There is a strategic problem with those who seek to combat Holocaust and genocide denialism. The traditional academic response is to use reason and learning to educate the denialist out of his or her stance. It never works — because both “sides”, in what is wrongly called “the debate”, start from different premises.
Several decades ago, the late historian Raul Hilberg “debated” electrical engineer Arthur Butz on an American television show. The moderators asked Butz to go first. “It didn’t happen”, declared Butz in three short words. In reply, Hilberg pulled his three-volume The Destruction of the European Jews from his briefcase, and began quoting from page 465 on details. In terms of audience attention, Butz won by a knockout.
Here, as in thousands of similar examples, we have the historian, or the community leader or journalist who is tuned into history, up against an asserter. The great majority of denialists assert. Rarely do they offer proof, or disproof of recognised proofs. Their technique is to put the historians off balance, pushing them to pedal backwards furiously to adduce the proofs, to table, for example, the Einsatzkommando #3 killing documentation.
The inherent problem is that denial stories are generally much more believable than genocide stories. Imagine a class of teenage pupils in 2014 or 2024 trying to decide which is the more credible:
That displaced, louse-infested Jews were disinfected in showers before going to work camps, or that mere handfuls of Germans, with local helpers, were “processing” 12,000 stukke, that is, murdering, on average, 10,000 to 12,000 “pieces” per day in specially built death factories in Poland?;
That more Turks than Armenians died in a civil war, one in which armed, rebellious, fifth-columnist Armenians suffered some unavoidable casualties, or that Turks systematically killed Armenian children in early model gas chambers in military hospitals, shot men, blinded young girls in hospital theatres, and death-marched women and children to Syria as a way of eliminating at least half the people they viewed as “microbes” in their body politic?;
That Australian Aboriginal children, especially girls, were removed from cruel environs where they were promised in marriage to decrepit old men, or that a clutch of senior officials meeting in Canberra in 1937 were engaging in some eugenicist fantasy to breed Aborigines forever out of the Australian landscape?
Very occasionally, a denialist emerges who presents himself as a serious scholar and adopts the appropriate style and manner of the professional historian. David Irving tried, with mild success for a limited period, and crashed spectacularly when he sued Deborah Lipstadt for defamation. In court, his fiddling and fudging of facts came to the fore and while the evidence confirmed that he was a “writer”, the conclusion was that he was not an historian. Similarly, Australia’s Keith Windschuttle’s privately published two volumes of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History have failed to make any inroads into the accepted chronicles, leaving him as titular head of a very small coterie of “true believers”.
The first rule in combating denialists is to stop treating them as professionals, as historians. They are politically-motivated people. They have to be treated politically and not as co-equal combatants engaged in academic discourse. Their backgrounds, affiliations, orientations are fair game. Above all, their agendas and motives have to be openly and seriously questioned.
Rule two: never debate denialists, publicly or privately. Debate gives them a platform and a credibility that is quite unwarranted, and is always misplaced. “Debate” in a courtroom is different, but even that arena has led to several Canadian cases (notably Keegstra, and Zundel) in which the Holocaust itself has been on trial. (Irving put himself, not the Holocaust, under forensic scrutiny.)
Rule three: if one is manipulated into a “debate”, one has to be offensive, not defensive. An offensive approach, for example, is to insist at the start that the denialist show proof that Einsatzkommando reports were forgeries, and provide evidence of who the forgers were and what techniques of typewriter, ink, paper quality, rubber stamp and signature fraud they engaged in. One must demand proof that Talaat Pasha’s telegrams to provincial governors to begin the genocides were fakes, that the Turkish Courts-Martial of 1919 —where Turkish leaders were tried for “crimes of massacre” — were a set-up and the evidence offered was by way of a hoax. One must insist that denialists show that forcibly removed Aboriginal children were given mind-warping drugs or hypnotised into “believing” that they were stolen from their parents and either fostered, adopted or incarcerated for decades.
Denialist motives vary. What propels Holocaust denialists differs from what fuels Turkish or Australian “revisionists”. In the latter two cases, a primary motive is to show that decent democrats can’t commit such atrocities and that anyone who says they did so is trying to besmirch the nation’s repute. Thus, for them, serious historians are turned into traitors, traducers, mischief-makers or “mistaken” scholars. The scale of denialism is also significant: in Turkey, the whole nation state is dedicated to denial; in Australia, it is but a dozen journalists and two men of academic pretension who seek to repaint the national portrait. Holocaust denialists are essentially non-Germans: several dozen Frenchmen, Americans, Britons, Australians and Canadians. Even Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, knows better than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, about the futility of defying the undefiable.
