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Pope Francis Commemorates 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide — “The first of the 20th Century”

Turk_official_teasing_Armenian_starved_children_by_showing_bread,_1915_(Collection_of_St._Lazar_Mkhitarian_Congregation)

Turkish official teasing starved Armenian children by showing bread during the Armenian Genocide, 1915.

Pope Francis chose this Sunday to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by the Young Turks of the waning Ottoman Empire.  He called it the first genocide of the 20th Century”. The AP reported, that Turkish President Erdogan called “hateful “and “unacceptable.”  He immediately ordered the recall of their Ambassador to the Holy See and had the Foreign Minister invite in the Papal Ambassador.  The AP wrote:

Pope Francis on Sunday called the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks “the first genocide of the 20th century” and urged the international community to recognize it as such, sparking a diplomatic rift with Turkey at a delicate time in Christian-Muslim relations.

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian, who was on hand to mark the 100th anniversary of the slaughter at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, praised the pope for calling a spade a spade in an interview with The Associated Press. But Turkey, which has long denied genocide took place, recalled its ambassador to the Holy See in protest.

“The pope’s statement, which is far from historic and legal truths, is unacceptable,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted. “Religious positions are not places where unfounded claims are made and hatred is stirred.”

Francis, who has close ties to the Armenian community from his days in Argentina, defended his pronouncement by saying it was his duty to honor the memory of the innocent men, women and children who were “senselessly” murdered by Ottoman Turks.

“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” he said at the start of a Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite honoring the centenary.

In a subsequent message directed to all Armenians, Francis called on all heads of state and international organizations to recognize the truth of what transpired to prevent such “horrors” from happening again, and to oppose such crimes “without ceding to ambiguity or compromise.”

[…]

Turkey’s embassy to the Holy See canceled a planned news conference for Sunday, presumably after learning that the pope would utter the word “genocide” over its objections. Instead, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara summoned the Vatican’s envoy, and then announced it was recalling its own ambassador to the Vatican for consultations.

In a statement, it said the Turkish people would not recognize the pope’s statement “which is controversial in every aspect, which is based on prejudice, which distorts history and reduces the pains suffered in Anatolia under the conditions of the First World War to members of just one religion.”

ravished armeniaOur NER colleague, Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein wrote a chronicle of the Ottoman pogroms and genocides perpetrated  against the Armenians in the late 19th Century and during World War I,  The Armenian Genocide as Jihad”  (January 2015)Dr. Rubenstein is the author of seminal works about the Holocaust and more recently, Jihad and Genocide.   Rubenstein’s opening stanza of his article recalls the appalling depredations wreaked by Turkish and Kurdish auxiliaries:

There is a 1919 silent film about the Armenian genocide, “Ravished Armenia,” originally produced in Hollywood using Turkish documentary footage. It was based on a book by a survivor, Aurora Mardiganian, who also starred in the production. The film originally consisted of nine reels, most of which have been lost. Recently, a twenty-minute clip was found that contains brief scenes of many of the incidents that took place during the genocide.1

Although low-definition, there is one terrible scene toward the end of the clip that is especially difficult to watch. Seldom, if ever, have I viewed a film scene that matches this one in sadistic obscenity. It is a crucifixion scene, but unlike Christian images of Christ on the cross that express symbolically the triumph of eternal life over evanescent human pain, this film’s crucifixion scene carried a very different symbolic meaning. There are eight crosses in a row to which are nailed eight naked, young Armenian women. After the film offers a panoramic view of all of the crosses and their victims, it focuses on a single sufferer. Nailed to the cross, she is helplessly alive. One could tell by her eyes and facial movements that her cognitive functions were unimpaired as she awaited the painful doom of her crucifixion.

The terrible scenes of the deportations, confiscations, sadistic brutality, rapine, outright murder of helpless Armenians, and the crucifixion of the Armenian maidens could not have been filmed without the involvement and consent of Turkish authorities.

The perpetrators took the most sacred symbol of Christendom and turned it into a blasphemous obscenity, symbolically proclaiming absolute Muslim dominance. Nevertheless, something else was involved: women are the child bearers. Their wombs carry the next generation. No words were necessary. The message was clear: “We express our utter contempt for you and your religion. We intend to destroy your future. You have no human rights. We can do with you whatever we wish.”

