Germany will officially recognize the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by the Turkish Ottoman regime 100 years ago as genocide. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition will vote on April 24 to label the murders as genocide as defined by the United Nations in 1948.
Germany’s ruling parties plan in their resolution to “find a formulation which states the fact that a genocide took place in Turkey,” Franz Josef Jung, deputy faction leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said in a statement on April 20. The fate of the Armenians “exemplifies the history of mass extermination, ethnic cleansing, expulsion and genocide that characterizes the 20th century in such a terrible way,” Jung added.
Christiane Wirtz, a government spokesman, had told reporters last week that, while it is “very important” that Turks and Armenians reconcile over the killings, “such a coming to terms with the past can’t be forced on someone from abroad -- it’s a domestic issue.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had rejected using the word genocide in an ARD TV interview on April 19, denying any suggestion it was being avoided to avoid upsetting Turkey.
“Responsibility can’t be reduced to a single term,” he said.
The government backed away from a steadfast refusal to use the term “genocide” after members of parliament in the conservative Christian Democrats and their Social Democrat (SPD) allies forced its hand. Hours after Jung's statement, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said that the government would support a resolution in parliament declaring it an example of genocide: “The government backs the draft resolution…in which the fate of the Armenians during World War One serves as an example of the history of mass murders, ethnic cleansings, expulsions and, yes, the genocides during the 20th century.”
Analysts said that the reluctance until now from Germany, a country that works hard to come to terms with the Holocaust it was responsible for, was due to fears of upsetting Turkey and the 3.5 million Germans of Turkish origin or Turkish nationals living in Germany.
The German government also did not want to use the word due to concerns the Herero massacres committed in 1904 and 1905 by German troops in what is now Namibia could also be called genocide — leading to reparation demands.
“It’s a striking contradiction by the German government that Germany is denying the genocide of Armenians,” said Bilgin Ayata, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University.
“Research has shown that external pressure on countries can have a considerable influence and Germany could play a very important role in this discussion on Turkey.”
The European Parliament will vote Wednesday on a resolution urging Turkey “to come to terms with its past” and to recognize the scale of its deed, a measure that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he plans to ignore.