Armenian genocide and the Holocaust


Armenian genocide and the Holocaust

One of the gravest and darkest periods in human history was one conducted with little resistance, but with horrific results. In what is now known as Holocaust, millions of Jews and Gypsies, Slavic people and the disabled people were wiped from the face of Europe (Dadrian, 1986). This was all a ‘cleansing’ process by the Nazis who believed that the Germans were a superior race. They attacked the Jews in an effort to cleanse the society. This happened just over a decade after another ‘holocaust’ usually referred as the Armenian genocide mostly because of its limited geographical coverage and secretive manner. This has never happened again with the Rwanda genocide the closest to what happened between 1914 and 1945 (Dadrian, 1986).

The Birth of Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism begun just a century after the European countries lifted legal restriction placed against the Jews. The Jews had always been discriminated by the society at that time. Although they were now allowed to take part in nation building as normal citizens, people still hated them. As a result, a German journalist called the trend Anti-Semitism. He used this term to refer to people who hated the Jews (Marrus, et al., 1994). This was partially because of the vigor with which the Jews had become involved in taking leading roles in most aspects of the society. Marrus et al. defined Jews as a separate ‘race’ and used old Christian prejudices against Judaism. Conversely, Marrus et al. noted that the Europeans believed that they were a superior race. The German journalist also claimed that the Jews held back their potential to grow as a society (Marrus et al., 1994).

This publication aroused the long living hatred for the Jews in Europe, which had faded over the centuries. This hate emanated from the Christian beliefs of the Middle Ages that it was the Jews who killed Jesus and, therefore, deserved to be hated and punished. According to Melson (1992) the Nazis believed that every Jew, whether Muslim or Jew was individually responsible for the sin and crime. They were, therefore, restricted to live in ghettos and bore various signs as a symbol of their sins as it were in the Middle European Ages. This coupled with the fact that they were seen as a lesser ‘race’ by   the Nazis would only culminate to one conclusion, ‘Jews had no right to live’ (Marrus, et al., 1994).

The Jews were hardworking and always remained in solidarity. Because of this, they were able to take up leadership positions in the society. This happened as Napoleon spread the equalitarian principles across Europe (Hovannisian, 1986). However, the hatred was still alive in most Europeans. Later on, the Germans and the Nazis were just the people to rekindle the hatred that was long buried (Melson, 1996). Nazis spread anti-Semitism, not on religion anymore, but on a new platter of scientific knowledge. They spread the propaganda of the Jews being an inferior race. The Nazis picked Jews as per the party program as from 1920 and attacked them brutally. Every speech was designed to target and harass the Jews and blame them for the ‘Germany’s misfortune’ in the struggle for power. Melson (1996) attests that their ascendancy to power in 1933 was the start of the darkest moment in world history.

The Abyss of Persecution

Colonel Catheart once observed that supreme power or the delusion of that power could easily lead man to destruction. He noted that if one yielded that much power, one would easily fall into the abyss of greed, which could easily result to persecution of others for individual gain.

This quote was implemented by the Nazis word for word, although hatred being the main reason. Just three months after attaining power, the Nazis led by their chancellor, Hitler started the dissemination of their party program. It all started with the infamous April 1933 boycott against Jewish business (Derderian, 2005). This was followed by the passing of the “Nuremberg Laws” which eliminated the Jews from every facet of German Life and declared Jews as second class citizens just like the Ottoman Empire declared in the past (Hovannisia, 1986).

The Nazis followed the Ottoman Empire system and imposed restrictions and denied the Jews the normal safeguards. During the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid, a series of massacres were carried throughout the empire to scare the Armenians. Similar to this there was the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ where over a hundred Jews were killed (Melson, 1996). This was followed by the migration of over half of the Jews in Germany and two thirds of the Jews living in Austria. They fled to the United States, Palestine, and Latin America. There were also those who fled to western and eastern Europe.

In the Ottoman Empire, the Armenians gained some voice and enhanced their unity as the Empire went through a recession. Unlike the Jews, the Armenians championed for representation in the political arena and the recognition of their rights (Rosenbaum, 1996). However, there is one thing the dominant Muslim Turks were not willing to do, and that was to resolve the ‘Armenian Question.’ Just like it was in Germany, a ruthless and heartless leadership gained power through a coup led by Terakki Jemiyeti. This used to be the most radical wing of the CUP. The CUP advocated an Ultra nationalistic ideology, which was in favor of an exclusively Turkish state, which meant extradition of all Armenians (Rosenbaum, 1996).

The breakout of World War I formed a very crucial cover for the CUP. The Ottoman army used the cover of the war to wage a major massacre against Armenian civilians. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire embarked on a major ‘resettlement scheme’ where Armenians from all those areas that were not affected by the war were deported. However, in the reality, thousands of Armenians were forced to walk thousands of miles into the Syrian Desert in what was known as the ‘death marches’. The Nazi on the other end was less secretive. The Jews, Communists, Russians, Gypsies, Poles, Homosexuals, and Prisoners of war systematically murdered. By the end, World War II over 6 Million Jews and 5 million of these people had been killed (Hovannisian, 1986).

Later between 1942 and 1944 the Germans decided to eliminate the ghettos and the population in the ghettos was ferried to “Extermination Camps.” This was the epitome of the Holocaust. Railroad freight cars and passenger trains were used to bring victims into the gassing facilities where they would be killed and later burnt or buried in what was known as the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question’ (Winter, 2003).

Limitation of power is the only boundary between human and barbarism. During the holocaust, the degree of torture and inhuman acts cannot be measures and accessed because few live to tell the tale. Information is all the power we have and the only hope we have to keep the Holocaust just a piece of History and refute the belief that ‘History repeats itself’ (Melson, 1996).

The summary of differences

In conclusion, the extermination of the Jews and the killing of the Armenians had differences. The law is not capable of guiding the authenticity of human slaughter. Whatever way one may decide to define the mass killings and the atrocities committed against human life, it was just a case of exoneration of evil. Although the Germans believed that it was all a ‘cleansing’ process by the Nazis who believed that the Germans were a superior race, limitation of power is the only boundary between human and barbarism. Moreover, Melson (1996) notes that;

  • During the genocide in Nazi Germany, there was hate speech that dominated the entire genocide. Conversely, during the Armenian war against Ottoman Empire, there was no hate speech.
  • Armenians blamed the Turks during the genocide. They treated all generations equally and accused them of rejecting the genocide. Conversely, the Jews’ blamed genocide followers, party leadership, and Nazi Germany.
  • Before the holocaust, the Nazis used the Star of David to identify the Jews. This was easy for them during the genocide because they were able to choose right sides. In addition, the Nazis could discriminate them easily. However, it was difficult to identify Armenians during the Ottoman Genocide.
  • Jews were easily noted because they resided in communities called Ghettos. In contrast, Armenians mingled with other communities. It was not easy to isolate them.
  • As it is documented, Jews were always mistreated and discriminated by the society at the time. The Germans targeted them with racism and prejudice. On the contrary, the Armenians had freedom of leadership. They ruled their own people locally and were never prejudiced or treated as a lesser race.
  • Before the Nazi regime, it is noted that the Jews were still hated and prejudiced. In fact, Hitler rekindles the old flames of hatred during the holocaust. On the other hand, there is no evidence of hatred among the Armenians and the Turks before the genocide.
  • Before the 1915 genocide, the Armenians had rebelled against the Turks numerous times. For instance, this happened in the 1890s when they formed their first rebel association. On the contrary, the Nazis never faced a rebellion from the Jews.
  • During the fight against the Nazis, the Jews never engaged rebels, soldiers, generals, or any rebel associations. However, the Armenians were well prepared with rebel organizations, generals, soldiers and others who retaliated.
  • Jews were not prepared for war. They did not have strategies, generals, and even weapons. Conversely, the Armenians were well prepared for war. They had acquired weapons through smuggling. Their rebellions were well planned, and they gathered their weapons for possible war and protection. They even practiced war strategies; for instance, they built trenches and barricades during one of their rebellions against the Turks.





Dadrian, V. N. (1986). The Role Of Turkish Physicians In The World War I Genocide Of Ottoman Armenians. Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 1(2), 169-192.

Derderian, K. (2005). Common Fate, Different Experience: Gender-Specific Aspects Of The Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917. Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 19(1), 1-25.

Hovannisian, R. G. (1986). The Armenian genocide in perspective. New Brunswick [N.J.] U.S.A.: Transaction Books.

Marrus, M. R., Melson, R., & Kuper, L. (1994). Revolution And Genocide: On The Origins Of The Armenian Genocide And The Holocaust.. The American Historical Review, 99(1), 263.

Melson, R. (1996). Paradigms Of Genocide: The Holocaust, The Armenian Genocide, And Contemporary Mass Destructions. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 548(1), 156-168.

Melson, R. (1992). Revolution and genocide: on the origins of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rosenbaum, A. S. (1996). Is the Holocaust unique?: perspectives on comparative genocide. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Winter, J. M. (2003). America and the Armenian genocide of 1915. New York: Cambridge University Press.




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