Lammert On The 100th Anniversary Of The Armenian Massacre


President Norbert Lammert (c) German Bundestag/Melde

On Friday, 24 April 2015 in the Bundestag, President Norbert Lammert
classified the deportations and massacre of the Armenian people as a
genocide. Due to their own experiences, he said, Germans can encourage
others to face their history: “self-critical commitment to the truth
is essential for reconciliation.” This involves admitting the shared
responsibility of the German Reich for the crimes, he continued.

Introductory statement to the debate on the deportation and massacre
of the Armenian people 100 years ago, 24 April 2015


The next item on the agenda deals with a highly significant historical
event with lasting consequences, not only for relations between the
neighbouring countries of Turkey and Armenia. Our debate today in
the Bundestag has already attracted a great deal of public attention
through its inclusion on the agenda.

Genocide is a crime defined under international law as acts committed
with the intent to “destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical,
racial, or religious group, as such”. What happened in the midst of the
First World War in the Ottoman Empire, before the eyes of the world,
was a genocide. It was not to be the last of the 20th century.

This makes our obligation all the greater, out of respect for the
victims and due to the responsibility we bear for the causes and
effects, to neither suppress the memory of, nor play down, these

We Germans are in no position to lecture anyone about how they should
deal with their past. Yet due to our own experiences, we canencourage
others to face their history, even when it is painful: self-critical
commitment to the truth is essential for reconciliation. This involves
admitting the shared responsibility of the German Reich for the crimes
committed a century ago. Although the leaders of the Reich were fully
informed, they did not exert their influence; the military alliance
with the Ottoman Empire was more important to them than intervening
to save people’s lives.

The recognition of this shared guilt is vital for our credibility in
the eyes of both Armenia and Turkey.

Beyond the facts, history demands interpretation, making it
inevitably political. This conflict may be seen as lamentable, but
it is unavoidable – and it needs to take place in Parliament. The
unparalleled experiences of violence in the 20th century have ensured
that we know there can be no real peace until the victims, their
relatives and descendants experience justice: through remembrance of
the events.

Today, too, people are the victims of persecution for political, ethnic
and religious reasons, including thousands of Christians. By accepting
well over a million refugees, Turkey is providing huge humanitarian
assistance, which is too seldom honoured and puts some in Europe to
shame. In no way whatsoever do we forget this willingness to take
responsibility in the present when we call for an awareness of also
taking responsibility for the country’s own past.

The current Turkish government is not responsible for what happened
over 100 years ago, but it is responsible for what happens next. We
pay tribute to the fact that they are endeavouring to reach out to
descendants and neighbours at their own ceremony, and in particular
we pay tribute to the many courageous Turks and Kurds who for many
years have been working alongside Armenians towards addressing this
dark chapter of their shared history in an honest way: writers,
journalists, mayors, religious leaders. I am thinking of the winner
of the Nobel Prize for Literature Orhan Pamuk, of the journalist Hrant
Dink, who paid for his commitment to historical truth with his life.

They deserve our support. And they need it. Our debate today is
intended to contribute to this.