Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler

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9780674504790: Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler

The Armenian Genocide and the Nazi Holocaust are often thought to be separated by a large distance in time and space. But Stefan Ihrig shows that they were much more connected than previously thought. Bismarck and then Wilhelm II staked their foreign policy on close relations with a stable Ottoman Empire. To the extent that the Armenians were restless under Ottoman rule, they were a problem for Germany too. From the 1890s onward Germany became accustomed to excusing violence against Armenians, even accepting it as a foreign policy necessity. For many Germans, the Armenians represented an explicitly racial problem and despite the Armenians’ Christianity, Germans portrayed them as the “Jews of the Orient.”

As Stefan Ihrig reveals in this first comprehensive study of the subject, many Germans before World War I sympathized with the Ottomans’ longstanding repression of the Armenians and would go on to defend vigorously the Turks’ wartime program of extermination. After the war, in what Ihrig terms the “great genocide debate,” German nationalists first denied and then justified genocide in sweeping terms. The Nazis too came to see genocide as justifiable: in their version of history, the Armenian Genocide had made possible the astonishing rise of the New Turkey.

Ihrig is careful to note that this connection does not imply the Armenian Genocide somehow caused the Holocaust, nor does it make Germans any less culpable. But no history of the twentieth century should ignore the deep, direct, and disturbing connections between these two crimes.

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About the Author:

Stefan Ihrig is Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Review:

Fascinating and highly readable... Ihrig brilliantly lays bare the ‘confluence’ between German anti-Semitic and anti-Armenian stereotypes. (Lawrence Douglas Irish Times 2016-02-20)

In this compelling narrative, Ihrig finds that the so-called Armenian Horrors were vigorously debated in the [German] government and in periodicals of the time... Ihrig’s deep, scrupulous research reveals the official pattern set by the Germans ‘vis-à-vis the Armenians’ as an ‘enabler’ for the Ottomans, later giving way to open justification, denial, and whitewashing of the horrors visited on the Armenian people... A groundbreaking academic study that shows how Germany derived from the Armenian genocide ‘a plethora of recipes’ to address its own ethnic problems. (Kirkus Reviews 2015-11-01)

Yet another excellent book by Stefan Ihrig about the uncanny German–Turkish connection. The story of the Armenian Genocide and its reception in post–World War I Germany thus becomes a German, not a Turkish or Armenian, story about racism and the road taken by Germany toward the Holocaust. A surprising answer to the question: How was the Holocaust possible in twentieth-century Germany of all places? (Moshe Zimmermann, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

This book is a major contribution to the study of German attitudes toward the Armenian Genocide. It puts German policies and reactions to Ottoman Turkey in the general perspective of Germany’s policies before, during, and after World War I. It deals with the parallels between German attitudes to Armenians and to Jews, and permits us to understand the complexities and problems of different minority groups within German society relative to Turkey. (Yehuda Bauer, Yad Vashem)

After Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination, Stefan Ihrig again presents an intelligent book of uncommon originality. By exposing how ‘justificationalism’ led to an ethic-free thinking in concepts of ‘final solutions,’ he shows how this became a strong mental link between the Armenian Genocide and the Shoah. Written in the elegant style of a historical drama in several acts, this is a great achievement. (Rolf Hosfeld, Lepsiushaus Potsdam)

It is striking to see the ideological similarities between Germany in the late 1920s and Kemalist Turkey, or Mussolinian Italy. Written in a lively style, well-balanced and well-documented, this book will advance the debate on the relationship between mass violences that marked the twentieth century. (Raymond Kévorkian, University of Paris VIII)

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