Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Exile and Extermination in Turkish Are the Same"

On 16 July, 1916, German Consul Kuchhoff wrote that "Exile and extermination in Turkish are the same, for whoever is not murdered, will die from hunger or illness." This quote is taken from a collection of sources, many of them written by Germans, on the Turkish genocide of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians between 1913 and 1922. The Germans, who were Turkey's allies in World War I, clearly saw how deportation and genocidal killing could become synonymous when the population being deported was demonized and deprived of its humanity. Could this help to explain why the Nazis, both in their wartime broadcasts and when facing trial after World War II, did not try to pretend that an intention to forcibly deport Jews that existed in 1939-41 was proof that there could not have been a subsequent policy to exterminate those Jews?

Hitler had explained to Goebbels in August 1941 that, after the USSR had been defeated and Jews deported to the Soviet interior, "Then they will be worked over in the harsh climate there" [Goebbels diary, 19-20 August, 1941]. As I explained in my blog on The Koeppen Memo, when Hitler made this prophecy, he was already planning "reprisal measures" against the German Jews. Such "reprisals" were also carried out by the Turks against the Armenians on a similar pretext of disloyalty and aiding the enemy.

We can therefore be in no doubt that, had Germany defeated the Soviets in 1941 and opted for mass deportation into the USSR rather than the building of gas chambers in Poland, the result would still have been extermination, along similar lines to that which befell the Armenians and Greeks in the Ottoman Empire, and that which the Soviet Jews suffered at the hands of mobile killing squads (which were successors to the paramilitary killers unleashed by the Turks). Deniers will try to pretend otherwise, and will spin a ludicrous fantasy in which Jews were 'resettled' in viable survival communities, but no Nazi perpetrator ever claimed such a defence, because he would have known that it was absurd in the face both of the facts and the policy context.

Postscript: For more on the Turkish genocides and their connections to the Holocaust, see Dadrian's excellent lecture here and this excellent site.

No comments: