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The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Interviews with Dr. Guenter Lewy  
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 The following interview with Prof. Guenter Lewy appeared in the Turkish newspaper, Zaman.

This is followed by a translation of another interview, appearing in the Turkish newsweekly, Aksiyon.


No Evidence of Ottoman Intent to Destroy Armenian Community

by Selcuk Gultasli

Published: Monday, April 24, 2006


Brussels (ZAMAN)- Gunter Lewy, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, argues in his latest book ‘The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide’ that what happened in 1915-16 was a huge tragedy but was not genocide as the Ottomans had no intention of exterminating the Armenian race. The Armenian lobby in the US tried hard to prevent the publication of the book, but Prof. Lewy does not want to go into details about the Diaspora’s efforts to block his book. Though Prof. Lewy gives the details of the massacres and accuses some Turkish authorities of distort history by denying significant massacres, Prof. Lewy has been attacked by Armenian hardliners as a “denier.” Here are the excerpts from Prof. Lewy’s interview with ZAMAN:

Though you reach a figure of 642,000 Armenians killed in 1915-16, you argue that there was no intention to wipe out the Armenian race. Is lack of intention on its own sufficient not to call the incidents genocide?

According to Article II of the Genocide Convention of 1948, “intent to destroy” is a precondition of genocide. A large number of dead alone is not sufficient. Thus, for example, collateral casualties of an aerial bombing do not constitute genocide, no matter how large the number of victims. There exists no evidence that the Ottoman regime had intent to destroy the Armenian community.

The Armenian Diaspora claims that you wrote this book with the help of the Turkish government, implying that you are serving Turkey’s interests. What is your reaction?

I am a retired professor of Political Science, the author of 10 other books published by prestigious publishing houses such as Oxford University Press. I wrote this book as I wrote all of my previous books – with the help of American foundations such as the American Council of Learned Societies. I also had a travel grant from the German Academic Exchange Service. I did not receive financial support from the Turkish government or any other government. I have not seen the allegation you refer to but it is part of the campaign of vilification Armenians wage against anyone who questions their version of the tragic events of 1915.


Armenian “genocidier” scholars argue that ‘you are not even an expert; you do not even speak Turkish’. They also accuse Jewish origin American scholars of distorting history by denying the so-called genocide.

Guenter Lewy

Prof. Guenter Lewy

I came to this topic as part of a planned comparative study of genocide. I am not a Middle East expert (even though I lived 8 years in the Middle East) and I do not read Ottoman Turkish. However, the archival materials and other original sources in Western languages are more than adequate to research this topic. The reports of American, German, Austrian consular officials who were on the spot in Anatolia, as well as the accounts of foreign missionaries who witnessed the deportations are richer and better sources than what is contained in the Turkish archives. A requirement that only persons fluent in the Turkish language be considered competent to write about this topic would, disqualify most Armenians who also do not know Turkish. The argument that Jewish scholars deny the genocide because they are Jewish and want to defend the uniqueness of the Holocaust is indecent as well as irrelevant. A book has to be judged by its content and not by the motive of its author.

The West was not at all concerned about the Muslim cleansing of the Balkans, but charities exist to help Ottoman Armenians all over the Western world. How do you explain the West’s astonishingly different reaction to the Muslim atrocities in the Balkans in 1912-1913 and the Armenian atrocities of 1915?

Obviously, all human life should be of equal worth. The West took its time in reacting to the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, but it did eventually react forcefully and halted these atrocities. Armenian misdeeds during World War I were often ignored because Armenian propaganda was well orchestrated and the Western world did not expect Christians to behave this way. The horrendous events of World War II have since taught us that no nationality, no matter what its religion or cultural achievements, is immune to outrageous criminal conduct in war.

You quote in your book (pg. 246) that “massacre, outrage and devastation have always been congenial to Turks.” Do you think this prejudice was pivotal in the Western attitude to Armenian massacres?

The allegation often made by Armenians that Turks love massacres and devastation because of their national character was indeed shared by many in the West who likewise condemned the “terrible Turk.”

Can you compare and contrast Shoah and the Armenian massacres?

