Who Did Hitler Follow?
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Armenians have made much of the claim that Hitler and the Nazis modelled their own genocide of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs in Europe in the 1940s on the actions of the Ottoman government and their management of the conflict with Armenian nationalism. The reasons for this are obvious and can be discovered by reading other parts of this web site. That the evidence for Armenian claims is very thin can be demonstrated quite easily by looking at the actual source of the racial and political ideology of the Nazis but, nevertheless, from time to time more information comes to light. One new spin in the study of the aetiology of Nazi ideology is that Hitler, in fact, got a considerable part of his inspiration from Napoleon Bonaparte who was responsible for the massacres of more than 100,000 black slaves who revolted against French rule in the Caribbean. According to Claude Ribbe, a respected French historian, slaves were “ shot, drowned, fed to dogs or gassed in the holds of slave ships” in an effort to kill any black person over the age of twelve and replace them with more docile fresh imports from Africa.. According to Ribbe, Napoleon “furthered the emergence of all racist and pseudoscientific theories of the 19th century that were subsequently taken up by the Nazis.”  Clearly Mr. Ribbe is being provocative, especially in his use of emotive terms such as “gassing” but it is fair to point out that Napoleon was an important part of the flow of western history and western ideas that influenced the evolution of western colonial policy and later, Nazi ideology — which the Turks, equally clearly, were not.
In fact, much of the nationalistic ideology that Europe adopted devolves from the French revolution and the French enlightenment. Genocidal policy was in fact critical in the success of the French revolution. Republican policy in the Vendee region of France in 1793/4, for example, can be called nothing but genocidal. Republican armies fought a different kind of war in the Vendee demonstrated by General Westermann’s letter to the Committee of Public Safety saying, “I have crushed children beneath my horse’s hooves, and massacred the women, who thus will give birth to no more brigands…We take no prisoners, they would need to be given the bread of liberty, and pity is not revolutionary.” People were rounded up and killed in a variety of inventive ways including mass drownings, known as the “noyades”, where barges loaded with bound prisoners were sunk in the Loire; in other instances men and women were tied together, naked, and thrown in to rivers in what were ghoulishly called “Republican marriages.”  The overall commander of Republican forces, Turreau, ordered the cleansing of the Vendee of all rebels — a term that included everyone. He wrote that all captives were to be “run through with bayonets. One will act likewise with women, girls and children….Those merely suspected are not to be spared. All villages, settlements, heathlands and all that can burn are to be put to the flames.” The approval of the government was clear; “Exterminate the brigands down to the last one, that is your duty.” To do this the Republican armies employed “hell columns” which marched across the country carrying out Turreau’s orders.  All in all, through military action, massacre and starvation about 250,000 people died; about 20% of the region’s population in less than a year.  Clearly the route to the nationalism that led to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the travails of the Armenians, not to mention the Nazi genocide, finds its origins not in the Near East but far closer to home — in the birth of France’s republic. Equally clearly, the Germans had a model for genocide much closer to home.
The central pillar of Nazi ideology, certainly in its management of subject peoples and the appropriation of their land, was race, concepts of relative racial value prominent in the Eugenics movement in Western Europe and North America and the quest for a superior Nordic or Aryan race. The Nazis frequently observed that “National Socialism is nothing but applied biology.”  While Germany developed its own radical brand of racial politics in the early part of the twentieth century, America’s eugenics movement provided the intellectual impetus for much of the theory that was to evolve in Germany; Germany’s early eugenics movement “closely followed American eugenic accomplishments as the model: biological courts, forced sterilization, detention of the socially inadequate, debates on euthanasia…….a superior race of Nordics was increasingly seen as the final solution to the globe’s eugenic problems.”  In his book, The Passing of the Great Race, Madison Grant, a leading light in the US eugenics movement, wrote, “The Laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is use to the rest of the community or race.”  Hitler read this book and was so impressed with it that he wrote to Grant stating that the book was his “bible.”  The early Nazi racial ideologist Verschuer expressed a similar sentiment in 1922; “The first and foremost task of our internal politics is the population problem….. This is a biological problem which can only be solved by biological-political measures.”  Here we can see, in summary, a clear and unbroken thread that produced genocide in Europe — and nowhere can be seen the hand the Turk! It is clear that in their management of the Armenian population during World War I race was simply never an issue. Even one of the great proponents of the Armenian Genocide, Vahakn Dadrian, states that there was a “marked absence of racism”; quite the reverse in fact, the Turks were so impressed with superior Armenian attributes that they made a “pronounced effort to mingle Armenian blood with the gene-pool of the new, homogenised Turkish nation.”  This is a comment that says less of Turks’ perceptions of Armenians and far more of Dadrian’s (and Armenian nationalists’) perceptions of Turks, because it is Armenian nationalism, schooled by the French revolution, and missionary racism that sets the tone for the argument. However, even the casual observer would see the illogicality of trying to cull the population of a superior blood line (already a minority) in order to improve the blood stock of the majority. Not only is this a virtually homeopathic method of improving blood lines but it is the exact opposite of Nazi aims and practice. How then can the Nazis have sprung on the antithesis of themselves a role model? In fact, it is Armenian nationalism that shares ideological roots with the Nazis; an Armenian nation was one to be defined by ethnicity or race. Given that Armenians were a minority the only possible options for them would be to govern their state through a system akin to apartheid or to simply force demographic changes through expulsion or murder……methods employed by the Nazis.
