1915 Armenian Genocide, a justification to Hitler’s invasion of Poland
WASHINGTON: President Biden has now recognized the mass murder of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War l as a genocide, a designation that both Republican and Democratic presidents have long avoided for fear of damaging relations with Turkey.
Historians estimate that 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed in a campaign of forced marches and mass killings. This destruction of the people born out of concern by the Moslem Caliphate in Ottoman that Armenians would align with Russia during World War I.
Turkey has acknowledged that large numbers of Armenians were killed beginning in 1915 but denies that these events constitute genocide.
Biden’s April 24 recognition of Ottoman Empire atrocities
The Ottomans seized Armenian leaders and intellectuals in Istanbul in 1915 in what scholars view as the opening phase of the first genocide of the 20th century.
President Ronald Reagan referred to the slaughter of Armenians as a genocide early in his term. Unfortunately, his successors, out of concern for alienating Turkey, did not.
By accepting the Armenian Genocide without protest, the world set the stage for the Holocaust, an even greater genocide. And Adolf Hitler noticed.
At the conclusion of his remarks to his commanders at his home in Obersalzberg, Germany just prior to the German invasion of Poland, Hitler said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Hitler knew about the Armenian Genocide and found inspiration in it. He told his commanders no one would remember the genocide of the Polish. Any more than the genocide of the Armenians. The Fuhrer saw the systematic mass murder and ethnic cleansing of around one million ethnic Armenians from the Armenian Highlands, Anatolia, and adjoining regions by the Ottoman Empire and its ruling party, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) as a way forward.
Hitler used the Armenian Genocide during World War I as a justification for taking over Poland and the “murder of six million Poles (three million Christians, including 3,000 Catholic priests, and three million Polish Jews) were killed during this period.” (Genocide of Poles During World War II) prior to the “final solution” that killed some six million Jews, including Polish Jews.
In his 1939 speech, Hitler declared:
“Our strength consists in our speed and 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 on the physical destruction of the enemy.
Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation 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 which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
This speech was before the Holocaust as German Nazis sought more land. This reference to the Armenian genocide is on one of the walls of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Abram L. Sachar, a historian and the first president of Brandeis University, wrote that
“The Armenian genocide was cited approvingly twenty-five years after by the Fuehrer, who found the Armenian ‘solution’ an instructive precedent.” According to historian Stefan Ihrig, the Nazi worldview was shaped by the Turkish revolution and “getting away with genocide.”
Since 1915. the world has remained silent about the Armenian Genocide. Ironically, the government of Israel and its friends in the U.S. have opposed designating the events of 1915 as a “genocide.”
In 2001, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said,
“We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It was a tragedy what the Armenians went through, but no genocide.”
According to historians Rifat Bali and Marc David Baer,
“The single most important factor in successfully concluding the process of normalization between Israel and Turkey was Armenian genocide denial.”
When efforts grew in Congress to label the murder of Armenians by Turkey a genocide, many American Jewish organizations followed Israel’s lead.
According to The Times of Israel (Dec. 13, 2019),
“For years, most of the U.S. Jewish establishment was quietly opposed to efforts to recognize the Armenian genocide…Abe Foxman, the former head of the Anti-Defamation League, said that there were several reasons for their neutrality…Chief among them was their not wanting to damage the Israeli-Turkish relationship.”
Other Jewish spokesmen have been strong advocates for recognizing the Armenian genocide. Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, chief rabbi of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly states:
“In light of our own history and experience with genocide, including the Holocaust, we feel the need to represent a moral truth even when it conflicts with a desire for improved relations with modern-day Turkey or the Israeli-Turkish relationship.”
Some years ago, I spent time in Turkey and interviewed Turkish officials in Ankara and Istanbul. Concerning their reluctance to use the term “genocide” to describe the 1915 slaughter of Armenians, I suggested an alternative approach. I pointed to the fact that the modern Republic of Turkey did not exist in 1915. And that the assault on Armenians was by the Ottoman Empire, which no longer exists.
Why should modern Turkey take responsibility for the events of 1915, I asked. This line of argument made no sense to the Turks.
If the world had reacted to events in Turkey in 1915 in a different way, Hitler might not have been encouraged to follow in its footsteps of genocide. It is good that the U.S. has now formally accepted a truth it has long denied. In 2015, Pope Francis said of the Armenian genocide,
“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”
Now, at least the truth of the Armenian genocide of 1915 is clear to all. Proving we need to learn from history, lest we repeat it.
About the Author:
Allan Brownfeld is a veteran writer who has spent decades working in and around Washington, D.C. Brownfeld earned his B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary. His M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia, and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonwealth, and The Christian Century. Visit his Writers Page to learn more.