By Jirair Tutunjian, 30 August 2015
To change the narrative of their litany of lies regarding Turkey’s genocide of 1.5 million Armenians Turkish propagandists occasionally wander into history swamps to dig up dirt against the Armenian nation. One of their favorite gimmicks is to exhume the story of Armenians who fought in the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War. The Turkish “expose” is intended to depict the Armenian nation as fascist and anti-Semitic. Of course, the Turks’ main target audience is the Jews. The mud-slinging of the Turks is intended to hurt Armenians and their Cause by convincing the influential global Jewish community that Armenians are anti-Semitic.
Some 30,000 Armenians did join the German army in the ‘40s along with more than a million of other non-Germans.
When they lobe mud at Armenians, the Turkish falsifiers neglect to mention the below ten salient facts while exaggerating the role of the Armenische Legion, Gen. Trasdamad (Tro) Kananyan, and Karekin Njteh.
1. The overwhelming majority of the members of the Armenians fighting on the German side were prisoner of war from the Red Army. They had two choices: death/slavery or “volunteer” conscription in the German army. Turks also never fail to mention the leadership of Tro, who had come from the U.S. to fight alongside the Germans but don’t mention that the rest of the other Armenian military leaders were ex-Red Army officers (Haig Asatryan, Gevorg Karapetyan, Serge Sarkeev, Serge Donoyan, Hakob Chalayev, Vazgen Atoyan…) who were POWs.
2. As the German army was rushing east by south east to the Baku oilfields, it was obvious that to get to its destination it had to go through Armenia. The nefarious Turkish media, hoping for eventual German victory, began fabricating “scholarly” articles that Armenians were a Semitic race… thus Germans should eliminate them as they marched through Soviet Armenia. To neutralize the potential of yet another Armenian holocaust within 25 years, the Berlin-based representatives of Tashnag (Armenian Revolutionary Federation—ARF) Armenians hastily signed an agreement with the Germans promising that Armenian volunteers would fight on the German side against the Soviets. Thus Armenians would be kosher in Aryan German eyes, so to speak. The ARF central bureau repudiated the agreement but the damage had been done.
In other words, a major blame for Armenian participation in the German war effort was because of Turkish falsehood and genocidal propaganda.
3. While it’s true that Tro did lead the Armenian Legion on the Eastern Front against the Red Army, most Armenian soldiers were stationed in Holland an in the Belgium where they saw little action, if any. As well, 7,000 were in logistical and other non-combat units. Hitler didn’t trust the Armenians or the Georgians (also 30,000 volunteers). He said: “I don’t know about those Georgians…They do not belong to the Turkic people…I consider only the moslims [sic] to be reliable…For the time being I consider the formation of these battalions of purely Caucasian peoples very risky…I don’t trust Armenians either.”
4. Not a justification but an explanation: Many Armenians joined the Germans because the latter had promised to liberate Armenia and even return Western Armenia and Cilicia to Armenia. For a nation which had been hit by the severest blow in its 4,000-year history, the dream of a restored Armenia had undeniable appeal. The German promise was hammered in the “HAYASTAN” magazine which was published for the Armenian soldiers.
Perhaps embarrassed/ashamed of their participation, many Armenians joined under false names or Germanized their names. Others destroyed their identity papers.
5. When talking about Armenian participation in the German army, Turkish propagandists don’t mention that hundreds of thousands of Turkic people also joined the German army. Turkmens, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, Kara kalpaks, Tajiks, Dagestanis, Chechens, Ingushes and Lezgis participation in the German war effort was tens of times larger than that of the Armenians. According to German sources, the Azeris—fellow Turks—contributed 70,000 soldiers (under Gen. Magomed Nabi Oglu Israfilov) to the German army.
6. Turks also don’t mention that Indians, Mongols, Arabs, Turkish Bosniacs, Romanians, Volga Tatars, Croatians, Czechs, Hungarians, Danes, Finns, Greeks, Norwegians, Swedes, Spaniards, the British and the French, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, black Africans, Japanese, Buddhists from Southeast Asia and even the son of Chiank Kai Shek joined the German army. There was also a Deutsch-Arabische Kommande Truppe made up of Arab volunteers from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The largest (close to 800,000) participation was from Russia/ Ukraine which was made up of Red Army soldiers and White Russians from Western Europe who wanted to restore the Romanoffs.
7. Jewish soldiers serving in the Red Army and captured as POWs were saved by the Armenische Legion. As well, Josef Moisevich Kogan, a Jewish soldiers captured by the Germans, noted the help he received from an Armenian doctor serving in the 812 Battalion.
8. The Turks assiduously avoid mentioning that from 500,000 to 650,000 Soviet Armenians took part in the Second World War. An estimated 300,000 Armenian fighters and 30,000 civilians were killed in the war, in addition to countless wounded. The Armenian losses were one of the highest per capita among the Soviet republics. At the end of the war the high casualty rate, which reduced Armenia’s population, almost doomed Armenia to lose its status as a republic and potentially become an “autonomous” region incorporated into one of the neighbouring Soviet countries. In addition, Artsakh Armenians, as part of the Azeri army, were at the forefront of the fighting.