Nevertheless, shortly after the film was released, Turks apparently had second thoughts about what could be made available publically. Since then, for almost a century, Turkish governments have vehemently rejected the charge that Turks committed genocide against the Armenians. The most Turks have been willing to acknowledge is that both the Turks and Armenians inflicted wartime harm on each other, thereby arguing for moral equivalence between Turkish genocidal violence and rare instances of Armenian defensive action. Admitting that there were massacres, Turkish authorities have insisted that the number of Armenians killed has nevertheless been greatly exaggerated. Moreover, in spite of the publication of a host of well-documented eye-witness reports and testimonies, Turkish governments have used their diplomatic influence to prevent governments, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and others, from taking any action that would validate the Armenian claim that a nearly successful attempt to exterminate the Armenians of the Ottoman empire took place during the first World War.

In view of the fact that post-war German governments have acknowledged the role of National Socialist Germany in planning and implementing the extermination of Europe’s Jews, why have successive Turkish governments refuse to tread a similar path with regard to the Armenian victims?

[…]

This suggestion is in accord with the first words in Vahakn N. Dadrian’s magisterial study of the Armenian genocides. Dadrian begins: “As a first step toward a full analysis of the nationality conflicts [in the Ottoman Empire], it is necessary to examine Islam as a major determinant in the genesis and escalation of these conflicts.

Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Senior

Henry Morgenthau, Senior

The massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in the midst of WWI was largely met with indifference by the Christian world.  The exception was the American Committee for Syrian and Armenian Relief, now Near East Foundation that created refugee centers for Armenia orphan children. This despite information provided conveyed to the U.S. Statement Department by the American Ambassador to the Sublime Porte, Henry Morgenthau, Senior. President’s Wilson Jewish appointee who served in that post during the period from 1913 until his resignation in 1916. He   wrote a personal account in Ambassador’s Story, about his confrontation with Ottoman officials over eye witness reports he received from Consuls in Van and Aleppo of the heinous crimes committed by Turkish and Kurdish forces. those reports to his friend Aldolph Ochs, publisher of the New York Times.  His book has graphic photographs of the devastation wreaked upon the country’s Armenian minority.   Morgenthau also noted the indifference of the German Ambassador an ally of the Ottoman Turks during this great slaughter.  In a 1915 telegram to the US State Department, Morgenthau “described the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a “campaign of race extermination.”  In his book. Morgenthau wrote:

The real purpose of the deportation was robbery and destruction; it really represented a new method of massacre. When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.  Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story pg. 309.

Ambassador_Morgenthau's_Story_By_Henry_MorgenthauAs noted by Dr. Rubenstein, this first genocide of the 20th Century was used by Hitler as justification for the Final Solution for the murder in unspeakable ways of six million European Jewish men, women and children.  The depredations committed against Jews during the Shoah were not dissimilar from the outrages perpetrated on Armenian throughout the Ottoman Empire, although with an important difference- the organization of a network of slave labor and death camps using technology.  The reports of the Armenian slaughter look eerily similar to those of the Islamic State against Orthodox and Assyrian Christians in both Syria and Iraq 100 years later.  During WWII it was left to the Ambassador’s son, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. ,President Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary , who with his able staff , brought about  the creation of the War Refugee Board (WRB)  to save an estimated 250,000 Jews who fell into allied hands. The WRB enlisted the aid of Swedish businessman Raoul Wallenberg and others in the diplomatic community that used funds for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee  to safe house 90,000 Hungarian Jews in Budapest.

100 years after the Armenian Genocide Islamist President Erdogan perpetuates official amnesia conveying it as hateful to Turkish nationalism, when in fact it was a Jihad perpetrated by reformer predecessors of the Young Turks, Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha.

Hitler, who admired Islam and Jihad, used the Turkish destruction of Armenians as the model for the Holocaust against the hated infidel Jews.  He reportedly  told his friend, the German Muslim convert Ached Huber, “The only religion I respect is Islam. The only prophet I admire is the Prophet Muhammad.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The below video is the 1919 film RAVISHED ARMENIA , the original movie was also known as  the Auction of Souls:

The following poster shows graphically what happened then and what is happening now to Christians in the Middle East. History tends to repeat itself…

armenian genocide girls crusified

Was the Jewish Pogrom in Baghdad on June 1, 1941 a Holocaust Event?

In our June 2014 New English Review interview with Dr. Harold Rhode, we discussed the Farhud, the Nazi influenced pogrom that occurred on the Jewish festival of Shavuot, June 1, 1941, The Future of the Babylonian Jewish Archives.  Note this exchange:

Gordon: During World War II, the Jewish community in what we call Iraq really had a series of horrible experiences.  What was the experience during World War II and who were the persons who were involved?

