BY ROBERT FISK–From The [London] Independent
In an extraordinary example of holocaust denial–the Turkish embassy in London has officially complained that an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London should have excluded references to the 1915 Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million Armenia’s were slaughtered by Turkish forces.
The Armenian landscape was one of several genocide locations–including Auschwitz–Rwanda–Vietnam and Cambodia–featured in the special exhibition by Simon Norfolk–a British photographer–which closed–as planned–on Monday.
"I was astonished to get a letter from the Turkish embassy," he said. "And I ignored it because I didn’t think it worthy of a response. I made no changes to the exhibition." The letter–from Minister-Counselor Mehmet Akat–accuses Mr. Norfolk of "disturbing" Turkish visitors to the Imperial War Museum by suggesting that "there is a parallel between the events of wartime Anatolia and the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany". Claims that there was an Armenian genocide–according to Mr. Akat–are "completely false."
The facts of the Armenian Holocaust – from which Hitler drew inspiration for Germany’s Holocaust of the Jews – have long been known to diplomats and historians. Turkish forces slaughtered Armenian men across southern Turkey in 1915 and drove their women and children on death marches into the Syrian desert. The US ambassador to Turkey condemned the massacres and Winston Churchill – a minister in the First World War cabinet – later described the killings as a "holocaust". Some Armenia’s sided with Russia in its war with Turkey and Turkish lobby groups now complain that the mass murders were part of a civil war.
Mr. Akat’s letter–however–is unprecedented. "It is true that during the emergency of World War I in response to the pressing danger of the rebellion–the Ottoman leadership ordered the deportation of the Armenian population to Syria and that this was inevitably a messy and painful affair," Mr. Akat admits. But–he adds–"the Ottoman authorities did the best they could to protect their Armenian citizens during World War I–even when some of their militants were engaged in armed insurrection."
Mr. Akat’s somewhat contradictory assertion flies in the face of all the evidence. The few living Armenian survivors of the genocide remember how their families were killed and their sisters raped in the desert. Photographs taken at the time show hundreds of murdered Armenia’s in the fields and towns of southern Turkey. German officers attached to the Turkish forces at the time expressed their horror at what they witnessed.
Mr. Norfolk dismissed the embassy’s protest as a typical Turkish official denial of historical facts. He said: "It’s just their job to say this. But I suppose these pronouncemen’s may get more strident as Turkey watches Jewish groups in the US win cases of substantial financial restitution from Swiss banks–insurance companies and manufacturers that exploited slave labor during the Jewish Holocaust. The Turks must be feeling that the writing is on the wall for them–and that they’ll also have to fork out soon."
At the height of the Armenian slaughter–Turkish authorities astounded Henry Morgenthau–the US ambassador–by seeking information on the amount of money held by Turkish Armenia’s in US insurance companies – in an apparent attempt to seize the funds. The Nazis pillaged Jewish savings in the Second World War. Before commencing his own genocide–Hitler is reported to have asked his generals: "Who now remembers the Armenia’s?"