Do you know the difference between a Holocaust and a holocaust? The Armenians do

Roundup
tags: Holocaust, Jewish, Armenian



Robert Fisk is a multiple award-winning journalist on the Middle East, based in Beirut.


... My dad, a veteran of what he called “The Great War” of 1914-18, went on calling it that long after the second and even more titanic bloodbath had been fought around the world. The Brits officially decided to call the Great War the First World War – in, I think, 1948 – because they had to yield to history. My dad’s war had not proved to be the war to end all wars after all, and we had to acknowledge that. I still like the epic ring of The Great War – but by 1945, the Great bit simply didn’t work any more.

 Other Great War events remain contentious, not least what I always refer to as the Armenian Holocaust (with a capital “H”), the genocide of 1.5m Armenian Christians at the hands of the Turkish Ottoman government in 1915. It was the first industrialised genocide of the last century – the second being the Jewish Holocaust – and the two mass acts of slaughter had clear historical connections. The Turks suffocated thousands of Armenians in caves – by blowing smoke from bonfires into the cavities where they had imprisoned them in the Syrian desert – and thus created the first primitive gas chambers. 

Armenian men were sometimes taken to their execution in railway goods wagons. And junior members of the German Kaiser’s army who were training the Turkish army at the time witnessed the genocide; more importantly, some of the names of these Germans turned up less than a quarter of a century later as members of Hitler’s Wehrmacht in the Ukraine and Belarus, where they were helping to organise the mass killing of Jews. There’s no doubt where they learned how to do that.

 Turkey deported two thirds of the Armenian population; many were either killed or died of starvation during the journey Many years ago, therefore, I used the phrase “Armenian Holocaust” in The Independent. A sub-editor immediately changed the capital H to a lower-case h. My phone did not stop ringing. Armenians were outraged. Why did they not deserve a capital H, they demanded to know? Didn’t the Turks murder enough Armenians to qualify them for a capital H? I wrote a long memorandum to my then editor, Simon Kelner, explaining that it was racist to make a distinction between two genocides; we could not base our definition on the numerical difference between 1,500,000 and 6,000,000. Besides, Israelis (as opposed to the state of Israel, which doesn’t even regard the Armenian catastrophe as a genocide) refer to the Armenian massacres as the Armenian Shoah – using the Hebrew word for Holocaust. Kelner later published my memo as an article in The Independent – and it won the DC Watt journalism award....





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