Hitler’s Final Solution of the Jewish Question – the Holocaust or Shoah – aimed at the total destruction of the Jewish people. The Armenian massacres of World War I were not committed at the behest of the Ottoman government, and that fact alone makes a crucial difference. The fact that the large Armenian communities of Istanbul, Izmir and Aleppo were exempted from the deportation is another important indication that the Young Turks had no genocidal designs against the Armenian minority of their country.


You argue that Salahi Sonyel put the number of Armenians deported at 800,000, Kevorkian at 870,000, Bogos Nubar Pasha at 600,000-700,000. How is it possible that Armenian scholars reach a figure of 1,500,000 killed (not even deported) and that the West seems to agree with this number?

Unfortunately many Western scholars and parliamentary bodies simply repeat the Armenian allegations without critical examination as to their veracity.

Why do you think Armenians waited until 1965 to call what happened in 1915 genocide?

I am not sure why the Armenians waited until 1965 before they alleged genocide. It is said that the impact of the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 was deeply demoralizing. Also, the early 1960s brought a lot of scholarship on the Jewish Holocaust of World War II, and the Armenians may have sensed an opportunity to cash in on this aroused humanitarian conscience.

What is the West and Russia’s share of the responsibility in the massacres?

Western governments and Russia had often made promises of Armenian autonomy or even independence. These promises undoubtedly encouraged Armenian revolutionaries to go on the attack, cause large casualties among the innocent, and thus provoke Western or Russian intervention on their behalf. By making promises that were not kept the West probably shares some of the responsibility for the events of 1915-16.

In more than several pages you accuse Dadrian, a renowned scholar on the Armenian ‘genocide,’ of either of exaggerating the facts or excluding documents. How widespread and ingrained is this attitude among Armenian origin scholars in terms of being selective?

Many Armenian scholars use selective evidence or otherwise distort the historical record, but V. N. Dadrian is in a class by himself. His violations of scholarly ethics, which I document in my book, are so numerous as to destroy his scholarly credentials.

Do you think the Armenian Diaspora’s tactics, i.e. making as many countries as possible recognize the 1915 incidents as genocide, will have any affect on Turkey to recognize it as a “genocide” without a court ruling?

It is the business of legislatures to legislate and not to decide contested historical questions. Turkey should insist on this principle and not give in to outside pressure with regard to the alleged Armenian genocide.


What is the way out? You argue that there are some Armenians who will be satisfied “with an official statement by the Turkish government that it deeply regrets the great suffering of the Armenians during World War I” (pg 269) How plausible is this argument?

Since writing the book and expressing in it some optimism about Turkish-Armenian reconciliation I have been to Turkey, and I am now more pessimistic in this regard. European pressure has caused a nationalistic backlash among many Turkish intellectuals, and I think it extremely unlikely that the Turkish government will be willing to make a statement of regret of the kind that has been proposed. The Armenian Diaspora, too, appears to be getting more demanding and extreme.

How shall Turkey approach the issue? Should Turkey do more, other than offer to establish a joint commission, which was immediately refused by the Armenians?

The idea of a joint historical commission is a good one. In order to be credible, it will be important for the Turkish historical scholars to do better than the work of the Turkish Historical Society has done so far. The fact that the president of this society, Yusuf Halacoglu, is a person who does not even read English is a scandal.

Genocide Allegations Are Baseless
Interview in "Aksiyon"

Another interview with Prof. Lewy (in Turkish) has appeared in the publication Aksiyon. (aksiyon.com.tr/detay.php?id=22917) With thanks to reader Fatih Ipek for the translation, here is the English version:

Guenter Lewy, a historian who specializes in historical genocide, made important allegations regarding the events of 1915. “Genocide legislations are not legally binding,” According to Lewy, let alone committing genocide, the Ottoman Empire did not even have the intention of genocide. He said that history will be written by historians, not by parliaments. Lewy suggests that the goal of recent ‘genocide’ legislations by some parliaments is to provoke Turkish nationalism.