9. Turks don’t mention that despite their small numbers, Armenians were fourth among Soviet nations in the number of generals of the air force, navy and artillery unit. Among the senior Soviet military were Field Marshal Ivan Paghramian, Marshal of Aviation Armenak Khaneriants, Chief Marshal of the Armored Troops of the Soviet Union Hamazasp Babajanian, Admiral Ivan Isakov. And thousands of Armenian soldiers received some 80,000 medals and awards for their contribution to the defeat of Hitler’s army.
10. Turks don’t mention that more than 10,000 North American Armenians took part in both theatres—Europe and Pacific—of the Second World War. One of the most prominent military leaders was Brigadier General Haig Shekerjian, born in Adabazar, near Izmir. Perhaps Turks should boast that a “Turk” had defended America. Some 1,200 French-Armenian partisans fought the Nazis. Missak Manouchian, a poet, was a Resistance leader in France and was killed by the Nazis. France has honored him with stamps, feature movies, documentaries, etc. Elsewhere in Europe, 1,000 Armenian partisans in Greece and about the same number in Holland fought on the Allied side. Armenian partisans also fought everywhere from Italy to Czechoslovakia. Furthermore, Turks conveniently neglect to mention the highly decorated “Sassuntsi-Davit” tank Regiment that was engaged in the war on the eastern front. The regiment was named after the hero of the medieval Armenian national epic Daredevils of Sasun. It was funded entirely by diaspora Armenians living, among other countries, in Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan and the United States.
Consistent with their record as genocidiers and as genocide-deniers, Turkish propagandists habitually shrink mountains into mole hill and make mountains out of mole hill—depending what they want to falsify.
Turks Don’t Mention…
Point # 11: Turks don't mention the SS Struma tragedy. Jewish refugees escaping Nazi-ally Romania to Palestine, via the Bosphorus, were held up by Turks and not allowed to disembark. After about two months stuck in the Istanbul harbor, where 780 people were crammed on the small ship and not allowed off the ship, the Struma was towed by Turks out to the Black Sea and cast adrift. A Soviet submarine mistook it for a Romanian troop carrier and sank it. Only one refugee survived. Well-known Turkish Jew İshak Alaton was 15-years-old at the time and talks about taking water and food to the refugees. He blames Turkish authorities for the tragedy.
Point # 12: In 2005 Hitler's "Mein Kampf" was a bestseller in Turkey.
Point # 13: After the Mavi Marmara incident, Turks’ true feeling towards Jews burst to the surface. At demonstration organized in Istanbul (June 5, 2010) by the Islamic Saadet Party, one of the banners read, in Turkish: “Legendary leader Hitler, our patience is running out, we need your spirit.” Another banner, in the form of the Nazi flag, said: "Ellerinize Saglik" (Well done)
Point #14: The Azerbaijani Legion enthusiastically participated in a range of massacres of Poles and Jews (in one instance, 40,000 people were killed during the Volyn/Wola massacre). (source: Rima Varzhapetyan-Feller, head of the Jewish Community of Armenia).
Point #15: “The Righteous Among The Nations” list:
Armenia: 24; Turkey: 1; Azerbaijan: 0.
Turkish propagandists also will not tell you how Turkey acquired Alexandretta, now called Hatay.
In 1939, with war looming and the distinct possibility that Turkey would enter the war on Hitler's side, the French, who ruled Alexandretta and the rest of Syria, gave the province to Turkey as a bribe…so Ankara would stay neutral in the war.
At the time, Alexandretta had close to 25,000 Armenians. The Turks made up 39% of the population. The majority of the residents were Arab. As a result of the blackmail/bribe, Syria lost Alexandretta and most Armenians hit the exile road once again. They, like the survivor's of the Armenian Genocide, lost their properties to the Turks.
One can say that Turkey did take part in the Second World War on Hitler's side: it was bribed by France to stay out of the war.
The Friendship Treaty
On June 18, 1941 Nazi Germany and Turkey signed a new friendship treaty for the following 10 years. At 9 p.m. that day Ambassador Von Papen signed the document on behalf of Germany and on Turkish side by Turkish Foreign Minister Mr. Saradjoglu.
To paraphrase some of the treaty content:
Article 1. Was about respecting the borders of both countries and to take necessary measures if needed, etc.
Article 2. That both countries promise that in case of difficulties and misunderstanding they would discuss the matter in a friendly atmosphere and find a peaceful solution for all their misunderstanding.
Article 3. The treaty will be ratified as soon as the documents are handed over to the German Government in Berlin. The legitimacy of the treaty will be in power from the moment it's signed.
The treaty was written in German and in Turkish.
The treaty was of a great value to both countries because next to the political agreements there was also an economical agreement. Both countries became first-hand political partners.
The new leader of Turkey, Ismet Ineunu, had to encourage the export of chrome, copper , etc. which were necessary for manufacturing weapons and other articles. Turkey would also continue the export of basic goods such as wool, cotton, tobacco, figs, nuts, raisins, etc.
In regard to the Armenian Nazis, the non-political prisoners shouldn't have committed that mistake…killing their own compatriots, destroying the Soviet Union, including Armenia from inside and outside. This was in addition to the betrayal of the Armenian Church, of Vahan Tekeyan, Vazken Sarksian, Demirchian and their colleagues (the Hunanians) which is still going on and God is the only force who can forgive them.
Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian
In the Netherlands there were two Armenian Battalions (809 and 812) during WWII.
All the Armenian military victims, together with the other Soviet military victims are buried in the village of Leusden, near Amersfoort in the Russian Military Cemetery. They have separate graves, with their names. There are many mistakes in the spelling of their names.
Some Armenian soldiers had Dutch girlfriends who became pregnant and bore their children. After the war, many of these Armenian soldiers were repatriated to the Soviet Union. Some were sent to Siberian punishment camps.
Many of the half-Armenian children are ashamed to admit they are the children of Armenian Nazi soldiers, but some do admit. I estimate they are around 70 years old.
I have spoken to some of them by phone, others I have met personally. Every year, on May 9 a special commemoration ceremony takes place at the Russian Military Cemetery.
Nicola Romashuk Hairabedian
During 1943, as the Stalingrad battle was raging, treacherous Turks, allegedly neutral, massed an invasion army at the border of Armenian SSR. The plan was to invade USSR through Armenia and race to Baku, and meet up with the Nazis, who would swing South after defeating the Red Army, assuming Nazis won the Battle of Stalingrad.
When Paulus's 6th army was encircled and wiped out, Turks quickly disappeared.
Stalin never forgot Turks's treachery and never forgave. After Nazi surrender, a massive Soviet invasion force was assembled in Armenia and Georgia: the plan was to sweep Western Armenia clean of the Turks and attach it to USSR.
Unfortunately, as many times before, Turks were saved by the intervention of Western powers: US and UK.
Turks and the Nazis
When Stalin indicated that the Red Army would cross from Armenia and Georgia into Western Armenia, President Truman wasn't much concerned about the Soviet move. However, old fox Churchill, warned Truman of the threat of Soviet "expansionism". Some believe Truman dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not just to force Japanese capitulation but to warn Stalin of US might and readiness to use the most vicious weapons against anyone who crossed US interests. Afterwards, Stalin supposedly said (I can't document this) that Turks don't know how much they owe to the Japanese dead of Hiroshima and Nagazaki.
Turkey adopted a one-sided neutrality during WWII in favor of Nazi Germany. It also supplied strategically vital chromium and other minerals to the Nazis. In appreciation, Hitler sent the remains of butcher Talat to Turkey in 1943.
A 2013 book ("Turkey, the Jews, and the Holocaust") by Cory Guttstadt shows that Turkey–despite its propaganda–was far from welcoming the Jews who were fleeing the Nazis.
Armenia’s Survival at Stake
Until 1943, when Nazi victory seemed a distinct possibility, if not imminent, a critical propaganda war took place between [Diaspora] Armenians and Turkey about the racial identity of Armenians. [As mentioned in the above article, Turkey claimed Armenians were Semites. The Turkish aim was to tell the Nazis that Armenians, being Semites like the Jews, deserved to be killed.–Editor]. The Armenian aim was to win favorable perception from the Nazis. This was necessary to even allow for the formation of the Armenian Legion, led by Dro.
These two factors–the propaganda rivalry and the military liaison with the Wehrmacht–enabled the rescue of some 30,000 Red Army Armenian POWs and safeguard the several hundred thousand Armenian civilians in occupied Eastern Europe, not to mention the potential risk to the Caucasus Armenians from being oppressed, if not exterminated by the Nazi occupiers. The eventual turn of the tide of the war would have come too late, as was the case for Jews, gypsies, etc.
On Both Sides
As Mr. Tutunjian wrote, to egg the Nazis to eliminate the Armenians, Turkey claimed that Armenians were Semitic thus cousins of the Jews. Per the Turkish tradition of dancing on both sides of the argument or situation, Ankara also claimed Gen. Hans Guderian, who was one of the military leaders at the head of the German forces fighting the Red Army, was Armenian because Guderian had an Armenian sounding last name.
Naive Armenians and Armenians hungry for fame wanted to believe that Guderian was Armenian. I am sure there are still Armenians who believe the general was Armenian… just as Alexander Dumas' D'Artagnan was.
We Are Indo-European
I am a member of the immediate post-WWII generation the West calls Baby Boomers. I distinctly remember our elementary Armenian history class where in stating the origins of the Armenians we were told that we are Indo-European. Of course it did not mean much to us as youngsters other than it had the ring of rubbing shoulders with Europeans and having them as, sort of, cousins.
Reading the article and Jack Chelebian’s comment, I realize now that not too long ago it had an important distinction in saving thousands of Armenian prisoners of the war, not to say the Armenian inhabitants of Europe. I realize now that there was more than General Dro’s support of Nazi Germany’s war effort. There was this important ideological component to his support that I had not realized, even though it may have been considered more for its practical implication, adding warring headcount to Nazi's war effort.
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