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August 29, 2004

It's Armenian Genocide Week At A Tiny Revolution

Do you think there's nothing funny about the Armenian Genocide? Oh, you are so wrong! Granted, as far as I know there's only one thing that's funny. But that's a lot more than zero.

As you may know, Hitler famously said, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" However, despite what many believe (including Elie Wiesel, lots of U.S. Congressmen and Robert Fisk), this was not in reference to the Shoah* per se. Rather, Hitler said this in a August 22, 1939 speech to his generals before the invasion of Poland, as encouragement to them to kill Poles of all religions:

I have issued the command — and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad — that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?

Okay, not funny so far. But what IS funny is that deniers of the Armenian Genocide and the Shoah both dispute that Hitler ever said this -- but for different reasons. Those who claim there was no Shoah say Hitler didn't say this because, I mean, why would he have? That's the kind of thing that only those planning to engage in genocide would say, and Hitler was a kindly old gentleman who only wanted the best for all humanity, so the idea of him saying it makes no sense. QED.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government claims Hitler wouldn't have said it because there was no Armenian Genocide, so why would he ever have referred to it? Don't be stupid.

Adding to the merriment is that both groups hate to be lumped together. Deniers of the Shoah don't deny the Armenian Genocide, whereas the Turkish government would never claim there was no Shoah. Neo-Nazis will say The Armenian Genocide was a terrible crime against humanity that must never be forgotten!, mostly because they hate Muslims and see the propaganda value in hyping atrocities against Christian Armenians. Meanwhile, the Turkish government weeps bitter tears over the Shoah, since Israel is one of Turkey's most important allies.

Ha ha ha! Granted, all this would be funnier if it didn't involve the deaths of millions.

*I believe Robert Fisk (among others) is correct that Germany's attempted annihilation of Jews, Gypsies, etc. during World War II is properly referred to as the Shoah rather than "the Holocaust." There have been quite a few Holocausts in human history, including the Armenian Genocide.

Posted at August 29, 2004 10:17 PM | TrackBack

Neither "Shoah: nor "Holocaust" are really appropriate terms.

"Shoah" is a Hebrew word and perpetuates the misconception that Jews were the only targets of Hitler's murderous rage - Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, communists, freemasons and the mentally ill were also targeted, the Rom certainly as harshly as Jews.

"Holocaust" originally refers to a form of animal sacrifice, and lends to mass murder a religious aura it should not have.

Posted by: Fazal Majid at August 29, 2004 11:21 PM

"Massive, horrific, institutionalized genocide" seems to about cover it. But I admit, it's less than pithy.

Trouble is, there are just some things that seem too big to describe with a single word.

Posted by: Ted at August 30, 2004 02:03 AM


I know what you mean, and in fact I was thinking the same thing as I wrote that. Nevertheless, I believe that Shoah, while imperfect, is still the best term available.

On the other hand, I am willing to be persuaded, particularly if someone comes up with a better idea.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at August 30, 2004 02:11 AM

I don't think the fact that holocaust deniers and Turkish apologists both deny the comment, for different but essentially similar reasons, is funny at all. Of course, I suspect that you really don't think it is funny, either. A few years ago I waded through the Nizkor site trying to understand some of the holocaust deniers' claims; it was really horrifying. I don't think I could handle the museum.

Posted by: Anna in Cairo at August 30, 2004 02:18 AM

The technical definition of the word "genocide" itself seems to cover it. You could differentiate it by using adjectives like "Nazi" or "anti-Jewish" or something like that.

Posted by: Anna in Cairo at August 30, 2004 05:58 AM