Tessa Hoffmann and the Armenian question

-Translated from German Original at http://www.turkishnews.com/de/content/2010/03/02/die-moderne-kunst-der-geschichtsschreibung/ –

„The modern Art of historical Scholarship“

An example of a subjective interpretation of history: Tessa Hoffmann and the Armenian question
„A lie travels round the world while Truth is putting on her roots“

(Rev. C.H. Spurgeon)

Tessa Hoffman has done research studies of Slavic Studies, Armenistik and Sociology (1974) at various universities in Saint Petersburg (Russia), Yerevan (Armenia) and Tbilisi (Georgia). After her PhD (1982, she works at the Eastern European Institute at the Free University of Berlin.

As a non-fiction writer and editor, Tessa Hoffmann has published numerous publications on the history, culture and present situation of Armenia. Tessa Hoffmann has very intensively devoted herself in Genocide Research, the Armenian Diaspora, and the Christian minorities in Turkey and South Caucasus.

She engaged in volunteering as a coordinator in Armenia of the Society for threatened peoples and is the chairman of the AGA e.V. (Working Group-Against-Genocide-Recognition, Association for International Understanding). She currently works in the minority and migration studies, focusing on Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and South Caucasus. Tessa Hoffman was appreciated for her work by the Armenian government and the Armenian diaspora.

-Garbis Papazian Prize of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (New York), 1988

– Honorary Professorship of Hrachia Ajarian University (Yerevan), 2002

– Fridtjof Nansen Medal of the National Museum and the Institute of the Armenian genocide (Yerevan), 2003

– Hakob Meghapart medal of the national library of the Republic of Armenia (Yerevan), 2003

– Medal for the study of the Armenian genocide, awarded by the National Museum and Institute of the Armenian Genocide, Yerevan, 2005

One of her most important works is the book entitled “The Armenian genocide to justice, the process Talat Pasha”. As a cover of the book, published by Hoffmann in 1980 the following picture with the title: “Turkish barbarism can be seen: a pyramid of skulls in Western Armenia 1916/1917” can be seen. The photograph of the Turkish Minister of Interior / Grand Vizier at that time, Talat Pasha, who was assassinated in exile in Berlin on 15 March 1921, Armenians Soghomon Tehlirian, can be seen on the top left.

Figure 1: „Turkish Barbarism: A pyramid of skulls in Western Armenia 1916/1917“.

Issue 1980Armenischen genocide, Yerevan, 2005

At first glance the image looks to the viewer very “frightening”. A large pile of skulls, about the vultures circling and in the middle of the cover picture, the turkish grand vizier Talat Pasha. And at least after reading the figure caption, the horrors of the tates and the perpetrators of this barbarism is clearly illustrated to the reader. A clever thought out and put together composition of pictures, which should make “the terror” and the polluter clear to the reader.

For years, this book could be bought in this version in bookshops. Until the historian

T. Ataöv recognized the systematic manipulation with respect to this cover image and published it in his book “An Armenian Falsification” thematised in 1985. He uncovered the incident without unmasking Tessa Hoffman as the person responsible for this particular call.

Was this just an oversight by Tessa Hoffman?

Tessa Hofmann has not done accidentally or unknowingly. Rather, she had probably

red the following passage in the files of the Foreign Office: “[…On 10 and

12th of the month, a cortege of about 2,000 exiled women and children arrived through Ras-ul Ain arrived on foot in completely exhausted state here, a cortege that would have been played in its cruelty only by the brush of a Vereshchagin …]” Source: PA-AA/BoKon/170; A53a, 5779, p. 7.10.1915;

Here’s the famous picture of the Russian painter Wereschtschagin:

Figure 2: Left: Oil Painting “the consequences of war” (1871/72) by the Russian painter Wassilij Weretschaging (1842-1904), Right: Cover picture of the book, edited by T. Hoffmann

Interestingly, the cover image is in black and white and not shown in colour like the original, obviously to give the impression of a photograph. After this scientific fraud was uncovered, Tessa Hofmann let to remove this photo montage. Curiously, this was also done from several printed editions, readily by removing the book covers of the books in the libraries. And soon a new edition of the book had to be cover with a new image:

Figure 3: 1985 edition

The historian Hermann Goltz dealt with these issues in the published “acts of international Dr. Johannes Lepsius Symposium 1986” at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, which he described as “astonishing” and “embarrassing”. Is it really just amazing and embarrassing?

Is this a mistake or a deliberate attempt of a subjective manipulation of historical events?

If one is good-natured and open mind you could say that Ms. Hoffmann was here made a mistake and she had misinterpreted the information in the files of the foreign office. However, if one reads the book, the following picture can be found further inside.

Figure 4: Armenians tortured and violated. Taken on the road from Trapesunt (Trabzon) to Ersnga by a German officer.

Again, the reader is led to the suffering of the Armenians in mind. Half-naked and naked Armenians, which (by Turkish soldiers) are being tortured and raped. And a German officer photographed the scene. “What kind of sangfroid of the German officer?” would one asked the question here. But research has shown that this image is also a painting, from Paul-Emile Boutigny (1854-1929) with the name “Les Horreur de la Guerre” (“The Disasters of War”)

Figure 5: Paul-Emile Boutigny (1854-1929) with the name “Les Horreur de la Guerre”

And again, the original color paint was imaged as a black and white image. By now it must be clear that Tessa Hoffman had deliberately used the images to give her type of presentation a weight to the events of 1916-17.

