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Turkish Denial of the Armenian Genocide

Yehuda Bauer, Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

I am very sad to say that the present Turkish government still denies the fact of the Armenian genocide in the First World War -- although the present Turkish republic was founded on the opposition, violent opposition, to the Young Turkish regime in the last years of the Ottoman Empire which committed the genocide. And there was a Turkish military tribunal in Istanbul in 1918-1919 that confirmed -- a Turkish military tribunal -- that confirmed the murder is a genocide, that dealt with it in detail, and that heard the evidence on the part of certain Turkish military officers who had opposed the genocidal policy and who then testified against the former Young Turkish government, which by that time was no longer in existence.

Kemal Pasha Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, himself mentioned the Armenian genocide explicitly, and was enraged at the fact the Western Powers didn't simply hang these criminals, as he called them, who had committed the genocide. So the fact that the Turkish government today, which is the heir to Kemal Pasha, denies that a genocide has taken place is something that I simply cannot understand.

The evidence is absolutely overwhelming. There are tens of thousands, quite literally, reports in Austrian, German, French, and American archives that testify -- because, you know, until 1917 there were American representatives in Turkey before America entered the war. And of course Austria, Hungry, and Germany were Turkish Allies, so they had representatives all over Turkey. They reported back what was happening, what they literally saw around them. So, the evidence is just huge. And there are some really courageous Turkish academics who deal with that problem; but there are people who will deny anything. And to me, a denial of a genocide is a denial of all genocides, and so I cannot accept that.

I had quite a run-in with some Turkish representatives of the past years, and I really consider myself a friend of Turkey; you know, I greatly appreciate Turkish culture and Turkish history. The Turks were extremely friendly to Jews in the wake of the expulsion of Jews from Spain. Their role in World War II is problematic, but there were individual Turkish diplomats who risked their lives to rescue Jews. So, to say that I have anything against Turks or Turkey would be simply wrong. I am a great admirer of Turkey.

But a denial of the Armenian genocide is something that no honest academic can suffer, can stand. And so, I completely identify with the demand of Armenians that this should be recognized. They don't demand anything else, just the fact that it happened. It is for -- they, like the Jews, are a traumatized society. Eighty years, ninety years after it happened, it's still there, and it will remain there inevitably, just as it will remain with the Jews. One third of the Jewish people has disappeared. This is not something that in one or two or three or four generations people can overcome. This is a social trauma of tremendous proportions. And because of certain reasons which are really too complicated to go into, the Western world today has, I think rightly, accepted the Holocaust as a symbol for other genocides because it's this extreme form of genocide, and that includes the Armenian genocide as well.