Dr. Colin Tatz; Australian National University, CanberraRead More
Ninety-nine years after the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, one of the most poignant symbols of Armenian suffering is being held prisoner–by the White House.
The prisoner is an 18-foot long rug. It was woven by several hundred Armenian orphan girls living in exile in Lebanon, as a gesture of appreciation for America’s assistance to survivors of the genocide. In 1925, they sent the rug to President Calvin Coolidge, who pledged that it would have “a place of honor in the White House, where it will be a daily symbol of goodwill on earth.”
Unfortunately, the rug is fast becoming a symbol of the unseemly politics of genocide, instead. An Armenian-American dentist, Hagop Martin Deranian, recently authored a book called “President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug,” and the Smithsonian Institution scheduled an event about Dr. Dernanian’s book for December 16. But when the Smithsonian asked the White House to loan it the rug for the event, the request was denied.
Reporters who asked the State Department about it this week were referred to the White House. When they asked the White House spokesman, they were curtly told that he had nothing to say except “It is not possible to loan it out at this time.”
Armenian-American leaders believe the Obama administration is responding to pressure from the Turkish government, which denies that genocide took place. And Armenians have good reason to be suspicious. As a presidential candidate in 2008, then-Senator Obama declared, “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide.” By contrast, the statements that President Obama has issued each April on Armenian Remembrance Day have never included the g-word. Instead, he has used an Armenian phrase– “Meds Yeghern,” or “the great calamity.” Fear of displeasing the Turks appears to be the only plausible motive for that rhetorical sleight-of-hand.
But at least one president did keep his word. Calvin Coolidge proudly displayed the Armenian Orphan Rug in the White House for the rest of his term.
After he left office, Coolidge took the rug to his Massachusetts residence. It was still there in 1939, when former First Lady Grace Coolidge became a leading figure in the struggle to rescue a different group of children from a genocidal dictator. Mrs. Coolidge lobbied in support of the Wagner-Rogers bill, which would have admitted 20,000 German Jewish children to the United States. But President Franklin Roosevelt refused to support the legislation, and it was buried in committee.
Ironically, FDR’s relative and predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, advocated declaring war on Turkey over the Armenian genocide. “The failure to deal radically with the Turkish horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense,” the then-ex-president asserted in 1918. Teddy Roosevelt was correct to fear that tolerating genocide would pave the way for it to happen again.
Indeed, Adolf Hitler reportedly once assured his subordinates that their atrocities would not be remembered since “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
The genocide rug eventually made it back to the White House and was in use during at least part of the Clinton administration. But it has not been seen in public since then. If the Obama administration and the Turkish government have their way, it seems, the imprisoned rug may never again see the light of day.
In December, Americans will flock to a new movie called “Monuments Men.” Directed by and starring George Clooney it will tell the true story of a handful of U.S. military personnel who risked their lives to rescue famous paintings, monuments, and other precious cultural artifacts from the Nazis in the waning days of World War II. It seems that it might take a new generation of Monuments Men to rescue the Armenian Orphan Rug and restore the treasured heirloom to its rightful place–in a public display.
Dr. Rafael Medoff; director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
It’s my great honor today to stand before you to speak on behalf of Darfuri refugees in the state of Israel.
Let me on behalf of Darfuri refugees in Israel extend my thanks and appreciations to the Israeli civil society organizations, human rights organizations, national and international NGOs, Israeli public, community leaders, sympathizers, well-wishers and distinguished guests.
In the last couple weeks darfuri refugees stood side by side with Jews in commemorating the holocaust memorial day that gave holocaust survivors a national rebirth.
The holocaust: which is the darkest chapter in human history and the world stood and said never again to any genocide, but never again has happened so many times in so many places including the ongoing genocide in Darfur, a massive human rights violations and killings in Nubba Mountains and Blue Nile which is also another dark history mankind has encountered and the world stands idly by without a clear political will to halt these Atrocities that are committed daily. Regrettably, the international community until now had not taken any steps pragmatically to save lives of innocent civilians, instead, it had politically supported lame peace agreements and partial solutions to the conflicts that didn’t materialized into sustainable peace, and eventually led to an aggravated situation spiral out of control day after day with ever –increasing death toll, massive displacement, enslavement and laboring of the IDPs in their concentrated –like camps, gang raping of women in order to change the ethnic composition of the indigenous people, and now vicious tribal fighting fanned by the genocidal regime of Khartoum.
