By Toros Sarian
The background and the effects of the German financed reconciliation projects.
The decades of silence regarding the Armenian Genocide during the Ottoman Empire was instantly broken as Gourgen Yanikian shot the Turkish General Consul and his Employee in Santa Barbara in January 1973. Turkish hopes that this act of Genocide would remain forgotten was transformed into an illusory wish. An elderly Armenian, living in distant California, proved that the descendants of this Turkish atrocity had not forgotten. In Santa Barbara the campaign had begun for the international recognition of this Genocide. During the campaign Armenians have informed the world public and have increased world awareness of these atrocities committed within the Ottoman Empire. Many Parliaments have passed resolutions recognizing the historical fact of the Armenian genocide. Turkey has declared the Armenian Diaspora to be a national enemy and took all possible measures to combat the “Armenian Lobby” and to prevent the International recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
It is widely accepted that Germany carries a joint responsibility for the Genocide against the Armenians during the Ottoman Empire period. This is clearly documented in the archive papers of the German Foreign Ministry which were published by the German journalist and publisher Wolfgang Gust in 2005. He persistently pointed out that only the German Government could have prevented Turkey from carrying out the Governments criminal plan of “solving the Armenian problem”. The German government under Emperor Wilhelm II failed to do so as their Alliance with the Turkish Regime was more important than the lives of the Christian Armenians.
The Berlin Government had been extremely silent regarding these atrocities, whilst at the same time proclaiming their exemplary conduct in addressing the atrocities committed against the European Jews during the Second World War, even suggesting that Turkey should take to heart their example. But when Germany is so courageous and open to working out the crimes of their past why had the German government remained silent till 2005 before beginning to evaluate their part in the Armenian Genocide? Only at the start of 2005 did the present Chancellor, Angela Merkel, forward a motion to parliament to commemorate the victims of the atrocities committed against Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire. In April a debate took place on this theme in the German Parliament and in June an all party formulated resolution was passed. This resolution read as follows:
“The German Bundestag honors and commemorates the victims of violence, murder and expulsion among the Armenian people before and during the First World War. The Bundestag deplores the deeds of the Young Turkish government in the Ottoman Empire which have resulted in the almost total annihilation of the Armenians in Anatolia. It also deplores the inglorious role played by the German Reich which, in spite of a wealth of information on the organized expulsion and annihilation of Armenians, has made no attempt to intervene and stop these atrocities.” (Full text: www.armenian-genocide.org)
Although in the Resolution there was no explicit mention of an Armenian genocide many Armenians outside Germany interpreted the Resolution as being a recognition by the German Government of the Genocide against the Armenians. On the website of the „Armenian National Institute” it was stated that Germany was one of the nations which had recognized the Genocide. However, the Organization of Armenians in Germany has never viewed this Resolution from the German Parliament as recognition of the Genocide.
The Central Committee of Armenians in Germany has made it clear on many occasions that this parliamentary resolution does not meet the expectations of the Armenians in Germany.
In a Press release on the 13th March 2010 the organization stated that “The formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Germany is unavoidable and well overdue”, On the 6th April the organization demanded again from the German Parliament the formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire in 1915, according the UN convention concerning Prevention and Punishment of Acts of genocide.
There are clearly different opinions regarding the assessment of the German parliamentary Resolution of 2005. If the resolution was such a clear recognition of the genocide, why did the Turkish Government accept it so calmly and not react as it always did after such resolutions? Germany has a large Turkish immigrant population and the Turkish nationalists are well organized, but still there were no protests or demonstrations. There were no demands for a boycott of German products. Although the Turkish Government sent a formal protest against the resolution, it was very mild in contrast to other occasions when a state recognized the Genocide.
One comes to the conclusion that there must be other reasons why the Turkish Government and Turkish Nationalists reacted so tamely to the resolution. After the debate in April 2005 the German Chancellor Schroder travelled to Turkey. One theme was surely the contents of the all party formulated resolution. As time passed it was clear that the German and Turkish Governments had agreed upon a common strategy in dealing with the Genocide resolution. The old German-Turkish alliance had made the Genocide in 1915 possible and now the two allies had to find a way of preventing the demands of the Armenians for the recognition of the genocide from being pushed into the political arena.
The key to answering this question lies in essence in the title of the resolution Thus: ”Germany must make her contribution to the reconciliation between Turks and Armenians”
At first glance the demand for reconciliation seems something which cannot be rejected or criticized. Reading from statements issued by the German government since 2005, it is clear that the policy is not reconciliation between Armenians and Turks, but between the Republic of Armenia and Turkey. If the German government views the Genocide question as an issue to be solved by the two states then it is clear that the Armenian Diaspora has no role to play, according to the German government. The descendants of the survivors of the genocide, who have settled all over the world, would be accordingly ignored. Although over the decades it has been these people who have campaigned for the recognition of the atrocities. Demands of the German Parliament for a Turkish-Armenian reconciliation have aroused no opposition from the Turkish government: It is willing for reconciliation, but is not prepared to recognize the atrocities of 1915 as genocide.
The Armenian Diaspora is viewed by the Turkish Government as an “enemy”, which they have not so far been able to muzzle. The only possible way available for the Turkish Government to bypass the “irreconcilable Armenian Diaspora” is to turn the Genocide Question into a theme to be dealt with the Republic of Armenia. The Genocide will become a question for negotiation between the two states, thus the Diaspora will have no right or chance to engage in the process. The weakened State of Armenia, already isolated by Turkey and Azerbaijan can alone be put under even more pressure not only by Turkey but also her allies, especially Germany. By putting the reconciliation of the two nations, onto the political Agenda, the German Government has done the Turkish government an immense favor.
