“Genocide” is defined by the Merriman-Webster Dictionary as “the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group.”
And the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it as “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”
While dictionaries have no trouble agreeing on what “genocide” means, nations do.
Consider these two examples:
Example 1: Turkey
One hundred years ago, in what’s been called the first genocide of modern times, up to 1.5 million Armenians died at Turkish hands in massacres and deportations.
But don’t tell that to the Turks.
Turkey has long insisted that the wartime killings were not genocide.
According to the Turks, those killed–mostly Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks–were victims of civil war and unrest as the Ottoman Empire collapsed during World War I.
“The Armenian claims on the 1915 events, and especially the numbers put forward, are all baseless and groundless,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “Our ancestors did not persecute.”
Naturally, Armenians see it differently, viewing Turkey’s denial as an affront to their national identity.
“There is a question of political recognition of the genocide, but ultimately, it’s about the Armenian story and history being incorporated into the collective memory of the countries where we live,” said Nicolas Tavitian, director of the Armenian General Benevolent Union.
Armenians protesting Turkish genocide
The United States has long recognized the genocide of the Holocaust–and even opened a U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. But its position on the Armenian slaughter remains one of–silence.
As a U.S. senator, Barack Obama pledged to use the term “genocide” to describe the mass killings of Armenians. As president, he’s avoided the word.
Because Turkey remains a member of NATO–and one of America’s few reliable allies in the Islamic world.
Both the Pentagon and State Department have argued that Turkey plays a vital role in fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. And the safety of US diplomats and troops in Turkey would be compromised.
Example 2: Poland
On April 16, the Washington Post published an Opinion piece by James Comey, director of the FBI, entitled: “Why I Require FBI agents to Visit the Holocaust Museum.”
FBI Director James Comey
Comey wants them to see the horrors that result when those who are entrusted with using the law to protect instead turn it into an instrument of evil.
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
And he wants agents to “see humanity and what we are capable of.”
“Good people helped murder millions.
“And that’s the most frightening lesson of all–that our very humanity made us capable of, even susceptible to, surrendering our individual moral authority to the group, where it can be hijacked by evil.
“Of being so cowed by those in power. Of convincing ourselves of nearly anything.
“In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil.
“They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.”
It was these paragraphs that landed Comey in diplomatic hot water.
On April 19–three days after the editorial appeared–Poland’s Foreign Ministry urgently summoned the U.S. Ambassador to Warsaw, Stephen Mull, to “protest and demand an apology.”
The reason: The FBI director had dared to say that Poles were accomplices in the Holocaust!
Poland’s ambassador to the United States said in a statement the remarks were “unacceptable.”
And he added that he had sent a letter to Comey “protesting the falsification of history, especially … accusing Poles of perpetuating crimes which not only they did not commit, but which they themselves were victims of.”
Shortly after Poland’s announcement, Stephen Mull, the U.S. Ambassador in Warsaw, told reporters he would contact the FBI about the situation.
“Suggestions that Poland, or any other country apart from the Nazi Germany was responsible for the Holocaust are wrong, harmful and offensive,” he said, speaking in Polish.
And he emphasized that Comey’s remarks didn’t reflect the views of the Obama administration.
In fact, Comey’s remarks were dead-on accurate. And Mull’s were a craven act of Political Correctness.
But at least one Polish citizen was not offended by Comey’s editorial.
Jan Grabowski 50, is a graduate of Warsaw University and is currently a history professor at University of Ottawa. He is also the son of a Holocaust survivor.
He has suffered death threats, is boycotted in the Canadian Polish community where he lives today, and is not always welcome even in his homeland.
But he will not be intimidated from speaking and writing the truth about those in Poland who enthusiastically collaborated with Nazis to slaughter Jews during World War II.