Remembering the Armenians

June 5, 2016
Source: Buenos Aires Herald

Only a twisted mind or those under the illusion that the whole world rotates around Argentina could possibly conclude that Germany’s Bundestag voted to declare the Ottoman massacre of Armenians during the First World War a genocide because of the presence of the head of German diplomacy, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, that same day in this country with its large Armenian community but it still remains an interesting coincidence. The timing is curious. Why did Germany, which in the main has done a very creditable job of coming to terms with its own crimes against humanity during the last seven decades, take over a century to accept the Armenian genocide (officially recognized nearly a decade ago by Argentina, despite a much shorter period of democracy)? If Adolf Hitler famously said: “Who today remembers the Armenians?” when claiming impunity in advance for the Nazi death camps, would it not have been in modern Germany’s interest to prove Hitler wrong on that point as they have tried to disown him over so many others? And after taking so long, why now when Europe is looking to Turkey to stem or at least filter the inflow of refugees from Syria and elsewhere?

The not very diplomatic reaction of Turkey’s foreign minister was to tell Germany: “The way to close the dark pages in your own history is not by besmirching the history of other countries with irresponsible and groundless parliamentary declarations” but in many ways this is exactly the point — Germany, Turkey, Argentina and many other countries with a past of crimes against humanity should be condemning the atrocities of both themselves and others all the time because genocide must be opposed across borders. Germany, Turkey and Argentina (along with many other nations) have witnessed massacres at different times in their history, in different ways and with differences in scale but the essence is exactly the same — genocide must be condemned and resisted universally.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of last Friday’s “Ni Una Menos” march, the condemnation of genocide should not wait for 1.5 million Armenians or many more millions Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and Marxists to be dead — rather it should be recognized that evil must be fought at root. Now that Germany has been able to take this step, it leaves a couple of lessons — forgetting works so slyly that a country can take over a century to recognize a massacre in a neighbouring country; it’s never too late to face the truth; and violence must be resisted from its earliest manifestations.