Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler

Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler In Justifying Genocide, Stefan Ihrig provides the most detailed and wide ranging analysis to date of the evolution of German representations of the Armenians and responses to the Armenian Genocide of 1915. At the core of his analysis is an examination of the legacies of these responses and their implications for our understanding of the Holocaust. Ihrig’s analysis is divided into four sections. The first examines German perceptions of Armenians from the response to the ‘hamidian’ massacres of the late nineteenth century to the eve of the First World War. The second provides clear evidence of the extent of German knowledge of the Genocide and accounts for the reasons for Germany’s failure to intervene decisively. The third section shifts the focus to the post-genocide period, challenging notions of straightforward ‘forgetting’ by charting a shift from denial, through acceptance, to ‘justificationalism’ (Ihrig’s own term for development and popularisation of the thesis that that the Armenians were a real threat to the future of the Empire, and the Young Turks had no choice but to act as they did). In doing so, he highlights the surprising effects of the 1921 trial of Soghomon Tehlirian for the murder of Talat Pasha on German society. Finally, Ihrig considers the impact of the Armenian Genocide on the Nazis and its possible relationship to their development of Genocidal policies during the Second World War. As Ihrig points out, the story he tells here is first and foremost a ‘German story’. Nonetheless, it provides an important reminder of the importance of examining the intersections between histories which are most often bracketed off into the separate fields of ‘Ottoman’ or ‘Middle Eastern’ and ‘European’ studies. This book is part of a generation of scholarship on the Armenian Genocide which frames the treatment of the Ottoman Armenians not only as a national tragedy but as a significant event in modern European and world history. Like the earlier work of Donald Bloxham and others, this book effectively underscores the importance of paying attention to the dynamics of European imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century and not just circumstances within the Ottoman Empire, for understanding both the causes and consequences of the Armenian Genocide. This book rightly highlights the specificity of the German response to the ‘Armenian Question’, but there are parallels with the ambiguities of representations of Armenians and failures to intervene on their behalf on the part of other European states which could perhaps have been addressed further. It is important to note that Ihrig definitively does not suggest that Germany was responsible for the Armenian Genocide as a ‘co-perpetrator’, though by drawing on press reports and the evidence of various German witnesses, he clearly demonstrates the extent of German knowledge of what was occurring. Nor does Ihrig suggest that there is a direct causal chain from the Armenian Genocide to the Holocaust, or that Germany modelled its treatment of the Jews directly on the Ottoman treatment of the Armenians. Rather, he provides a nuanced analysis which effectively traces the evolution of a climate in which it became possible, or even desirable, to justify Ottoman mass violence and ultimately genocidal policies against the Armenian population. Only in chapter thirteen, in the brief discussion of whether or not there may have been a deliberate policy among the Nazis to ‘not mention’ the Armenian Genocide does this analysis start to feel a little too speculative or stretched. Ihrig’s research shows the complexity and ambiguity of representations of the Armenians and demonstrates the ways they were shaped by Imperial Germany’s entanglement with the Ottoman Empire, racial and cultural stereotypes and, in the post-war period, a growing admiration for Ataturk’s construction of a new Turkish Republic among the German far right. However, Ihrig also shows that anti-Armenians among the press and political elites did not have a monopoly. This book also pays attention to pro-Armenian actors, notably Johannes Lepsius and Armin Wegner. It contextualises the now-familiar stories of their activities within the broader landscape of German interactions with Armenians and, importantly, explains why, (despite the evidence they had gathered) theirs did not come to be the dominant perspectives during the inter-war period. There are one or two aspects of the argument which would have benefited from further contextualisation. For example, the place of Armenians in twentieth century racial theories is addressed in some depth towards the end of the book, demonstrating how Armenians and Jews were frequently treated as the same ‘type’. However, in the earlier sections of the book, which also address the transfer of anti-Semitic discourses onto the Armenians, contextualisation of the Armenian case within the evolution of nineteenth century German racial thought and its connections to the development of colonialism would have been helpful. More generally, the issue of German colonialism and colonial violence (for example the Genocide of the Herero and Nama) recurs several times in this book, raising a number of interesting questions which warrant further investigation. Ihrig connects the justification of the Armenian Genocide to Isabel Hull’s arguments regarding the evolution of a distinctive German military culture which, by the time of the First World War had rendered some ‘enemy’ civilian populations legitimate targets of violence. Nonetheless, there remains space perhaps for a fuller contextualisation of German responses to the Armenian Genocide within wider German colonial discourse and practice. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the German History Society. All rights reserved. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png German History Oxford University Press

Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/justifying-genocide-germany-and-the-armenians-from-bismarck-to-hitler-1BumruxZ7h
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the German History Society. All rights reserved.
ISSN
0266-3554
eISSN
1477-089X
D.O.I.
10.1093/gerhis/ghx083
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In Justifying Genocide, Stefan Ihrig provides the most detailed and wide ranging analysis to date of the evolution of German representations of the Armenians and responses to the Armenian Genocide of 1915. At the core of his analysis is an examination of the legacies of these responses and their implications for our understanding of the Holocaust. Ihrig’s analysis is divided into four sections. The first examines German perceptions of Armenians from the response to the ‘hamidian’ massacres of the late nineteenth century to the eve of the First World War. The second provides clear evidence of the extent of German knowledge of the Genocide and accounts for the reasons for Germany’s failure to intervene decisively. The third section shifts the focus to the post-genocide period, challenging notions of straightforward ‘forgetting’ by charting a shift from denial, through acceptance, to ‘justificationalism’ (Ihrig’s own term for development and popularisation of the thesis that that the Armenians were a real threat to the future of the Empire, and the Young Turks had no choice but to act as they did). In doing so, he highlights the surprising effects of the 1921 trial of Soghomon Tehlirian for the murder of Talat Pasha on German society. Finally, Ihrig considers the impact of the Armenian Genocide on the Nazis and its possible relationship to their development of Genocidal policies during the Second World War. As Ihrig points out, the story he tells here is first and foremost a ‘German story’. Nonetheless, it provides an important reminder of the importance of examining the intersections between histories which are most often bracketed off into the separate fields of ‘Ottoman’ or ‘Middle Eastern’ and ‘European’ studies. This book is part of a generation of scholarship on the Armenian Genocide which frames the treatment of the Ottoman Armenians not only as a national tragedy but as a significant event in modern European and world history. Like the earlier work of Donald Bloxham and others, this book effectively underscores the importance of paying attention to the dynamics of European imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century and not just circumstances within the Ottoman Empire, for understanding both the causes and consequences of the Armenian Genocide. This book rightly highlights the specificity of the German response to the ‘Armenian Question’, but there are parallels with the ambiguities of representations of Armenians and failures to intervene on their behalf on the part of other European states which could perhaps have been addressed further. It is important to note that Ihrig definitively does not suggest that Germany was responsible for the Armenian Genocide as a ‘co-perpetrator’, though by drawing on press reports and the evidence of various German witnesses, he clearly demonstrates the extent of German knowledge of what was occurring. Nor does Ihrig suggest that there is a direct causal chain from the Armenian Genocide to the Holocaust, or that Germany modelled its treatment of the Jews directly on the Ottoman treatment of the Armenians. Rather, he provides a nuanced analysis which effectively traces the evolution of a climate in which it became possible, or even desirable, to justify Ottoman mass violence and ultimately genocidal policies against the Armenian population. Only in chapter thirteen, in the brief discussion of whether or not there may have been a deliberate policy among the Nazis to ‘not mention’ the Armenian Genocide does this analysis start to feel a little too speculative or stretched. Ihrig’s research shows the complexity and ambiguity of representations of the Armenians and demonstrates the ways they were shaped by Imperial Germany’s entanglement with the Ottoman Empire, racial and cultural stereotypes and, in the post-war period, a growing admiration for Ataturk’s construction of a new Turkish Republic among the German far right. However, Ihrig also shows that anti-Armenians among the press and political elites did not have a monopoly. This book also pays attention to pro-Armenian actors, notably Johannes Lepsius and Armin Wegner. It contextualises the now-familiar stories of their activities within the broader landscape of German interactions with Armenians and, importantly, explains why, (despite the evidence they had gathered) theirs did not come to be the dominant perspectives during the inter-war period. There are one or two aspects of the argument which would have benefited from further contextualisation. For example, the place of Armenians in twentieth century racial theories is addressed in some depth towards the end of the book, demonstrating how Armenians and Jews were frequently treated as the same ‘type’. However, in the earlier sections of the book, which also address the transfer of anti-Semitic discourses onto the Armenians, contextualisation of the Armenian case within the evolution of nineteenth century German racial thought and its connections to the development of colonialism would have been helpful. More generally, the issue of German colonialism and colonial violence (for example the Genocide of the Herero and Nama) recurs several times in this book, raising a number of interesting questions which warrant further investigation. Ihrig connects the justification of the Armenian Genocide to Isabel Hull’s arguments regarding the evolution of a distinctive German military culture which, by the time of the First World War had rendered some ‘enemy’ civilian populations legitimate targets of violence. Nonetheless, there remains space perhaps for a fuller contextualisation of German responses to the Armenian Genocide within wider German colonial discourse and practice. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the German History Society. All rights reserved.

Journal

German HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 12 million articles from more than
10,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Unlimited reading

Read as many articles as you need. Full articles with original layout, charts and figures. Read online, from anywhere.

Stay up to date

Keep up with your field with Personalized Recommendations and Follow Journals to get automatic updates.

Organize your research

It’s easy to organize your research with our built-in tools.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

Monthly Plan

  • Read unlimited articles
  • Personalized recommendations
  • No expiration
  • Print 20 pages per month
  • 20% off on PDF purchases
  • Organize your research
  • Get updates on your journals and topic searches

$49/month

Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial

Best Deal — 39% off

Annual Plan

  • All the features of the Professional Plan, but for 39% off!
  • Billed annually
  • No expiration
  • For the normal price of 10 articles elsewhere, you get one full year of unlimited access to articles.

$588

$360/year

billed annually
Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial