“Who remembers the Armenians?” was supposed to have been Hitler’s scornful question as he tried to stiffen the backbone of his generals on the eve of the invasion of Poland. And the failure of the victorious allies of World War One to call anyone to account for the massacre of this Christian minority in Turkey was said to have made him believe he could, literally, get away with murder.
But 90 years on, the answer to Hitler’s question seems to be “quite a lot of people.” Yesterday, the US Congress’s Foreign Affairs Committee, despite pleas from Hilary Clinton, has declared that the massacre amounted to genocide.
Turkey had sent MPs to Washington to lobby against the resolution, and the country’s president, Abdullah Gul, has branded the committee’s decision "an injustice to history". It has recalled its US ambassador for consultations and hints that further sanctions may be on the way.
It is estimated that 600,000 Armenians were massacred and that another 400,000 perished from the hardships and brutality of forced deportations. Turkey accepts that atrocities were committed but argues they were a by-product of the Great War, in which Turkey fought on Germany’s side, and that there was no systematic attempt to destroy the Armenian people.