Genocide edited out after Turkish pressure

11th February 2005 at 00:00
Hundreds of history books have been recalled from German schools after the state of Brandenburg agreed to remove a reference to the "Armenian genocide" of 1915 following pressure from Turkey, which refuses to acknowledge that it took place.

A reference to the genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenians were deported and murdered by the government of the Young Turks in 1915-1916, was included in history books in the east German state in 2002.

Brandenburg was the first state to refer to this lesser-known genocide.

Turkey, which, until human rights reforms two years ago, threatened to imprison anyone who said the genocide took place, has fought to have the passage removed.

The cause of the dispute was the following sentence: "Disengagement from war; extermination and genocide (for example the genocide against the Armenian population of Asia Minor)".

Thomas Hainz, regional education ministry spokesman, admitted the ministry had removed the line from textbooks because of "international diplomatic resentment".

But he said that it had been "an independent decision". He said reducing the discussion of genocide to just one sentence involving just one case "does not do the topic justice".

The education ministry is now working on a new chapter that covers genocide in a more "comprehensive context".

Necmettin Altuntas, the Turkish embassy spokesman in Berlin, denied any pressure had been put on the education ministry. "We wanted the reference to be taken out of the school books because it was stated as fact."

He said many historians believe using the term genocide to des-cribe what happened is incorrect. "Turkey does not deny that something happened, but we have not been able to come to the conclusion that it was a massacre."

The move has angered historians. Micha Brumlik, director of the Frankfurt Fritz Bauer Institute that deals with Holocaust history, condemned the decision, saying there are "two political scandals" involved.

One concerned Turkey, which for years refused to accept general human rights standards and continued to deny responsibility for the genocide of 1915. But the second concerned Germany and was far more serious.

"The authorities in Brandenburg have bowed to pressure from diplomats. I find that shocking for our country," Brumlik said.

Sven Petke, Christian Democratic Union general secretary, said he now fears that "the propaganda ministry in Ankara" is dictating the local curriculum.

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