Serdar Dincer: The Armenian Genocide and Turkish-German Military Cooperation

Serdar-DincerTurkish researcher Serdar Dincer’s book titled “German-Turkish Military Cooperation and the Armenians” sheds light on a number of historic realities that have been less known or almost unknown to the public. The author refers to official German documents which indicate how Germany led the Ottoman Empire into World War I and how large a role Germany played in the displacement of Armenians and execution of the Genocide. Serdar Dincer spoke with Alin Ozinian.

Aline Ozinian: How did you decide to write the book titled “German-Turkish Military Cooperation and the Armenians?”

Serdar Dincer: The theme that I chose is important for Turkey, it is the offspring of Turkey’s eternally threatening militarism and the racism fed by it. In 2006, I published “‘Germany: A Winter’s Tale’ and Heinrich Heine, the Poet of Dialectics.” After publishing this book I started studying World War I, the subsequent years, and the Armenian cause. It is impossible to understand the history of Turkey in the era of World War I without taking into account the issue of the Armenians.

I was in the middle of working on this when Hrant Dink, whose dedicated reader I was, was assassinated,.

His assassination grieved me deeply and I had a feeling of shame, so Armenians took a key place in my studies. In 2007, I met Wolfgang Gust, whose book and Armenocide.net website triggered my interest in starting translating documents related to the Genocide of the Armenians. For that purpose I accessed the political archives of Germany’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, and to my great surprise I found there hundreds of other folders on the same topic.

Then I accessed the military, naval, financial, foreign policy, railway, food supply sections of those archives, where I selected other documents which I placed next to those that I had already found, and here the picture became more holistic. I added existing documentation published in various other books and as a result 2 books emerged: “The German-Turkish Military Cooperation and the Armenians” published in 2011 and in the summer of 2014, “Krupp and the Never-Ending Balkan War, Exile and Genocide.”

AO: Having studied the political archives of Germany’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, you came to the conclusion that the Genocide was committed by a group, where there was no distinction between being a Turk or German, the group had made a step-by-step plan years before 1915. What was the reason for that unity, the joint planning and in general for that coalition?

SD: The German leaders were pursuing an aim of conquering the world, and the Enver-Talaat pair was obsessed with sustaining their empire and with the dream to reach Central Asia. The German authorities were thinking that Turkey can help in achieving their plans and will open the doors leading to India and Egypt.

This was the reason why they demonstrated full support to Abdul Hamid until the very end, and built the railway to Baghdad, whereas hundreds of Turkish military officers were receiving military education in the Prussian army. Krupp, Ehrhardt, Mauser and other arms producers became the only suppliers of weapons to the Ottoman army.

One of the ideologists of this plan, Paul Rohrbach yet in 1902 wrote that every 100 km of the railway is worth one dreadnought (battleship), in this way deliberating of the upcoming World War.

Not being able to prevent the fall of Abdul Hamid, Germany was able to establish an alliance with the Young Turks and to contain the wishes of the politicians and military officers who were advocating for establishing friendly relations with Britain, France and Russia.

A great impact on the choice of the Young Turks played Germany’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Marshall von Bieberstein, the Military Attaché Strempel , and later the Navy attaché Hans Humann ve  Marshall von Bieberstein is the person who wired to Berlin after the massacres of Adana: “Armenians are one of the most deceitful nations in the world.”

The Germans were encouraging Enver Pasha and Talaat Pasha to organize military coups. Kamil Pasha, who was known by a nickname “Englishman” and who had received his education in France, the military minister Nazim Pasha, who was known with his close ties with the Armenians, they were both toppled as a result of Babi Ali’s military coup of 1913. The Germans were encouraging their actions.

The German archives show us that the military coup was supported by Deutsche Bank (and the administration of Baghdad railway’s construction which was under this bank), whereas military attaché Strempel stationed in Istanbul simply supported their plan.

Six-seven months after this coup, Mahmut Shevket Pasha, who was a bottleneck to Enver-Talaat’s plans, was assassinated. The Enver-Talaat-Cemal trio established a dictatorship in the country.

At the end of 1913, a few weeks after the arrival of the German military mission led by Liman von Sanders in Istanbul, Ahmet İzzet Pasha , who used to oppose the actions of Enver and Talaat, is sacked from his position of the head of the army and Enver Pasha becomes the military minister.

After World War I breaks out, the Germans start making pressure and forcefully silence all those members of the Ittihat government who were opposing the war and did not want to involve Turkey in the war. Germany’s ambassador details the plan made with Enver in a report sent on October 14th of 1914 and at the end writes the following:

“The above-mentioned developments have brought us to a momentum when we can engage Turkey in the war through a military coup. However, I do not think that dislocating Turkish soldiers on the shores of the Black Sea will be sufficient for igniting and kindling rebellions in India, Iran and Egypt. On the other hand, I would hate not to take advantage of the current military mood in Turkey and would not like to take up responsibility for a situation that if Germany has any military failure in the near future, Turkey will never ally with us in the war.”

