Genocide Commemoration after Recognition in Germany

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BERLIN — Since the German Bundestag (Parliament) passed a resolution on the Armenian Genocide last year in June, the focus has shifted from the demand for recognition to other concerns; on the one hand, there has been further study of the role of Imperial Germany in the Genocide and, on the other, there are efforts underway to introduce the theme in history lessons in German classrooms. This shift in focus was perceptible in the commemoration held in Berlin on April 24, where several speakers, remembering the past, looked to the future.

The event was organized by the Central Council of the Armenians in Germany, the Armenian Embassy and the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Germany, and enjoyed the collaboration of the Berlin Armenian Community and the Armenian Church and Cultural Community in Berlin. Opening the program, Ani Smith-Dagesyan, a member of the Board of the Central Council of the Armenians in Germany, spoke of the current situation for the minorities in Turkey. Smith-Dagesyan, a young political scientist specializing in international politics, has been responsible for the political and cultural education of the younger generation at the Council. Armenian Ambassador Ashat Smbatyan addressed his remarks to this younger generation. The culture of memory, he said, was all the more important for those who did not experience the genocide, adding that remembrance must include other genocides as well. Smbatyan stressed the importance of the speech delivered last year by then-President Joachim Gauck on the genocide, a speech which paved the way for recognition and changed the situation in Germany.

Edelgard Bulmahn, Social Democrat who is vice president of the Bundestag, delved more deeply into the events of the past, emphasizing the importance of studying and acknowledging the role of Germany in those historical developments. She too spoke of the interest that young people today display in understanding their own past. Prof. Garabed Antranikian, president of the Technical University in Hamburg, had personal remarks to offer. As the son of a survivor who migrated to Jerusalem and then to Jordan, where he was born, he praised his father’s commitment to his own education, which allowed him to study and achieve an academic career.

Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Germany, offered prayers.

A day earlier, also in Berlin, a ceremony was held at the Ecumenical Memorial for the Genocide Victims of the Ottoman Empire, with a speech by Dr. Tessa Hofmann, a genocide researcher and co-founder of the initiative. The memorial is made up of three altars in memory of the Armenians, Greeks and Syrian Christians. Following an address by Hofmann, titled, “The Books are not Yet Closed,” participants marched in a procession to the monument, where Archbishop Emmanuel Sfiatkos, chairman of the Ecumenical Council of Berlin-Brandenburg, delivered a blessing.

A new book is to be released soon in German, edited by Rolf Hosfeld and Christin Pschichholz, which contains essays by numerous genocide scholars on the theme of the German role. The volume, Das Deutsche Reich und der Völkermord an den Armeniern, is a further example of the interest being devoted to this aspect, which has come to the fore since the Bundestag resolution. And, also stimulated by the same ferment, a debate around genocide studies in schools has been spreading among educators. As an example, the German-Armenian Society is organizing a presentation this week by former minister Stephan Dorgerloh on “Genocide as a Topic in Schools in Sachsen-Anhalt.”

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Topics: Germany
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