22 Jan 2017

Text: Corinna / Translation: Miriam & Daniel

#Genocide denial

to deny = to refuse to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by most scientific or historical evidence (definition: Oxford dictionary)

denial = refusal to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or to admit it into consciousness; used as a defence mechanism. (definition: Oxford dictionary)

Every genocide is followed by denial. The perpetrators try to cover their tracks and avoid liability. Death camps and records are destroyed, mass graves are filled up and hidden. They try to discretely hide corpses and intimidate eye witnesses.

Allegations of a genocide are either dismissed as propaganda and lies, or the perpetrators deny that any crimes have been committed at all. Those responsible often blame the victims, arguing that crimes (in the few cases they are admitted) were ‘only’ acts of war and therefore a manifestation of a civil war. However, genocide and civil war are not exclusive. Although a genocide can happen in times of peace, it frequently happens in times of war.

#Armenia and the Holocaust

#Armenia: One of the most well-known and most discussed examples of genocide denial is the genocide against the Armenian people in 1914-15. Following the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has taken to lash out politically whenever a state deigns to recognise the massacre of the Armenian people as a genocide. This took place most recently with Germany. Political backlash and an uproar ensued when the German Bundestag recognised the crimes against the Armenian people as a genocide. The Turkish ambassador was withdrawn from Berlin and the German ambassador was summoned to Ankara. Turkish politicians threatened members of the Bundestag of Turkish origin and tweeted ‘Germany should attend to its own dirty laundry’.

Although society as a whole acknowledges what happened as regards the genocide against the Armenians, the Turkish State insists on the ‘genocide lie’. It is generally admitted that various crimes were committed, but it is said that these were inevitable acts as part of the First World War; for the Armenians were enemies within, fighting alongside the Soviet Union.

Photo: z@doune/www.flickr.com/Creative Commons

#Holocaust: It is hard to believe, but true: there are people who deny the Holocaust, despite it being one of the most exhaustively researched and documented genocides. In many European countries, Germany included (in accordance with section 130 subsection 3 of the German Criminal Code), holocaust denial is prohibited.

For example, many right-wing extremists in Germany and the United States try to trivialise or even deny the genocide against the Jews with pseudo-scientific reports and lies. They relativise the crimes committed by the National Socialists, raise doubts about the number of victims or even question the existence of various extermination camps and gas chambers.

More information about the ‘Auschwitz Lie’ and the arguments used by those who deny the Holocaust can be found in this article (in German) by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung).

#Why is acknowledgement so important?

Why is it so important that a genocide is recognised? Especially when it dates back more than 100 years? What are the benefits of such recognition?

Recognising a genocide is above all a recognition of the victims and an homage to them and their suffering. Denial is always the last stage of a genocide. The victims as well as the survivors are humiliated and mocked, should their pain be disregarded.

This recognition is furthermore of preventative character. In order to prevent future genocides, all acts of genocide have to be met with justice. Only if the perpetrators are punished and the victims obtain justice, can they begin to look ahead. If no punishment is given, the victims will look for revenge and the cycle of murder begins anew. If an atrocity such as this remains unpunished, more crimes and hatred will follow.

Even Hitler once said: „Who, after all, talks nowadays of the annihilation of the Armenians?“[1]

[1] Jones, A. (2010) “Genocide – A Comprehensive Introduction” 2nd Ed.; p. 149

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