Germany’s parliamentarians and delegates from across the country re-elected on Sunday President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Congratulations Mr. Steinmeier, you received 77% support at the Federal Convention in Berlin.
But let me ask you something: is it appropriate for a country like Germany to have a president who denies the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans?
Mr. Steinmeier, you were one of the two members of a 630-member parliament in 2016 who opposed Germany’s resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide.
You said recognizing the Armenian Genocide as such might “belittle the Holocaust.”
How is that? As the President of Germany have you read the cables sent by Germany’s diplomats in the Ottoman Empire to Berlin? Let me enlighten you, Mr. Steinmeier:
As allies during the war, the Imperial German mission in the Ottoman Empire included both military and civilian components. Germany had brokered a deal with the Sublime Porte, the government of the Ottoman Empire to commission the building of a railroad stretching from Berlin to the Middle East called the Baghdad Railway. Germany’s diplomatic mission at the beginning of 1915 was led by Ambassador Hans Freiherr von Wangenheim, who was later succeeded by Paul Wolf Metternich following his death in 1915.
Like the US ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador von Wangenheim began to receive many disturbing messages from consul officials around the Ottoman Empire detailing the massacre of Armenians from the province of Adana. German Consul Eugene Buge reported that the Committee of Union and Progress chief had sworn to kill and massacre any Armenians who survived the deportation marches.
In June 1915, von Wangenheim sent a cable to Berlin reporting that Talat Basha had admitted that the deportations were not “being carried out, because of military ‘considerations alone’”. One month later, he concluded that there “no longer was a doubt that the Porte was trying to exterminate the Armenian race in the Turkish Empire.”
Another notable figure in the German military camp was Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, who documented various massacres of Armenians. He sent fifteen reports regarding deportations and mass killings to the German Chancellery. His final report noted that fewer than 100,000 Armenians were left alive in the Ottoman Empire: the rest having been exterminated (He used the term ausgharottet).
Scheubner-Richter also detailed the methods of the Ottoman government, noting its use of the special organisation and other bureaucratized instruments of genocide.
The Germans also witnessed the way Armenians were burned according to a Jewish historian Bat Ye’, who writes: “The Germans, allies of the Turks in the first World War… saw how civil populations were shut up in churches and burned, or gathered en masse in camps, tortured to death, and reduced to ashes.”
German officers stationed in eastern Turkey disputed the government’s assertion that Armenian revolts had broken out, suggesting that the areas were “quiet until the deportations began.”
Other German politicians openly supported the Ottoman genocide against the Armenians as Hans Humann, the German attache in Constantinople said to the US ambassador Henry Morgenthau:
I have lived in Turkey for the most substantial part of my life… and I know the Armenians. I also know that both Armenians and Turks cannot live together in this country.
One of these races has got to go. And I don’t blame the Turks for what they are doing to the Armenians. I think that they are entirely justified. The weaker nation must succumb. The Armenians desire to dismember Turkey; They are against the Turks and the Germans in this war, and they, therefore, have no right to exist here.
So Mr. Steinmeier, how would you like to be remembered in history books? Do you want to be remembered as Hans Humann? Does it please you to be called a genocide denier? Because at the end of the day, we are all going to leave this universe one day and the only thing we will leave here is our reputation and I believe being called a genocide denier and congratulated by a racist ultranationalist Turkish Grey Wolves is not the reputation any politician should desire.
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Kevork Almassian is an award-winning political commentator from Syria. He is the founder of Syriana Analysis and is known for his contribution to the literature on the Syrian war.