The second point of comparison made by Armenians between their case and the Nazis is the functional or methodological one; basically that the Nazis copied the methods of the Turks. These comparisons are common: death marches, massacres, concentration camps and, as if to ensure that even the dullest reader will not miss the point, the role of doctors in the Armenian genocide with their use of Armenians in medical experiments, racial selection (but in reverse — to improve the Turkish stock) and the use of gas as means of murder.  Of course, the Germans didn’t actually need to copy anyone as they had their own experience to build on; German colonial policy in South West Africa was the model for their European genocide. The Germans trialled the methods of a war of annihilation in Africa — not consciously of course, as no one can see the future, but the terminology and methodology were all there. The terms “war of annihilation” or “Vernichtungskriek”, “race war” or “Rasenkampf”, the strategy of murdering, en masse, prisoners of war and civilians, concentration camps and the use of public health terminology as a justification were all used in South West Africa . Less than 40,000 Germans visited or lived in German South West Africa but the cream of the Nazi crop had close connections with the colony, both in administrative/ military terms and ideological terms. Hermann Goring’s father was the first governor of the colony, his mother lived there for six years, his brother was born there; curiously, and probably accidentally, the Luftwaffe (Goring led the Luftwaffe) established the first Nazi concentration camps. 
Franz Ritter von Epp
One of the prime movers behind the development of Nazi colonial ideas was Franz Ritter von Epp. Von Epp fought during the genocidal war against the Herero and Nama peoples and continued to serve in the colonial military during the establishment of the concentration camps. The list of men employed by von Epp was a “who’s who” of the early Nazi leadership; Hess, Strasser, Rohm to name a few. In fact, “Hitler, Goring, Rohm and other Nazi leaders chose to dress the party’s brown-shirted Storm Trooper in the same colonial Schutztruppe uniform that von Epp had worn in German South West Africa.”  Most crucially, it was von Epp who first employed one Lance Corporal Adolph Hitler, initially as a paid informer.  According to von Epp’s own biography, written in 1940 and at the height of Nazi power and therefore approved by the Nazi censor:
“The experiences formed at this time (in Namibia) live on. The result of the perhaps small, but in its execution delicate and in its aftermath often bloody [episode] was the formation of a set of projected colonial goals that have not been lost. The employment of these goals in German politics, and in the empire of Adolph Hitler, has been made certain through Reichsleiter Ritter von Epp.” 
As far as the racial ideology summarised earlier, one of Nazism's most prominent racial ideologues did the bulk of his formative “research” in Namibia. While Hitler was in prison and writing Mein Kampf he read a book authored by Fischer. More than this, Fischer, the father of the Nazi brand of racial ideology, was responsible for training many SS doctors, including Mengele.  Here then, we have not one, but many, smoking guns. Throughout the genesis of Nazi racial ideology and the development of the terminology and administration of mass murder committed by the Nazis, the trail is clear. And Turks, in any form or guise, simply do not appear. A causative link between the Armenian deportations and the genocide committed by Nazis in Europe, whether ideological or functional, simply does not exist. A couple of off the cuff remarks by Hitler, circumstantial evidence of the thinnest kind, conjecture and wishful thinking simply do not constitute an argument. Quite the reverse, in fact, a blind adherence to such flimsy evidence would seem to indicate that the accusation of genocide is probably false.