According to me, if Emperor Wilhelm and his ideological counterparts Talaat and Enver did not shove the Ottoman Empire into war, the policy of exile and extermination of the Armenians would not reach the level it actually reached. After the Balkan wars, a fear was hovering over the Ottoman empire that the state is being disintegrated, therefore the psychology of war and extermination was widespread and this psychology was taken advantage of for exterminating the Armenians. Here, very important were also the German weapons and money.

Large was also the role of the German nationals in the Turkish army and the Turkish officers who had received their military education in Germany. When the war broke out, one of the first pieces of advice given by the German commanders was to remove the Armenians from the war zone. This turned into exterminating the nation with weapons, and in Zeitun and Urfa colonel Wolfskill participated in these actions, of which he was proud. One of the closest friends of Enver, Hans Human and Bronsart von Schellendorf help in the execution of the massacres.

Ambassador Wolff Metternich was opposing the plan of exterminating the Armenians, whose position was only seconded by Liman von Sanders amongst the German commanders in Turkey. He prepares a report and emphasizes that without German money and weapons, the the government of the Young Turks will be unable to do anything and calls for the German authorities to end their policy of neutrality and to actively interfere against the genocidal policy. In response to this report, Kanzler Betman Holweg writes:

“To make claims, as you are suggesting, to an ally engaged in the war in unheard and unprecedented in history. Our only aim is to keep Turkey next to us until the end of the war, and it does not matter whether Armenian will be exterminated during that time or not. The war may last too long and we will need Turkey a lot.” This means that for Germany the victims of the Genocide was merely secondary losses.

At the core of the German-Turkish relations lies the same mentality, this is a militaristic mentality, some sort of hunnic thinking. Emperor Wilhelm, when he sends troops to China, tells them “Behave like the huns!” Who were the huns considered by the Turks as their predecessors? This was a heterogenous nomadic group that stimulated the Great Migration of peoples which created havoc in all European countries. This was a group that would plunder and kill everywhere.

Anybody who earns living by sweat and honor, anyone with self-respect cannot consider the huns as their founding fathers. Emperor Wilhelm who would praise the huns found Enver as his spiritual brother. They were both obsessed with the desire to rule the world.

A significant part of those German officers that would arrive in Turkey had already gained experience in China and Africa. They had fought in their colonies, participated in cracking down the rebellion in China, participated in the massacres of the Herero genocide and were used to impunity.

And these military men who were obsessed with this culture found their fellows amongst the turks who were also obsessed with an imperialist, expansionist culture and were inspiring each other. Part of these German officers later on became the support to Hitler. They had their fascist fellows in Turkey, one of whom was Nuri Pasha, Enver Pasha’s elder brother.

AO: To what extent are these events upon which you have shed light, known in Turkey and Germany? What echoes has your book received in Germany and Turkey?

SD: The documents translated from German to Turkish, I think, helped many people understand the truth. The situation of those who scream that they were “defending their homeland and nation” has become very tight, now it became difficult to hide that they were the persons who made the greatest harm to Turkey.

These are also carefully concealed realities in Germany. Not long ago, Jürgen Gotschlich published a book featuring a small part of the documents that I have compiled in my book. It received a big reaction. More and more difficult becomes the business of those institutions and people in Germany, who have been assisting the German government to act as “unbiased judges and mediators between the Armenians and the Turks”․ The hypocritical position of the German government becomes more and more evident; it basically says “we are neutral, we do not meddle into this and are leaving the matter to the historians.”

AO:  Why is Germany that has acknowledged the Holocaust, so passive on the matter of the Armenian Genocide? If Germany acknowledges its own fault and complicity, can this trigger that Turkey also acknowledges?

SD: If Germany acknowledges its complicity, then it will be very difficult for Turkey to deny the Genocide.

AO: Back then when Germany was acknowledging the Holocaust, it was weak and powerless, that was its position after World War II. Today, when Germany has become powerful, it is playing a negative role in disclosing the historic truth. Is it that powerful states have such an advantage – they regard history the way they like, they hide what they want?

SD: The contemporary German army, police, justice system and many other institutions were established by the previous – nazi regime. Thousands of fascist murderers were never punished in Germany, they peacefully died in their beds.

Acknowledgement of the Holocaust was a result of the materialistic financial calculations of the international community and the winning states. That same Germany is today trying to obliterate and shield the crimes it committed in Greece, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union.

Germany seems to be mocking the fair demands of the Greek people for compensating millions of dollars.

German President Gauck says that the German courts have already made a decision regarding compensation or non-compensation. One cannot be so shameless. Think about it, you have invaded a country, became reason for the death of dozens of thousands of people, years later you are slapping in the face of the generations that demand compensation from you and who have become impoverished because of you and you are saying: “You cannot demand anything from us, because our court has made that decision.” History should not be left to these people, it is our human duty to break their blood-soaked pens.

24 ապրիլ, 2015

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