The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide

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The Spirit of the Laws: The Plunder of Wealth in the Armenian Genocide

Akçam, Taner and Kurt, Ümit.
New York: Berghahn, 2015, 220 pages. ISBN 978-1-78238-623-0.

Pertinent to contemporary demands for reparations from Turkey is the relationship between law and property in connection with the Armenian Genocide. This book examines the confiscation of Armenian properties during the genocide and subsequent attempts to retain seized Armenian wealth. Through the close analysis of laws and treaties, it reveals that decrees issued during the genocide constitute central pillars of the Turkish system of property rights, retaining their legal validity, and although Turkey has acceded through international agreements to return Armenian properties, it continues to refuse to do so. The book demonstrates that genocides do not depend on the abolition of the legal system and elimination of rights, but that, on the contrary, the perpetrators of genocide manipulate the legal system to facilitate their plans.

Taner Akçam holds the Kaloosdian and Mugar Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University. His best-known books are A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility (Metropolitan Books, 2006); Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials, with Vahakn Dadrian (Berghahn Books, 2011); and The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, (Princeton University Press, 2012), which in 2013 received the Middle East Studies Association’s Hourani Book Prize and was listed by Foreign Affairs as “Best International Relations Books of 2012.”

Umit Kurt received his PhD in History from Clark University in 2016, and his MA in European Studies from Sabancı University in 2008. He was a visiting professor in the Armenian Studies Program at California State University in 2015–16, and a post-doctoral fellow at CMES, Harvard University in 2016–17. Currently, he is the Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Polonsky Academy for Advanced Studies.