Should we wait for the juridical level after the moral one?

The one-day conference on “The Armenian Genocide and German Publicity” organized by the Heinrich Byol Foundation of Berlin on September 22 was aimed at, as the organizers mentioned several times in their speeches, touching upon “a story that still hasn’t ended” “in the European measure”, a story that even though historians and political figures unquestionably call genocide, still has a long way to go in terms of recognition. the resolution on “Deportation and Massacres of Armenians” adopted by the Bundestag in 2005, which included Germany’s negative role in this, had made the legislative body of the Federal Republic of Germany make efforts to reconsider and reconcile. By organizing the mentioned conference, the Foundation had the desire to assess the role of WWI and Germany, speak of the directions for reconsidering, remembering and reconciling by taking the opinions of historians and political scientists into account, as well as get acquainted with civil initiatives. The conference had a full program with speeches by professionals in the first part. Professor of Paris University, well-known historian, Head of Nubaryan Library Raymond Gevorgian delivered a speech in French entitled “The Level of Research on the Armenian Genocide”. He touched upon the different stages of research, spoke of the issues, presented the archives in different countries, the documents kept in those archieves and the individuals who have been seriously involved in them for the past couple of years.

“There have been systematic efforts for the past 20 years. Now, genocide has become a sphere of science, and the Armenian Genocide has become international,” the head of Nubaryan Library in Paris said in his brief  presentation and focused on Germany’s responsibility, taking into account the audience.

Next to speak was Professor at the University of Zurich, historian Hans Luca Kiizer, who spoke of responsibility and compliance and called the word of the day “qualifizierte Mitverantwortung, which we will translate with the help of two scientists. According to Raymond Gevorgian, this phrase can be translated as “documented”, according to Mihran Daagh, it can be translated as “notable compliance”. The Swiss historian, who focused more on Germany being Turkey’s accomplice, touched upon the Germans’ “often fearful position” and said “today, it became clear that it is worth showing a clearer, more stable backbone” to this issue. “It is necessary to present the role of this cornerstone of history in educational institutions, as well as at all public levels not through humiliation, which has often been the case, but by accepting the indisputable genocide perpetrated against the Armenians, and Germany, as an ally, should take the documented and notably complying responsibility, meaning a careful, multi-layered reconsideration,” the historian told “Azg”.

In his report on “World War I, Nationalism, Imperialism and Genocide”, Doctor of the Department of New History at Konstantsi University, Professor Boris Bart spoke of pan-Turkism, touched upon the use of the terms “genocide”, massive slaughter and ethnic cleansing and their differences. Publicist Wolfgang Gust gave a speech on “The Role of the Armenian Genocide and the German Reich”. Since 2003, there have been 3-5,000 people visiting his portal ( that features many archival documents.

“The year 2015 is close at hand. As a publicist, what do you expect from the German Bundestag and the government? In response, Wolfgang Gust said: “I expect the government to make clear proposals, recognize the Armenian Genocide and call it just that-genocide. For German parliamentarians, it is clear that it should be calld genocide not only in the resolution, but in general as well. I place more importance on genocide recognition when the society recognizes it than I do when political figures do it through resolutions. Who reads resolutions? Few people do. I hope that Turkey, taking into account the time (100th anniversary), will officially be liberal. This, of course, is not in our hands. However, when speaking to the Turks, German politicians surely have the chance to touch upon that issue, even though I think many talk to the Turks about this.” In our interview, Raymond Gevorgyan said “Germany’s self-criticism sometimes goes to the extreme. On the other hand, it is very important for them to take another’s pain into account. Frankly, this is a very beautiful approach.”

