Happy Birthday Wolfgang Gust!


By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany — In the year of the centenary of the Armenian genocide, numerous new books have appeared ranging from memoirs to historical studies and literary works. In Germany commemorations highlighted the role of Imperial Germany as the wartime ally of Ottoman Turkey and the Young Turk regime. Official commemorations in Berlin, from an ecumenical church service April 23, after which President Gauck spoke, to a historic Bundestag debate on the genocide on April 24, signaled recognition of the genocide at the highest political levels.

Without the pioneering work done by German researcher Wolfgang Gust and his wife Sigrid, in making available the official documents from the German Foreign Ministry archives during the First World War, such broad discussion of this crucial political chapter would be unthinkable, discussion which has included these bold initiatives in April on the part of political authorities, from the president to the Bundestag.

Over 30 prominent personalities came together from the United States, Europe, Turkey and Armenia to offer their congratulations to Wolfgang Gust on his 80th birthday, on April 9. In a gathering near Hamburg, where Gust and his wife reside, a group of close friends and associates presented him with a Festschrift. In German tradition, a Festschrift is a volume of greetings and scientific papers published in recognition of work of the celebrated person, in this case Wolfgang Gust. The book is titled Wolfgang Gust zum 80. Geburtstag:

“Was hat der Mensch dem Menschen Größeres zu geben als Wahrheit?” (ISBN: 978-3-934997-73-8).

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The subtitle of the volume is a quotation from German national poet Friedrich Schiller’s historic inaugural speech as professor, “What greater gift can one give a person than truth?”

Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian opened the volume with moving words of gratitude for what Gust has accomplished. Among the academics are leading genocide researchers like Richard Hovannisian, Taner Akçam, Tessa Hofmann, Raymond Kévorkian, Rubina Peroomian, Margaret Lavinia Anderson and Eric Weitz, who have presented greetings and scientific papers. These include Matthias Bjørnlund and Vagharshak Lalayan who have collaborating closely with Gust on his unique website www.armenocide.net. Leaders of Armenian research and cultural institutions are represented, like Rouben Paul Adalian of the Armenian National Institute, Robert Mirak of the Armenian Cultural Foundation, Marc Mamigonian of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), Raffi Kantian of the Deutsch-Armenische Gesellschaft and George Shirinian of the Zoryan Institute. Of particular interest are the contributions by Turkish intellectuals and artists who have been influenced by Gust’s work and person, Serdar Dincer, Ragıp Zarakolu, Dogan Akhanli and Fatih Akin, as well as German Bundestag member Cem Özdemir. Further cultural interventions come from Armenian artists Archi Galentz and Bea Ehlers Kerbekian, and German poetess Heide Rieck.

New research presented in the scientific papers spans a vast range of topics, from Armenian source material on the genocide, to insights of a Danish-German politician in the Reichstag, from the symbiotic relation of Armenians and Turks to a suggested German-Turkish symbiosis, and to close examination of the military relationship, from the historical significance of Consul Leslie Davis’s photographs to a psychoanalytical examination of the phenomenon of denial. The volume includes presentations in German, English and French.

For more information about the book, write to: mirak.weissbach@googlemail.com.

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