Clearly the comparisons that Armenian lobbyists make between the Armenian deportations and the Holocaust seek to confer upon Armenians an exclusivity and political cachet that Israel has been able to establish since the war to justify not only a primary position in western, and particularly American, consciousness, but also, on a more cynical basis, the potential for economic restitution.. The comparisons are also made to try and put the Armenian issue beyond rational debate and to create a climate where the “Armenian Genocide” can be exploited for gain, financial and political, the way the Holocaust has been exploited. As Norman G. Finkelstein observed in his book The Holocaust Industry, “The challenge today is to restore the Nazi holocaust as a rational subject of inquiry. Only then can we really learn from it. The abnormality of the Nazi holocaust springs not from the event itself but from the exploitative industry that has grown up around it.”  Armenian lobbyists don’t want to end this industry, they want to be a part of it and rational discussion can be no part of that campaign which, after all, is the point. In spite of the lack of connective evidence, Armenian campaigners and academics keep hammering the argument home with a persistence and volume that is the direct inverse of the quality of argument.
There are many examples to choose from but probably the best and most prolific practitioner of this line of thought is Vahakn Dadrian. For example, in a recent book, The History of the Armenian Genocide — Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucusus, Dadrian sets the “Armenian Genocide” as a pivotal event, preceded by centuries of oppression that was both specific and premeditated in nature and which provided the precursor for Nazi genocide later. At the end of the book he devotes a chapter to the issue of influences on the Nazis of the “Armenian Genocide”; the chapter The Armenian Genocide in Relation to the Holocaust and Nuremberg Trials attempts to specifically pin down the sources and agents of influence.  He sets the chapter’s tone by observing that it “is no accident that the destruction of the Armenians and Jews was consummated in the vortex of two global wars. In both cases the perpetrator groups had precipitated the respective wars.”  He then resorts to generalised and somewhat dense sociological descriptions which are rarely referenced and are not strictly relevant. He compares the arrest of Armenians in Istanbul in April 1915 with the exclusion of Jews from public life and suggests similarity between the Temporary Law which approved deportation of Armenians in selected areas to the beginnings of the Jewish holocaust. He chooses not to notice that there was no precursive racial ideology that identified Armenians as undesirable in the way that Jews, Gypsies and Slavs had been identified in Europe. He chooses not to notice that Jews were not involved in insurrection but that Armenians were in open revolt in the east and central parts of Anatolia and that their nationalistic propaganda campaigned for an ethnic Armenian state that could only have been established by mass expulsions of Moslems from their homes — something Moslems had seen and experienced already right across the Balkans and Caucusus in the preceding century. In other words, Armenian deportations, whatever one might say about their scope and result, were determined by military imperatives. According to Ayvazian, for example, 150,000 Armenian “partisans” fought against the Turks ; Ayvazian was a Russian Armenian who fought initially in the Polish theatre but later in the Caucusus and after the Russian revolution, in the Armenian Republic’s Army in Anatolia. Clearly, even if this is an exaggeration, significant military activity was being conducted in the Turkish heartlands by Armenians against the Turks. In a letter to the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in Egypt Boghos Nubar, a prominent Armenian nationalist, said that by July 1915 there were already 25,000 Armenian insurgents operating in Cilicia alone with 15,000 more available from adjacent areas.  In a hagiography of the guerrilla leader Andranik he gives a speech in July 1915 referring to 10,000 armed Armenians in Van province.  And so on; there are numerous references to the activities of Armenian irregular forces and the ruthlessness of their treatment of Moslems. 
The closest that Dadrian comes to identifying a direct influential link between the Armenian deportations and Hitler is the case of Dr. Max Erwin von Scheubner Richter; a man with a large name but little actual influence. Dadrian refers to him as a man who was the “most prominent“among Nazis who had influence on Hitler’s intellectual development and who could (emphasis mine) have imparted knowledge of Armenian deportations to Hitler.  But how much influence did Scheubner bring to bear; he was Vice Consul in Erzerum in April- November 1915 so presumably he saw quite a lot? This is a question that Dadrian admits is”much debated” but one has to wonder by whom exactly? When one, considers that Scheubner was shot and killed during the Munich Putsch on November the 9th 1923 and prior to Hitler’s incarceration, which was seminal in his political development, clearly the influence is limited and superseded by others — Ritter von Epp for example? In fact, Dadrian concludes this particular gambit by quoting Trumpener (and the quote and the way it is presented is vitally important): “Scheubner Richter, like so many other German officials in wartime Turkey, later became a prominent figure in German politics. In the early years of the Nazi movement he was one of Hitler’s closest advisers....”  A number of points are important about this quote, its presentation and its context. The four dots at the end of the quotation are an invitation for the reader to assume something that has no basis in fact; Scheubner’s importance is simply nothing more than an iconographic reference as a Nazi martyr not as an intellectual or historical reference point; he is one of the Nazi movement’s first martyrs, like Horst Wessel, and no one would suggest that Horst Wessel was an intellectual source for Adolph Hitler although he was immortalised in a Nazi marching song. Scheubner was never an important figure in German politics; he was a member of a small time political movement (one of many such movements) populated by thugs and extremists — Nazi prominence and supremacy was yet to come. Dadrian fails to identify any of the many prominent Nazis who were in Turkey during the Great War or what influence they had on Nazi policy or how that influence derived from their Turkish experiences.
