By Ferruh Demirmen, Ph.D.
Make no mistake about it: The U.S. Holocaust Museum is now unabashedly championing the Armenian cause and the Armenian lobby’s efforts to slander Turkey. This became evident when the Houston branch (Holocaust Museum Houston, HMH) announced earlier this year that it would feature Taner Akçam as a speaker on May 4 (2015). The announcement was accompanied by a short paragraph containing the usual genocide accusations. From April 1 to August 7 the Museum is displaying the controversial, prejudice-laden Armin Wegner exhibit. In cooperation with the local Armenian community, in March the Museum hosted a lecture by Peter Balakian.
The Dallas branch also screened on April 30 the hatred-filled “The Armenian Genocide” pseudo-documentary by Andrew Goldberg.
Although the Akçam talk at HMH was cancelled (due to “sickness”) at the last minute, the Museum didn’t waste time scheduling a talk by UCLA professor-emeritus Richard Hovannisian, on May 27 (2015). It is the same Hovannisian who, having invited Akçam and two other “genocide” proponents (F.M. Göçek and E. Shafak) to a special “forum” at UCLA in 2005, declared at the conclusion of the meeting that, “a future conference would deal with the issues of reparations and territorial demands from Turkey.”
The Turkish-American community in Houston, and Texas in general, is not amused by such naked advocacy of the Holocaust Museum.
The HMH website used to contain a short article entitled “Genocide in Armenia (1915-1923).” The article, in its reference to 1923, and connoting that “genocide” took place in the Armenian territory, is brazenly misleading just by its title alone. That article is now replaced by a longer one, the title of which still carries the 1923 nonsense. The body of the article contains the usual allegations taken from an Armenian script. Ingeniously, the article mentions the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, but without discussing its substance and caveats.
The intensity of anti-Turkish events by the Museum is unparalleled. Where is the gratitude for the friendship Turks, from the Spanish inquisition in 15th century to World War II, extended to Jews, one wonders. Thanks to Turkish help, thousands of Jews from Vichy France found their way by train to Istanbul during the war. That memory is still fresh, as there are Turkish Jews settled in Turkey that benefitted from that humanitarian effort.
And could it be that the Museum is not aware of the Dashnak-Nazi collaboration in World War II, including the Armenian 812th Battalion created by the Wehrmacht in 1941, as revealed by the Nazi-era German magazine Deutsch-Armenischen Gesselschaft? The 20,000-men-strong battalion was commanded by General Dro Drastamat Kanayan, a war criminal on his own from the time he was a guerilla leader in eastern Anatolia and later the army chief in the short-lived First Republic of Armenia in 1919-1920. The whole idea of the Dashnak-Nazi cooperation was to prove that the Armenians were “Aryans.” Armenian recruits also joined the Panzer Corps and Gestapo in France and Germany.
Interestingly, General “Dro” is one of those “titans” Prof. Hovannisian remarked recently that he had met in his “younger days.”
After the war “Dro” was arrested by American forces, and soon released. He died in Boston in 1956. Years later his remains were taken to Armenia where he was given a hero’s ceremony. Of Dro’s past deeds in the First Republic of Armenia, “The Jewish Times” wrote (June 21, 1990): “An appropriate analogy with the Jewish Holocaust might be the systematic extermination of the entire Muslim population of the independent Republic of Armenia which consisted of at least 30-40 percent of the population of that republic.” Indeed, according to Russian historian A.A. Lalaian, 225,000 Muslims, or nearly 80% of the resident Muslim population, perished in the First Republic of Armenia over a period of two and half years.
One wonders whether the professor will reminisce during his talk his younger days when he met his hero “Dro.” Regardless, it will be a deep irony that a Holocaust institution will be featuring someone for whom a prominent Nazi collaborator was a “titan.”
There is little doubt that the actions of the Houston (as well, Dallas) branches of the Holocaust Museum are reflective of the Jewish lobby’s position in general. The Museum’s stance cannot be divorced from the current realpolitik between Turkey and Israel. But just as in the case of the hideous “Hitler Quote” (a deception!) displayed in the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., one cannot withhold the strong suspicion that generous donations from the Armenian lobby played a major role in shaping the Museum’s attitude toward the Armenian assertions.
One should never underestimate what such donations can deliver!
Back in March (2015), I wrote a 5-page long letter to the Managing Director of HMH protesting the Akçam event and suggested that the Museum give “equal time” to a scholar from the Turkish side. The director stonewalled my suggestion and replied with a cliché-type letter. Her reply, and my further comments in bold italics, are reproduced below.
“Dear Mr. Demirmen,
Thank you for your e-mail of March 2 regarding our upcoming program with Dr. Taner Akçam.
As you know, the mission of Holocaust Museum Houston is to educate the public about the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides. Thus, we feel it is important that we take the 100th anniversary of atrocities during World War I as a time to examine that history and what can be learned from it.”
The Holocaust Museum’s mission is commendable. But shouldn’t the atrocities inflicted by the armed Armenian bands on the Muslim population likewise be remembered and the lessons there from learned? As I noted in my detailed letter, more than half a million Muslim civilians lost their lives to Armenian terror.
“We understand that Turkey disputes the use of the word “genocide.” Whatever term is used, it is historically clear that more than 1 million Armenians perished as a result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment and physical abuse.”
It is not just that Turkey disputes the word “genocide.” In fact, there was no genocide. In the context of 1915 events, the genocidal intent (dolus specialis), as required in accordance with the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide (Article 2), is missing. We must respect the law. In its February 3, 2015 decision (Croatia vs. Serbia), the International Court of Justice underlined the vital importance of dolus specialis for genocide determination. Other points the court made also support the Turkish position.
“As of 2014, more than 22 countries and 42 of the 50 states in the U.S., have declared those acts “genocide,” according to the International Association of Genocide Scholars. At least 126 leading scholars of the Holocaust have urged western democracies to acknowledge it as well.”
Political entities and scholars are not authorized to establish the crime of genocide. Only a duly authorized court can. This is what the Convention on Genocide (Article 6) says. For the alleged Armenian genocide, there is no such court verdict. Further, if we take note of the opinion of “126 genocide scholars,” how can we ignore the opinion more than 100 other scholars who disagree? Separate from Holocaust, the two events accepted as genocide under international law are the Rwanda and Srebrenica atrocities.
“For all these reasons, we will not change our messaging regarding this talk.”
It is deeply ironic that HMH is sponsoring a program that is distinctly anti-Turkish but supportive of the Armenian position. As noted in my detailed letter, while Turks have extended their warm welcome to Jewish people in their history, Armenians collaborated with the Nazi Germany.
For your information, I am also attaching a sworn testimony by rabbi Albert J. Amateau, now deceased, who lived the tumultuous days of the Ottoman period just before the 1915 events and observed what the Armenian gangs were doing to local population including Jews.
“Sincerely, Kelly J. Zuniga, Ed.D., CFRE
Executive Director, Holocaust Museum Houston”