After a long break, the floor was given to editor-in-chief of German-Armenian Epistolary (ADK) quarterly journal Raffi Kandian, speaker for Eastern European Policy of the Greens Faction in the Bundestag, MP Marylouise Becky and Myurvet Eoztyurk, who is a deputy representing the Greens faction in Landtag, which is the territorial parliament in Hessen. Raffi Kandian presented the reflection on the Armenian Genocide issue in stages by showing clear examples that politicians have often changed their positions based on political consideration. “I didn’t feel too well after looking at your history,” Marylouise Beck told Kandian and, like many, underlined that she had found out about the Armenian Genocide after reading Verfel and watching the film “The Armenian Cause no longer exists” by Ralph Giordano in 1986. Deputy of the Landtag in Hessen, Eoztyurkn mentioned that after graduating from a German school and the History Department at the University of Koln, he had accidentally found out about this issue from a Turkic-speaking Armenian in Syria and had felt ashamed. “This should be made public from bottom to the top,” Eoztyurk said.
The participants of the conference shared the view that the material should be included in the curricula of schools in the territory. Kandian regretted that the unexplained absence of educators in the territory will first make them clarify the reasons and then be consistent in organizing a meeting.

Even though the Bundestag’s resolution is not bad, it is wrong not to use the term,” Turkish writer Doghan Akhanli said.
The question and answer following the speeches was also interesting. A Turkish listener presented his comments: “The war was the reason; otherwise, there wouldn’t have been such elimination. Who was the force that pushed Turkey to war?” “Do you mean that Germany pushed Turkey to war?” the session’s moderator asked. “Yes, Germany sent Enver,” the Turk said in response to the question. “The war was a means. Germany didn’t provoke Turkey, and there are many sources,” Raymond Gevorgyan said and viewed this as clear denial during our interview.

The third part of the conference was for leaders of different civil initiatives, including Sofia Georgalidis, Mattias Klingenberg, Doghan Akhanli, Toros Saryan wo spoke of forming a Culture of Remembrance in order to keep the topic alive through discussions, exhibitions, performances, conversations and visits to memorable sites. To sum it up, they said such projects are implemented with little funding, but large funds can help implement more activities.

“We’re not involved in lobbying,” representative of Byol University Bastian Hermisson said at the end of the conference. “What, in essence, was the goal of this conference?” we asked Raffi Kandian.

“As far as I understood, the first goal was to put the issue on the table. As far as Germany’s participation is concerned, yes, the Germans were responsible, but that doesn’t mean that they perpetrated the genocide. They were accomplices, but not the moving force and the ones that planned the genocide,” Mr. Kandian said. “What are your expectations from the German Bundestag and the government before 2015?” In response to our second question, the editor-in-chief of ADK said he was just finding out from MP Beck that “the Bundestag is thinking of such a thing and there are already some preparations or will be.”

In an interview with “Azg”, Boris Bart first said “since it is a little difficult to bring science and publicity close together”, he considered the conference a success. “I think there will be many events before 2015, including conferences, book publications and a new platform for public discourse. As for politics, to be honest, I don’t know,” the historian said.

The public discourse had brought together many people, including Armenian Ambassador Armen Martirosyan, other diplomats, historians and experts on the issue such as Tesa Hoffman, Jirair Kocharyan, historian Vahe Tashchyan and others.
Co-Chair of the Greens Party Chem Eozdemir, who was the keynote speaker at the event, emphasized that he wouldn’t be speaking on behalf of the Turkish community, but as a partisan. He clearly underlined that he had attended the event in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide held at St. Sahak-Mesrop Church in Koln in 2001-an event that his partisans emphasized several times during the conference.

“The murder of Hrant Dink was not by chance. It was the same as the murder of Rabin,” Eozdemir said, touching upon the “football diplomacy”. “Turkey scored zero in its “zero problems with neighbors” policy,” he said, adding that “a country can join the EU when it has good relations with all of its neighbors.”

“Azg” also asked what Turkish writer, lawyer Doghan Akhanli  had said to the gathered. “Although Armenians were killing Turkish diplomats in the 70s, the Turks weren’t talking about that publicly. Renunciation was leading us and the country toward a labyrinth. You speak of Germany’s publicity. My evaluation is very subjective-German publicity is my salvation. Germany gave me the opportunity to break my silence and share my story. Germany can become a place for the Turks to review their history. The Diaspora is Turkey’s point of conflict. The Diaspora has preserved the memory of genocide. Hrant Dink was even against the Diaspora, but the Diaspora has Dink and Mihran Dabagh. This is not the issue of Turks, but an issue that is related to all Armenians,” Doghan Akhanli said.

Chem Eozdemir left the hall rather quickly. The speakers that we already know summed up the day and…the public discourse ended.

“Azg” daily newspaper

Scroll Up