HOW TO REMEMBER AND SUMMON THE VICTIMS OF GENOCIDE? – 2018-3

Summary

Tessa A. Hofman

Key words – immigrant communities, Ottoman genocide, Armenians, Syriacs, immigrants, monuments.

This essay explains the specifics of German history and memory policies with regard to immigrant communities in Germany. Although already in the 1960 spost-war Germany has become a country of massive foreign immigration, it is only currently that the country officially admits its essence as a popular destination for immigrants of foreign origin, of which Turkey born residents and their descendants are still the largest immigrant community, including the descendants of those who survived the Ottoman genocide against indigenous Christians during the last decade of Ottoman rule (1912-1922): Armenians, Syriacs (self-identifying themselves as Armenians or Assyrians) and Greek-Orthodox Christians (Eastern Thrace, Pontos, Asia Minor)with a victim intotal of more than three million. As a rule, it is the dominant majority of a country that determines which of the historic experiences of immigrants are remembered, and how these are remembered. In Germany the authorities of municipal districts decide where and how commemorative plaques, monuments and memorials of genocide remembrance are erected. There is a clear hierarchy in the commemoration of those who were victimized under Germany’s responsibility, and those victimized by third sides, such as the Unionist or Kemalist regimes. The average German tendency in the case of the Ottoman genocide is to allow only peripheral locations or locations on semi-public grounds (cemeteries, church.-grounds). So far, Armenian cross-stones have been erected in 11 German cities and towns beginning from city cemetery in Stuttgart (1987). As a rule, Armenian, Syriac and Pontos Greek Diasporic communities dedicate their monuments only to the commemoration of their own community. A prominent exception of integrated or inclusive commemoration is the Ecumenical Memorial for Genocide Victims in the Ottoman Empire, which has been erected in Berlin in 2012.

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