Armenian organizations in Europe have neither been very attentive in following the political developments since 2005. Nor have they been able to recognize the ramification of the German contribution to the Reconciliation process, let alone the political motives behind this policy. However on evaluation of the information currently available it becomes increasingly clear. Ulla Jelpke, Parliamentary member for the Links Party (The Left Party) put forward a short written question to the German government in August this year. Her aim was to ascertain which academic projects were being financed by the German state with the aim of critically evaluating the Genocide Question. The Foreign Office Secretary of State, Cornelia Piper responded giving details of great interest to Armenians. The detailed statement included the following: “On the basis of the cited Resolution of the German Parliament from June 2005, mentioned in your question, the German Government´s representative at the Department for Culture and Media has granted a sum of 410,000 euros to the Lepsius House in Potsdam, for equipment and cultural development programs, to establish the House as a center for German-Turkish Research and Cultural Place of Exchange. The German Government is accompanying the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process with support for cross-border activities of NGO´s and German Political Foundations. In this spirit, the German Foreign Office has provided funds to a total of 1,4 million between 2009 and 2013 to the reconciliation project established by the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association, (dvv international), under the title “Speaking to One Another”. The content of this project involves Student and scholar exchanges between Armenia and Turkey, common critical historical evaluation of the past events in the form of seminars, publications and exhibitions.” Apart from these two large sums 410,000 and 1, 4 million, the German Government has funded smaller activities to the sum of 50,000 euros. In total, the sum of 1, 9 million has been provided to support projects involved in the Reconciliation Process between Armenia and Turkey.
The financial support by Lepsius House in the city of Potsdam is widely known, and the work of Lepsius House is also known also by many Armenians in Germany. But, the work carried out by “dvv international” is largely unknown. On their website the organization’s areas of activity are described as follows: “The dvv supports a European and worldwide exchange of information and expertise regarding adult education and development, aids the establishment and expansion of structures for youth and adult education in developing and transformation countries and offers training consultation and medium provision for global intellectual euro political learning.” (For more information see: www.dvv-international.de)
This institution which has been active in the Republic of Armenia since 2002 and according to their Website is “one of the most important players in the field of Adult Education and LifeLong Learning”, has certainly established good contacts with the Government. The German Foreign Office and the dvv-international, and the Armenian ministries have presumably cooperated in organizing the Reconciliation projects in Armenia. A similar close cooperation will have taken place with the Turkish Government as the “dvv international” is also active in Turkey.
The Sarkisian government gladly embraced their role, thought out by Germany, in the Reconciliation process and, not purely for political reasons. They should have made it unmistakably clear right from the start, that the Genocide Question was certainly not an issue solely between Republic of Armenia and Turkey, but an issue which also involved the Armenian Diaspora. The position of Yerevan on this issue shows again that there is no clear agreement between the Sarkisian Government and the Diaspora regarding the Genocide Question.
One of the Turkish government’s policies is to drive a wedge between the Diaspora and the Republic of Armenia. The signing of the Turkish-Armenian Protocols in Zurich is in this connection was a great success for this Turkish political strategy, even though the Protocols were not ratified in the end. It may appear to be coincidental that the dvv-international began their reconciliation projects in the same year, 2009, as the Turkish-Armenian Protocol was being signed in Zurich and it is not known when the „Secret-Diplomacy” began, which led to the Zurich protocols. If the Turkish-Armenian negotiations began after 2005 it could be an indication that the negotiations had been initiated by the German government. Due to Germany’s involvement in the Genocide, Germany had an interest in ensuring that this theme was at last taken off the political Agenda.
As close ally to the Turkish government, Germany also had established close contacts to the Armenian government. Germany had given generous aid to the country and German investors are an important investment factor in the region. Therefore the German government had enough leverage to “convince” Yerevan as to the benefits of starting negotiations. Perhaps, this leverage had to be used again to persuade Yerevan to support their “Reconciliation Projects”. After Germany had pushed the “Recognition Question” onto the “Reconciliation Track” the Diaspora was and still is confronted with a new situation.
Should they give up their campaign for the recognition of the Genocide and instead join the “Reconciliation Process” with Turkey?
The Armenian Diaspora must realize the German Government pursued Reconciliation Policy serves Turkish political interests. Thanks to Germany, the Turkish Government can now point out that these “Reconciliation Projects” are being supported by the Armenian Government and are prepared to “solve” the Genocide question in cooperation with them. If the international community follows suit and also views the Genocide Question as a matter between only the Republic of Armenia and Turkey then the Armenian Diaspora with their demands for recognition of the Genocide would find no support, as in the past.
The Sarkisian Government was heavily criticized for the Zurich Protocol. But why is the Diaspora remaining silent when Germany and Turkey together with the Republic of Armenia are cooperating on reconciliation? The goal of the German financed ”Reconciliation Projects” is not to persuade Turkey to recognize the atrocities of 1915 as Genocide but to bring about reconciliation between Turkey and the Republic of Armenia. If this policy succeeds, the Diaspora campaign for Genocide Recognition which began with the shots in Santa Barbara would be at an abrupt end.
Photo: Enver Pahsa (L) meeting with a German military officer in Berlin. (photo AA)