Small Town Politics in Germany Raise Diplomatic Fuss

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By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

POHLHEIM, Germany — Pohlheim is a small town in Germany, near Giessen in the state of Hessen, with just under 20,000 inhabitants. But a local initiative has attracted the attention and protest of a high-ranking Turkish diplomat. The city council had agreed to a proposal presented by the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Socialdemocrats (SPD) for a “Monument Commemorating the Victims of the Genocide against Christians in the Ottoman Empire 1915 – Remembrance and Admonition.” The final decision was announced in early November, the same day that Nohman Nohman, a city councilor and member of the Aramean community, passed away. Over 200 Arameans attended the session, to pay their respects and to thank the city for its gesture.

A central location for the monument has been identified in the area near the Old Church. This would be the first time that such a monument commemorating the Armenian, Aramean and Pontos Greek genocide victims would be erected on public land. And that was evidently the spark that lit the fire of protest.

The Turkish reaction was swift and energetic. Turkish General Consul Burak Kurarti in Frankfurt dispatched a letter to Pohlheim Mayor Udo Schöffmann, protesting the decision of the city parliament, as an insult to the Turkish population “in your city and in all of Germany,” which would not contribute to reconciliation. On the contrary, he suggested it would provoke hefty reactions. He called for the mayor and the city to rethink the move and decide against it.

The chances are less than slim that his demand may be met. Not only does the German Constitution guarantee the rights of city administrations to make such decisions, but the German Bundestag, the parliament of the Federal Republic, passed a landmark resolution on June 2, 2016 officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

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Matthias Jung, CDU faction leader, said, “I don’t jump on orders from Erdogan or anyone else.” Deputy leader of the SPD faction, Prof. Ernst Ulrich, asked rhetorically, “If a German consul in Istanbul or Ankara had written that, how would the government in Ankara have reacted?”

Cehver Tan, an Aramean who is chairman of the local body representing foreigners and immigrants, commented calmly: “We have not told any lies, these are facts. The Turkish government should not be upset by that and should rather look into the archives. It is only a monument, it is not aimed against Turkey, it is planned to commemorate the victims. We have no intention thereby to provoke anyone. The city of Pohlheim has not insulted any nationality.”

Topics: Germany
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