Dadrian also says that Hitler, in an interview with a Turkish journalist, praises Ataturk — as if this has any relevance at all. Hitler was “aware” of Ataturk in the interview conducted in 1933. But if Hitler had been unaware of Ataturk, who was one of Europe’s most recognisable political figures in the first half of the 20th century, that would really have been something worth commenting on! Hitler was “aware” of Ataturk in much the same way that Tony Blair is “aware” of Berlusconi. Dadrian comments on Hitler’s admiration of Ataturk’s promotion of the virtues of “primitivity among native peasants in Anatolia,” whatever relevance that may have. But then Nazi philosophy was anchored in agrarian idealism so any connection, if there was one, was presumably of an agricultural nature — a presumption that has as much or more value than the presumption that Hitler looked to Ataturk as a genocidal role model. What Dadrian is doing here is making a statement followed by another unconnected and often irrelevant observation…….he does this to encourage an assumption that there is a connection but which bypasses rational investigation which of course, once again, is the point . Another classic example of this is Dadrian’s reference to the use of gas to murder Armenians. Gas chambers are emblematic of the Holocaust — as everyone knows and was illustrated by Claude Ribbe in his recent publication on the connection between Hitler and Napoleon. Dadrian refers, in one paper (26) to the use by a Turkish doctor of a steam room to gas Armenian infants. He does say that all attempts to follow up this claim or verify it failed but that does not stop him from using it or commenting at the end of the account ”Was the steam chamber a precursor of what happened in World War II?” Clearly there is no connection but that does not stop Dadrian in what is fundamentally a dishonest ideologically based argument. Any discerning reader is always left with one burning question — If the evidence for genocide is so strong and if the connections with the Holocaust are so clear, then why is there a need to pursue the argument in a manner that is so patently dishonest? What is the hidden agenda?
1. Article in the Daily Mail, November 30, 2005, page 35.
2. David Andress, The Terror, Little Brown, London, Great Britain, 2005, pg 248.
3. Ibid, pg 249
4. Ibid, pg 250
5. Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, Four Walls Eight Windows, London England. pg xvi
6. Ibid, pg 258
7. Ibid, pg 259
8. Ibid, pg 259
9. Ibid, pg 338
10. Vahakn N. Dadrian, The Role of Turkish Physicians in The World War I Genocide of Ottoman Armenians, Edwin Black, Holocaust and Genocide Studies Vol. 1, pg 184
11. Ibid, pp 169-192
12. Madley, Benjamin. From Africa to Auschwitz: How German South West Africa Incubated Ideas and Methods Adopted and Developed by the Nazis in Eastern Europe. European History Quarterly Vol. 35 (3) pp 441/2
13. Ibid, pp 450
14. Ibid, pg 452
15. Ibid, pg 453
16. Ibid, pg 456
17. Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry, Madley, Benjamin. Verso, London New York 2000. pg 150
18. Vahakn N. Dadrian, The History of the Armenian Genocide — Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucusus Berghahn Books, New York & Oxford. Pp 416 to 419.
19. Ibid, pg 397
20. Arthur A. Ayvazian, Armenian Victories at Khzanavous and Sardarabad on May 23, 1918, St. Vartan Press, New York, 1985,pg 5.
21. Vatche Gazarian ed. Boghos Nubar’s Papers and the Armenian Question 1915-1918; Documents, Waltham Mayreni Publishing, Waltham, USA, 1996. pg 203
22. Antranig Chalabian, General Andranik and The Armenian Revolutionary Movement, USA, 1988, pg 255
23. Ibid, pg 274
24. Vahakn N. Dadrian, The History of the Armenian Genocide — Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucusus, Berghahn Books, New York & Oxford, pp 410-411.
25. Ibid, pg 412
26. Vahakn N. Dadrian, The Role of Turkish Physicians in The World War I Genocide of Ottoman Armenians, Edwin Black, Holocaust and Genocide Studies Vol. 1, pg 178.
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