Rhode:  The British had ruled Iraq and in the mid 1930’s, Iraq was given its independence. It had a king but there was a coup led by a man by the name of Rashid Ali who was working with the Nazis, in cahoots with the Mufti of Jerusalem who was living in Baghdad at the time. The Mufti was also working with Hitler. When Rashid Ali’s forces took over in 1941, there was a pogrom (farhood in Arabic) against the Jews. The Jews up until then never really worried. Yes they had been second class citizens because in the Muslim world, neither Jews nor Christians nor any non-Muslims were allowed to rule over Muslims.

In reality, however, the Jews actually ran much of the Iraqi economy at that time, and were involved in many other activities which helped Iraq run relatively smoothly. … After about six days in 1941 when approximately 180 people were killed, a lot of property was destroyed and many Jews were injured – all of a sudden Jews said: “wait a minute, something is wrong here. Maybe we don’t have a future here.” Iraqi Jews weren’t ardent Zionists at the time. But the farhood really shook them to their very foundations. The State of Israel was declared in 1948, i.e., it was the rebirth of the Jewish state which had existed 2000 years ago.

After Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Arabs – including Iraq – did their utmost to destroy it. Life became almost unbearable for the Jews of Iraq. Especially in Baghdad but in other places in Iraq as well. Kurdistan, however, was a different story. Life was much better for the Jews in Kurdistan which was Northern Iraq.

On the occasion of the 73rd commemoration of the Farhud Ha’aretz published an article raising the question of whether it should be considered a Holocaust event, “Lawyers make case for giving Iraqi Jews Holocaust benefits”.    There is ample evidence of Nazi involvement in the coup by Iraqi strongman Ali Rashid al-Gaylani, the Nazi Foreign ministry, and the German Ambassador to Iraq.  Then there was the role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini who was living in Baghdad after he was forced by British Palestinian Mandatory authorities to leave given his role in the Arab riots from 1936 to 1939. prior to the occurrence of the Farhud, for sanctuary in Berlin as Hitler’s house guest during WWII.  Edwin Black chronicled the 1941 Baghdad pogrom and both Nazi and Hussein’s involvement in his 2010 book, The Farhud: Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/rknnKYP5Iqg[/youtube]

See our January 2011 Iconoclast post on Eric Stakelbeck’s interview with author.

The Ha’aretz article presented evidence by experts representing the Farhud victims and surviving families, contested by Israel’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority at the Finance Ministry.  Ha’aretz cites Dr. Yaakov Toby of the University of Haifa, an expert retained by the Authority, saying:

 “Berlin’s affairs were directed toward the European continent, not elsewhere.” He added, “There was no expectation, and certainly no order, from the German government to the Iraqi government to carry out any government activity inside Iraq, and certainly not one of violent incidents or killing of Jews.”

The rebuttal to the Authority’s expert Dr. Toby is based on the investigative research of Professor Yitzchak Kerem, an expert on Spanish and Oriental Jewry.   Ha’aretz notes:

In his professional opinion, he wrote, “The deciding factor in the outbreak of the Farhud was Nazi incitement against Iraq’s Jews, which was carried out by the Nazi regime through the representatives and agents it appointed.”

He draws a firm conclusion. “The Farhud must be seen as an integral part of the Holocaust that the Nazi regime brought on our people.” He calls the Farhud “the Kristallnacht of Iraqi Jewry.”

Here is some of the evidence cited by Ha’aretz of Nazi involvement in the Baghdad pogrom supporting Professor Kerem.

On the devastation wrought by the Farhud, the Ha’aretz article noted:

According to statistics at Yad Vashem, 179 Jews were killed, more than 2,000 wounded, and 50,000 were victims of theft during the Farhud (an ancient word meaning imposing brutal terror on the subjects of a regime). “Terrible acts of cruelty were carried out during the pogrom. Babies, elderly people and women were murdered and their limbs hacked to pieces. Women were raped. Synagogues were damaged and Torah scrolls desecrated,” according to a brief paper in Hebrew about the Farhud at Yad Vashem’s website.

The extent of Nazi involvement in the Farhud revealed:

The historical material includes minutes of a German military discussion, the Nazi foreign ministry’s correspondence, British army intelligence reports and the report of the investigative committee established in Iraq after the pogrom. The Iraqi prime minister, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani; the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini; Adolf Hitler and his book Mein Kampf; the Nazi radio station that broadcast from Berlin and had reception in Iraq; and the fascist youth movement that mirrored Germany’s Hitler Youth all play major roles in the material.