Is this just an oversight?

On page 96 we see the following image on the Armenians being crucified by Turcs.

Figure 6: Crucified Armenian women in the area of the Der-es-Zor.

However, own research came to the conclusion that this picture is also a fake. It is a frame from a Holywood movie “Ravished Armenia” listed in the U.S. (1919) by Oscar Apple from the novel by Arshaluys (Aurora) Mardiganian (1918). It deals with the topic on Armenian question. This film served to sensitize Americans to the problem at that time. The following picture is for example also from this film. It’s the same setting, this time without the horsemen.

Figure 7: A frame from the silent film “Ravished Armenia, 1919

Are these just individual cases?

Ms Tessa Hoffmann is, as mentioned, also the chairman of the AGA e.V. (Working Group-Against Genocide Recognition, Association for International Understanding). Now let’s look at another image from the image documents of the company, supposedly of massacred Armenians.

Figure 8: Skull of Armenians burnt alive in the village of Ali-Srnan. Source: Armjanskij Central’nyj Komitet (Izd.): ,Al’bom’’ armjan’-bežencev’’. Tiflis (um 1918) Ref. Nr.: 91 From: www.aga-online.org

The first impression of this picture again quite credibly conveys the brutality with which the Armenians were massacred, which is the purpose of the image document series of AGA. Below we see a picture from the online edition of Deutsche Welle, entitled “The genocide of the Armenians”.

Figure 9: Mass grave containing the bodies of killed Armenians.
From Deutsche Welle, dw-world.de 24.04.2005

Figure 9 is mirrored and was found in the online edition of the Deutsche Welle dw-world.de. The copyrights are at the dpa (German Press Agency. Figure 8 most probably comes from an Armenian book and is also recorded with an image reference. The real problem is that both images have been manipulated by both companies, pulled out of context and used with a false report, or insufficient source cited.

The comments to the picture, which differ from the actual image is: Armjanskij Central’nyj Komitet (Izd.): Al’bom”armjan’-bežencev. Tbilisi 1918. ” This is particularly interesting, since Tbilisi was no longer affiliated for decades with the Ottoman Empire, but was since 1801 in the Russian Empire (today’s Georgia). This attempts to pantomime pictures in order to give more weight to the view of Armenian massacre. This is particularly morally reprehensible, because it is more likely that these victims are either Muslim or Georgian, mostly Aserbaidchaner or Georgians, who at that time (early 19th century massacre) were expelled from the Caucasus region by Armenians and Russians, in order to establish an independent Armenia.

The aspirations of the Armenians for a free and independent “Greater Armenia” is not limited to the period around 1800-1918. Rather, it sets itself up through the present day. An example is the current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh (Aserbaidchan), where approximately 20% of Asarbaidchanischen territory is illegitimately1 occupied by Armenians. Despite several UN resolutions, the state Armenia until today refuses to release the occupied territories under international law.

1.UN Resolutionionen

A statement from the resolutions of the United Nations 824 (1993) 853 (1993), 874 (1993), 884 (1993): „….Expressing its serious concern that a continuation of the conflict in and around the Nagorny Karabakh region of the Azerbaijani Republic, and of the tensions between the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijani Republic, would endanger peace and security in the region, Noting with alarm the escalation in armed hostilities as consequence of the violations of the cease-fire and excesses in the use of force in response to those violations, in particular the occupation of the Zangelan district and the city of Goradiz in the Azerbaijani Republic, Reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Azerbaijani Republic and of all other States in the region…).

I would like to conclude with following remarks:

The use of pictorial material for propaganda purposes is a readily used tool to strengthen the own arguments. But images are subjective perceptions, which can be easily distorted. Examples are the above image materials. The use of the same, especially for the anti-Turkish propaganda, has a long tradition. Back in the 16th Century pictorial materials were used to the anti-turkish propaganda and to spread fear among the population.

Picture 10: Translation of the caption: Anti-Turkish propaganda Horror has a good tradition. Jacopo Ligozzi around 1576 painted a gruesome picture with a sub-miniature Mufti İl papa Delli Turchi (A Mufti as Pope of the Turks) with a monster. It should be mentioned that the religious leader of the Turks is the master of monster. (Aus: A Myth of Error: Europe, Turkey and public opinion, Prof. Erich Feigl, 1999, F.A. Herbig Verlag)

However, even the subtlest propaganda and distortion of historical events in favour of communities can never hide the facts and truth.

Given the deliberate distortion or manipulation of data, the scientists should be capable of a more serious and courageous critics as merely “expressing embarrassment” and “surprise”. I therefore wish and call all the involved parties to allow for historical events to be analyzed by independent historians in order to get an insight to the actual events in the mentioned time period. The clarification of historical events is not the business of politicians, who are primarily committed to their constituency, but by historians who should commit themselves for scientific truth. In the spirit of dialogue, I would also like to appeal to the involved parties, Turkey and Armenia to come to an agreement in order to analyze the events of 1917 by an independent committee of historians.

Compiled by Dr. A. Sak

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