Today; the IDPs in their death camps are appeased by regime militias and Khartoum security Apparatus to pay blood money for crimes that militias themselves committed and some of them are taken hostages for ransom, while UNAMID lacks the military and political will to protect the IDPs and even to protect itself, it is a shame indeed.
Today we are commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the continuation of genocide in Darfur region, when the ugliest forms of oppression, torture, and persecution against humanity and human resources in the modern history.
In this painful demonstration and on behalf of Darfuris, let me extend my gratitude to the international organizations which are working very hard through very difficult situations and restrictions imposed by Sudanese government to assist more than 4 million internal displaced people within Darfur region and more than Million refugees whom are concentrating in refugee camps in neighboring countries (Chad, Central Africa, Ethiopia, Libya, Egypt) and other 2.2 million refugees all over the world including us in Israel seeking asylum as a result of ongoing genocide and systematic massacres of indigenes innocent -African civilians.
So what is the international community doing?
The international community is no longer willing to act meaningfully, pretends that a raft of ignored UN Security Council resolutions and various demands have gone entirely unmet by Bashier regime is an adequate diplomatic response. On top of that, lately, the terrorist groups from Mali who penetrated into the region and welcomed by El-bashir regime are now killing civilians, intimidating them and confiscating their properties, and yet the international community has done nothing to stop them, instead, some parties of this international community have hosted conferences to support Elbashir’s genocidal regime to continue atrocities and violation of human rights.
On behalf of Sudanese refugees in Israel we extend our condolences to those who lost their love ones, and those whose rights are violated. Government of Sudan has used military aircrafts painted white, the color used by UN forces for reconnaissance, to supply operations and attacks against our people.
Therefore we call upon the international community to act to protect innocent civilians and to act responsibly to arrest the offenders of human rights and those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In addition, the international community must support the fragile UNAMID which failed even to protect its mandate.
Sudanese regime is still building animosity atmosphere among the people of Sudan and continuing mass killing of civilians in Nubba Mountains and Blue Nile.
Finally we are appealing the new Israeli government and Israeli people to stand with us in this difficult time to continue ghetto revolution to make the world a better place for all. We, as Sudanese refugees in Israel asking Israeli government to identify our status which will indeed reduce the suffering of our people here as well as Israeli citizens of south Tel Aviv. We hope changes will be made soon to our situation.
As the people of Darfur and Jews who experienced the worst tragedies in Human history will always stand together to response to those totalitarian views that incite to hatred and violence against humanity with firmness, and counter them with an argument that deeply rooted in the principles of dignity and humanity.
Our commitment is: we will never turn our back of what we don’t want to see, we will fight and struggle for humanity, and we dedicate our life to promote human values.
We all have responsibility to use the knowledge to expose such views of what they are, to protect vulnerable groups from threats and violence. The goal is the same to make the world safe place for all. We all have equal worth and equal rights, no one, no individuals and no minorities should have to live in fear in this world.
Mutasim AliRead More
Recently I have discovered a brother, a brother nation to my own. A nation whose parallel fate connects and intertwines us together. I would like to tell you some of what I have discovered, to your people and my people, the Armenians and the Jewish people.
The city of Yerevan was established during the time of king Ahab and the prophet Elijah, of the first temple period, a period of growth and prosperity. Several hundred years later, the ancient Armenian Kingdom was established during the time when the Jewish people returned to their homeland following the Babylonian Exile. Following the Second temple period was characterized by Roman occupation, resulted in the Jewish people found them scattered amongst the nations. Who better than you, the Armenians can understand such a history of exile and occupation? Despite your constant loss of independence did not end your existence, instead through the intentional instilment of education and religious values to your people, you have continued to exist.
When the Turks began to perpetrate heinous crimes against you, my people were amongst those who chose to speak out against the atrocities. On July 16th 1915, Henry Morgenthau, the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire wrote: “Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and from harrowing reports of eye witnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion. Protests as well as threats are unavailing and probably incite the Ottoman government to more drastic measures as they are determined to disclaim responsibility for their absolute disregard of Capitulations and I believe nothing short of actual force which obviously United States are not in a position to exert would adequately meet the situation. Suggest you inform belligerent nations and mission boards of this.”
Aaron Aaronson, a prominent Zionist leader who travelled extensively throughout the ottoman Empire submitted a memorandum to the British Defense Ministry titled “pro- Armenia” he wrote: “wholesale massacre of the Jews ordered by the Roman General Titus is the only record in history that parallels the wholesale massacre of the Armenians.
