As I write, the match between Germany and Turkey has just kicked off, but you know by now I’m not going to say much about football.
This is certainly a touchy one though, isn’t it? With 3 million Turkish gastarbeiter living in Germany and relations tense at the best of times, German police are on high alert for trouble in the streets.
Now, Germany is a paradox. Germans tend to be civilised, reasonable, tolerant and cultured, yet their society gave rise to one of the greatest abominations in history: the genocidal Third Reich. After the country’s complete destruction in the war, the German nation faced what it had done, and acknowledged the gigantic crime it had committed in attempting to wipe out the Jews, and with them to eradicate a major portion of European culture. As a consequence, Germany went into a fifty-year-long spasm of remorse and guilt. It became the powerhouse of European reconstruction and turned its back on its militaristic past.
In Germany today, it’s a crime to deny the Holocaust, though in some ways, this is an uncomfortable concept, since it ignores all other genocides, including the Armenian genocide perpetrated by Turkey. But still, what a nice symmetry.
In Turkey, you can go to jail for criticising the army. Popstar Bulent Ersoy is on trial right now for saying I am not a mother, nor ever will be, but I would not bury my child for someone else’s war. In Turkey, such sentiments are not permitted and if you say a thing like this in public, you’ll find yourself in front of a judge and facing time behind bars.
Turkey has a cult of the military bordering on religious fanaticism, and it exists in a state of constant warfare. So far, 40,000 people have died in the last 25 years of fighting with the Kurdish Workers’ Party, and there’s no sign of an end to the slaughter.
During and after the First World War, the Ottoman Empire engaged in a systematic genocide of Armenians and murdered up to 1.5 million people, but to this day Turkey denies that any genocide occurred, preferring to call the death marches a relocation. What does that remind you of?
The first writer who called the Armenian genocide a Holocaust was, maybe surprisingly, Winston Churchill:
As for Turkish atrocities – massacring uncounted thousands of helpless Armenians, men, women, and children together, whole districts blotted out in one administrative holocaust – these were beyond human redress.
Churchill didn’t know how right he was. Among the Germans who served in Turkey was Rudolf Hoess, who witnessed the Armenian Holocaust at first hand, later commanding Auschwitz and going on to become deputy inspector of all Nazi extermination camps.
Franz von Papen was chief of staff of the Fourth Turkish Army during WW1,and later became Hitler’s vice-Chancellor in 1933. General Hans von Seeckt was chief of the Ottoman General Staff and was subsequently one of the principal architects behind the creation of the Wehrmacht.
Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, the German vice-consul in Erzerum, wtnessed at first hand the slaughter. He reported to Hitler that the Armenians of Turkey had been exterminated. He described in detail the methods used to conceal the crime and the ways in which Armenians had been entrapped. He even referred to the Armenians, in one letter to Hitler, as the Jews of the Orient.
Scheubner-Richter was a racist who called for a ruthless campaign against the Jews so that Germany could be cleansed. He went on to become a close supporter and friend of Hitler, so it’s hardly a coincidence that the Fuhrer could ask in 1939:
Who today is talking about the destruction of the Armenians?
Chilling words. Within a decade, the lesson Hitler had learned from Turkey would lead to the annihilation of five million European Jews.
So where does that leave us today?
Well, we have two nations, playing a game of football as I write. Both have brutal, genocidal histories that are intertwined with each other. One country is at the heart of the European Union, while the other is still an applicant to join the EU. One of these countries is peaceful, stable,and conscious of its appalling past. The other continues to brutally oppress an ethnic minority within its borders.
In one of these countries, it’s a crime to deny that a genocide occurred, while in the other it’s a crime to report it.
Well that didn’t last long. I had a brief burst of comments attacking me for suggesting that the Armenian genocide ever happened, but then my Turkish visitors stopped complaining and settled back into their usual pattern of visiting this post:
I wrote that as a joke. What is it with Turkey and animal sex? Why are the Turks and the Saudis reading this post more than anyone else in the world?