Professor Kerem collected testimonies proving that al-Gaylani’s government had been funded by the Nazis. In a telegram sent on May 21, 1941 from Baghdad, Dr. Grobba, Germany’s ambassador in Iraq, writes that he transferred tens of thousands of gold ingots to al-Gaylani. Alongside that, he gives an update about al-Gaylani’s request for 80,000 more gold ingots and mentions the agreement that was about to be signed between Germany and Iraq, as part of which the Nazis would grant a loan of one million gold ingots to their allies in Baghdad.

Money and propaganda were not the only things the Nazis provided to Baghdad. They also sent weapons to Iraq in an attempt to help the Iraqis fight against a common enemy — the British. Professor Kerem found evidence of that in the archives of Germany’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry. He says that in the minutes of a meeting of the supreme German command from May 7, 1941, it is written that “Hitler decided to assist Iraq in every possible way, including sending arms, ammunition, money and military aid.”

While the German effort failed, before the British returned to install a new government, the Farhud occurred:

Indeed, the German attempt to help the Iraqis fight the British failed On May 29, 1941, after the British reached the gates of Baghdad, al-Gaylani fled from Iraq. The Jews thought that the danger had passed, and on the morning of the Shavuot festival, June 1, 1941, they emerged wearing their holiday clothing to welcome the pro-British ruler, who had returned to Iraq. But Iraqi troops set upon them, and within hours Jews were being attacked all over the city and in other places as well.

“Farhud, ya ummat Muhammad!” (Farhud, O nation of Mohammed!) was the cry of the mob when the signal was given to murder and rob the Jews,” Hela Kargola later said. “Thousands, regardless of gender, age or status, took part in the celebration of slaughter and theft.”

Carol Basri President of the Corporate Lawyering Group, LLC, published a monograph in the Fordham Journal of International Law  in 2002 entitled,   “The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: An Examination of Legal Rights: A Case Study of the Human Rights Violations of Iraqi Jews”. In a section concerning the Farhud in Baghdad, she cited six causes of the rampage drawn from the Official Iraqi Government Report prepared by the British. They appear to support the arguments of Professor Kerem:

First, was the German Legation spreading sustained anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda under the direction of Dr. Fritz Grobba?

Second was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, and his entourage, which accompanied him to Iraq in 1940.

Third, the Report blamed Palestinian and Syrian schoolteachers, installed in every school, which had “poisoned the pupil’s [sic] minds and turned them into instruments of their propaganda. Whenever they perceived that the government was taking any steps against Nazism, they went into action, arousing the students who would then go out in demonstrations and issue harmful manifestos.”

Fourth, the Report blamed the German Arabic-language radio station, which also spread Nazi propaganda (and had an increased effect after Rashid Ali made it legal to listen to the station).

 Fifth, was the Iraqi Broadcasting Station, which over the two months Rashid Ali was in control,” broadcast false reports about misdeeds in Palestine. The broadcasts contained patently inflammatory agitation against Jews and powerful appeals to Nazism.”

Sixth, the Report blamed the Futuwwa and Youth Phalanxes, both pro-Nazi paramilitary groups, which have participated heavily in the Farhud. The Report also laid blame on the hierarchy of the Baghdad Police for its inaction and ordered it brought before a military tribunal.

As Basri noted the British Ambassador could have ordered British forces encamped near Baghdad to quell the two day rampage, but didn’t. Moreover after the Farhud was over, Nazi sentiments were still rampant. She cites Freya Stark who was at the British Embassy, who observed in 1942, Iraq was a “country seething with disguised Nazis and swastikas appearing everywhere (even on the back of my car).” Then Basri cites a British Intelligence report in the same year saying:”whatever the outcome of the war.., the Iraqis will punish the Jews eventually.”  The report noted “fear inspired by Moslem threats” and the fear of Hitler’s upcoming Spring Offensive in the Middle East.

After the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 the Iraqi government moved to deprive Jews of citizenship and passed  national legislation expropriating property including personal possessions. The estimates cited by Basri of property stolen by the Iraqi government ranged from $150 to $200 million and with economic indexing may be in well excess of a billion.  For the Israeli Finance Ministry’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority to suggest that the Farhud wasn’t a Holocaust event would appear too questionable in view of the evidence. The irony is that while Iraq’s Jews were not Zionists at the time of the Farhud, following their repatriation to Israel in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah  in 1950 to 1951, they became highly productive and committed citizens of the Jewish nation.  The repatriation, resettlement and absorption of Iraq’s Jews was paid for by the State of Israel with contributions from world Jewry. No UN or American government funding was involved.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is of  a mass grave of victims of the Farhud, 1941. It is a scan of a page from the book ‘Iraq’, edited by Haim Saadoun, published by the Ministry of Education and the Ben – Zvi, Jerusalem, (5762, 2002) page 17.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.