Sadly, the then leaders of the nations decided to ignore the pleas of Morgenthau and Aaronson. Amongst those who spoke against the crimes of the Turks was Raphael Lemkin, who understood that ignoring such crimes would lead humanity to create to a hell on earth. Lemkin was outraged upon hearing the sentence of Soghomon Tehlirian who assassinated Talaat Pasha in 1920 and said, “Why is a man punished when he kills another man? Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?””
Lemkin protested fervently against state sanctioned evils committed by the government against persecuted minorities, and was instrumental in the proposition of International law in 1933, which prohibited the destruction of peoples, nations and tribes. Lemkin recognized that genocide cannot happen in secret and requires the consent of the general population. Lemkin also believed in taking strong and decisive action against the Nazi regime in Germany who had already began its incitement against Europe’s Jews. Lawmakers rejected Lemkin’s petition fell on deaf ears. This refusal will undoubtedly live in infamy.
The legacy of resistance Athos Musa Dagh was apparent during the Holocaust. Mordechai Tenenbaum, (a member of the Dror youth movement and leader of the Warsaw, Vilna and Bialystok undergrounds) said: “Only one thing remains for us: to organize collective resistance in the ghetto, at any cost, to let the ghetto be our Musa Dagh, to write a proud chapter on Jewish Bialystok and on our Movement.”
Musa made sure that we had a symbol and as brother nations, these are symbols we share. The Jewish people worked tirelessly to build homeland for many years before the holocaust, and sadly, it was not until after the death of 6 million that we won our independence. I grew up on a kibbutz called Mishmar HaNegev, which was founded by members of the Worker’s Youth Workers movement, and Dror Israel. I was raised on the values of work, protection and peace, values undoubtedly you can relate to. Our independence is an enormous privilege, and we celebrate together with your 22 years of independence. The lack of recognition of the genocide the Armenian people have suffered by many nations has continues to challenge the rehabilitation of the Armenian people. Not all who have suffered genocide have received international recognition as we have.
Tragically, what followed our Holocaust was the implementation of a policy of genocide for regimes around the world. I In Biafra, over 2 million Igbo people were starved and murdered by the Nigerian Army. in Bangladesh, the Pakistani army murdered more than 2million Bengalis. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge lead to the deaths of over 2 million Cambodians, this 20th century horror repeats itself in Guatemala, Burundi Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sudan and elsewhere. I cannot help but wonder, if the international community had been more aggressive in punishing the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide- how would the history of the 20th century been different? As Jews and Armenians, we can understand this better than most, and therefore have a responsibility to not ignore or deny genocides that are happening today. As we stand here today, a decade-long genocide is happening in Darfur-we must not ignore this. We cannot live in peace until Turkey formally takes responsibility for their actions. The denial of the Armenian genocide is a mark of Cain that bleeds from every human being’s forehead. This denial not only gives a green light to other genocide perpetrators but also seeks to humiliate you, our brothers.
I would like to end with a verse from the book of Psalms that reminds me of you, Armenians “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
Dror – Israel
My partners in Dror Israel, who for years have led thousands of youth on trips to Poland – a journey to uncover the routes of the Zionist revolution, the Holocaust, and heroism – could not stand by and watch the horrors taking place in Rwanda and Yugoslavia in the 90s. In 1999, members of Dror Israel travelled to Kosovo to run a summer camp in a refugee camp in Stankovic. It felt natural to them to provide an educational response to the children who were taken from their homes during the attempted Genocide in Kosovo. Five years later, in 2004, we began to hear about the Genocide in Darfur. 100 years after the murder of the Herero and Namaqua in the German colony in southwest Africa, reports were arriving from Africa about a regime slaughtering three African tribes – the Massalit, the Zaghawa, and the Fur. In 2006, we established the Combat Genocide Association – a Jewish and humanist organization that aims to combat and prevent this horrible phenomenon. During this same period, refugees from Darfur began to arrive in Israel and their horrific stories taught us new lessons about genocide. With the establishment of the organization, we researched and were convinced that genocide is a phenomenon that has returned again and again during the last one hundred years. We discovered that the brutal and awful genocide that the Turks committed against the Armenians was not the first genocide. We discovered that tens of millions of people were murdered in genocides during the 20th century, and millions more were raped, expelled from their homes, and lost their family members with no ability to defend themselves or their people – in Europe during World War II, in Bangladesh, in Cambodia, in Biafra, in Rwanda, in Bosnia, in Darfur, and in many other places. We discovered that there is a connection between the different genocides, and this connection is exposed in Hitler’s terrible speech to German army generals just before World War II broke out. Hitler said to them:
Our strength is our quickness and our brutality. Genghis Khan had millions of women and children hunted down and killed, deliberately and lightheartedly. History sees in him only the great founder of states. It does not matter to me what a weak Western European civilization will say about me. I have given the order—and will have everyone shot who utters but one word of criticism—that the aim of this war does not consist in reaching certain designated geographical lines, but in the enemies’ physical elimination. Thus, for the time being only in the east, I put ready my Death’s Head units, with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Only thus will we gain the living space that we need. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?
