Modern Germany and the Annihilation of the Ottoman Armenians: A Note on the Political Avowal of Shame and Guilt

In Melanie Altanian (ed.), Der Genozid an den ArmenierInnen: Beiträge zur wissenschaftlichen Aufarbeitung eines historischen Verbrechens gegen die Menschlichkeit. Wiesbaden, Deutschland: Springer Fachmedien. pp. 85-109 (2018)
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Many German historians are surprised to see how much attention the long neglected Armenian genocide has received in the news since 2015. A plethora of articles and public events was accompanied by attempts of no less than three of four constitutional bodies—the German government, the parliament, and the president—to come to grips with the question of how to understand the German role in the killing of far more than a million Armenians. Whereas Germany’s President Gauck spoke of ‘genocide’ in April 2015 and said that Germany must acknowledge its own guilt, the government routinely avoids this word and prefers to characterise Germany’s role as shameful, but not necessarily wrongful. I use this rather complex texture of official positions as an opportunity to raise some questions concerning official avowals of collective shame and guilt by political bodies.



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