of this affair.
Last week, the Turkish foreign minister came to Israel and called on it to stop the U.S. Congress from adopting the decision of the foreign affairs committee; after all, everyone knows the Jews control the world, and the U.S. Congress. Meanwhile, the Turks are also issuing threats: The Congressional decision could put the Jewish community in Turkey at risk. This galling threat is just as despicable as the denial of the Armenian genocide itself, and just goes to show why decent people need to demand that Turkey finally learn to look in the mirror. The Germans have done so; it was painful at first, but worth it in the end.
Who misled Werfel?
The Turkish Foreign Ministry claims that it wasn't the Armenians, but the Turks themselves, who were the real victims. A special booklet published by the Turks says that the Greeks, the Russians and other Christians, including the Armenians, threatened Turkey's security and also killed many Turks, and hence there was no choice but to remove the Armenian population. The Turkish Foreign Ministry counts among the Christian world's evil deeds the occupation of Palestine by the British. General Allenby's armies entered Jerusalem a few weeks after the publication of the Balfour Declaration, 90 years ago, and are depicted as fighters in the service of the Zionist idea. The impression is that the ministry is still bewailing the loss of Jerusalem, although, as far as anyone knows, Turkey is not demanding that the city be returned.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry attributes the "lie" about the Armenian massacre to two Jews - Henry Morgenthau and Franz Werfel. Morgenthau was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, and much of what the world knows about the Armenian genocide it learned from a book the ambassador wrote after his return home. The Turkish Foreign Ministry is careful not to identify Morgenthau as a Jew; it just paints him as a foolish propagandist.
About Werfel, the Turkish Foreign Ministry writes that he published a book entitled "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh," but that was just a novel that can teach us nothing more than the film "Amadeus" might teach us about the composer Salieri. In this equation, the Armenians are Mozart and the Turks are Salieri, and just as Salieri didn't murder Mozart, the Turks didn't slaughter the Armenians. At this point, the ministry offers a small scoop: Shortly before his death, Werfel realized that he had been misled, and he regretted "Musa Dagh." This revelation is ascribed to one of Werfel's friends, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry takes the trouble to note: The man was a Spanish Jew named Abraham Sabar. And then comes the unassailable argument: "If the Armenians did indeed fall victim to genocide, how is it that so many Armenians are still alive today, and in Turkey as well?"
Just as happens when countries try to explain away war crimes, the booklet published by the Turkish Foreign Ministry fluctuates between denial and justification until it finally arrives at the inevitable: partial admission. We didn't do it; we did it for security reasons; yes, there were exceptions, but the criminals were tried and punished. According to the ministry, no fewer than 1,397 people were punished, and some of them were executed. Now comes the calculation: If each one of them slaughtered just 10 Armenians, that would add up to about 13,000. Yet might one surmise that someone in Turkey wouldn't be punished for just 10 dead Armenians? And anyway, all of the "exceptions" certainly didn't make it to trial. Let's say that one out of every five criminals was convicted (making an actual total of 6,985); and each one of them slaughtered an average of 200 Armenians, then you would get close to 1.5 million - exceptions, of course, exceptions.
Czech Republic, Syria, Jordan
After a long search, the burial place has been found of two Czech underground fighters who, in the summer of 1942, assassinated one of the masterminds behind the plan to annihilate European Jewry, Reinhard Heydrich. The two, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, committed suicide before the Nazis could catch them, and were buried in unmarked graves in one of Prague's cemeteries. Not far from them is buried Karl Herman Frank, who came up with the Germans' revenge for Heydrich's murder: the destruction of the village of Lidice.
Not far from the site that Israeli planes attacked in Syria is the place where the world's oldest wall painting was discovered. French archaeologists estimate that it was made about 11,000 years ago. It is found on the wall of a cave, and like a work of 20th-century art, it is composed solely of colorful lines and blotches.
The Jordanian government is completing construction of a small archaeological museum named for Lot. The round structure is already standing, on the shore of the Dead Sea, not far from the place where, they say, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt.
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