Hitler’s speech shows just how easy it is to destroy a nation. In every society and country there are laws against murder, but there is none against genocide. Twenty years after the Armenian Genocide no one spoke about it, researched it, or remembered it, except for a few. One of them, Raphael Lemkin, was a Polish Jew who studied the Armenian Genocide and the Massacre of the Assyrians during the 1930s. When the 2nd world war started Lemkin joined the Polish army. During the battles in Warsaw he was injured. Lemkin fled to Sweden and from there to the United States, where he continued to study the connection between the crimes committed by the Nazis and those committed by the Turkish only twenty years earlier. He discovered that it had to do with legality. There is a terrible phenomenon carried out in an organized manner by the authorities within a country: leaders, clerks, professionals, officers and soldiers all work together to exterminate a nation. Lemkin gave this phenomenon a name: Genocide. Lemkin understood what genocide is by studying the Armenian Genocide. He pointed out the need for a law forbidding genocide, and showed that genocide is a lengthy process, making it preventable.
The significant scope and level of organization needed to carry out genocide create an echo – that is why reports have reached the world regarding almost all genocides. All too often, the world has stood by without interfering. We know about Henry Morgenthau, who traveled around the Ottoman Empire, saw what was happening to the Armenians, and begged his country to stop it. We also know that the United States was aware of the attempt to exterminate the Armenians and didn’t raise a finger. Also Britain, Germany, and others.
Denying one genocide and failing to act against it amounts to approving the next genocide. The concealment of history makes it as if it had never happened, and that is what makes it possible again and again to wipe out nations without being punished.
That is why it is our duty to remember and memorialize any genocide that has taken place – to remember the victims, and also the murderers; to remember how the world stood by and did nothing to stop the murder of innocents. We must remember genocides in order to remember our history – the history of the human race – and in order to prevent the recurrence of genocide, any genocide, in the future. We need to fight all genocide denial, regardless of the political situation. This is the first step in combating genocide: recognizing that it has happened, and that it continues to happen today. Without this recognition, we cannot struggle against genocide.
Unfortunately, the world has not learned this lesson. The Armenian Genocide, which took place during World War I, has been denied again and again by Turkey, and by other countries as well. There are also people who try to deny the Holocaust and tell us that it’s all lies, that it wasn’t really like that, or that it didn’t happen at all. Genocide denial is an inherent part of genocide. It is like attacking the nation all over again. Denial is basically delegitimizing a nation’s existence, saying that it doesn’t have the right to exist. Denial does not allow the nation to fully heal.
We, as victims of genocide, as Jews and as human beings, have the right and the duty to stand with you, the Armenians, in the fight to recognize the genocide that the Turks committed against you during World War I. This is a fight for the future of humanity – a humanity that does not deny its past, but deals with it in order to create a world free of terror.
This year, a number of significant political incidents have taken place in the struggle to recognize genocides. First of all, there was a political struggle in France to put on trial anyone who denies the Armenian genocide. This groundbreaking law is not just one country’s declaration that they are willing to recognize history; it prohibits by law the denial of history and the concealment of its darkest chapters. Unfortunately, this law was overturned by the court. We hope that it is proposed again – it is of great significance to humanity.
Also, this month the German Bundestag will decide whether to take full responsibility for the genocide of the Herero and Namaqua in Namibia – 108 years after it accorded. This is a historic justice, which might help to heal some of the terrible wounds suffered by nations that have faced annihilation. We hope that the Turkish government will make a similar decision and take responsibility for its` dark past.
The ground is also moving in Israel: This year, for the first time, many Knesset members took part in deliberations of the Knesset’s Education Committee regarding the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. We call on the government and the Knesset to recognize the Armenian Genocide. We, the Combat Genocide Association and the members of the Dror Israel movement, will continue to march with you in the struggle to recognize the Armenian Genocide amongst the Israeli public and the world at large, until it is recognized by all the nations of the world. We will not rest until we succeed. We see this as a necessary step in realizing the command sounded following the horrors of the Holocaust: Never Again!
Aia Harel and Uriel Levy
Dror – IsraelRead More