Prof. Guenter Lewy

Prof. Guenter Lewy

One of the most renowned historians in the field of historical genocide, Dr. Lewy demonstrated in his book “The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide” that the Armenian allegations of genocide are based on fabricated documents. He did this at a time when the parliaments of 17 different countries which are led by European countries and the US, made announcements that the genocide should be recognized. Guenter Lewy has not just recently become interested in what happened in 1915, he has devoted 52 years of his life to historical genocide. His fact driven views on the alleged Armenian genocide have just begun being discussed in different platforms. His findings on the alleged genocide will be discussed by Armenian Diaspora and other historians. As he stated, “History will be written by historians and by facts, not by parliaments.” We talked to Lewy about his book and the alleged genocide claims in Ankara at Estergon castle. This is the second time he has been to Turkey and he was invited to Turkey by Gazi University and Avrasya Bir Vakfi which is a non-profit organization.

Q: What is the main claim in your book?

A: It does not matter what genocide means or what genocide does not mean. My goal is to try to find out what happened in 1915 and how and why without the question without focusing on whether it was genocide or not. This will enable us to understand the tragic events of 1915 better.

Q: Instead of focusing on whether there was genocide, you recommend focusing on the reasons for the events and deaths. Why?

A: To categorize the events is the biggest mistake. Instead of categorizing it, we need to understand what happened. Why and how? Before answering these questions, you cannot categorize the events. The term genocide does not really help us to understand what actually happened. On the contrary, it prevents the exchange of ideas and face to face communication. Because everyone who is fixated on genocide does not focus on why and how the events took place, which are the most important aspects in understanding what happened. In other words, the concept of genocide is the biggest reason why we cannot understand what happened in 1915. If we treat what happened in 1915 as historical events, this would result in a better understanding of each other among Armenians and Turks and a better understanding of what happened in 1915.

Q: Which countries' archives were you able to research?

A: American, Turkish, German, Russian and British. I would like to have access to Armenian archives as well. Dashnaks’ archives are very important. Historical research cannot be based on one document, different documents from varied sources need to be analyzed and compared.

Q: You state in your articles that Armenian deaths in the First World War were not planned massacres by the Ottoman Empire. What are the facts and documents that support this theory?

A: There is concrete evidence proving that mandatory relocation was not genocide. The first piece of evidence is that nothing happened to Armenians who were living in Istanbul, Izmir and Halep. This would be akin to Hitler leaving alone the Jews who lived in Munich or Berlin. Could this have happened under the Nazi rule in Germany? If it were genocide in 1915, the Armenians living in Istanbul, Izmir and Aleppo would have been killed as well. Secondly, the claims that the Ottomans took Armenians on a death trip are being debated by Armenians. The relocation was tough and the circumstances were hard. There were not a lot of transportation choices and The Ottoman government allowed more affluent Armenians use the railroad. Thus, the goal was not to kill the Armenians. If it were, the Ottoman government would not have allowed some Armenians to take the railroad.

Q: Is there any other evidence?

A: Another piece of evidence that proves that 1915 events were not planned is that the gendarmes were assigned to protect Armenians who had to relocate. In some cases, some gendarmes were very aggressive because of orders from commanding officers. Circassians and Kurds attacked convoys of Armenians who were relocating and in some cases Circassians and Kurds were partnering with the gendarmes. This proves that the Ottoman government did not have a master genocide plan, but Armenians were treated differently depending on the location where they were. All the facts prove that there was no intention of genocide.

Q: When debating mandatory relocation or alleged genocide, numbers of casualties are thrown out. In your view, how many people were killed in the events of 1915?

A: We cannot determine the exact number for the population of Armenians before the war. From my own research and from the documents that I have read, I think the Armenian population was 1.6 million before the war. 40% of the Armenian population died because of different causes. The majority of deaths was caused by illnesses, followed by killings and hunger. As a result of the 3 reasons that I stated, six hundred thousand people died. Either the deaths were definitively the result of genocide or there is no evidence that genocide was committed.

Q: You are making these unusual scientific assertions in the US where the Armenian lobby is very strong. What did people think of your findings? Any backlash?

A: The biggest problem in the US is to find people who would listen to me. I cannot find people or platforms where I can voice my findings because my findings conflict the generally accepted version of events. I am saying that there was no genocide. At first, I could not find a publishing company to publish my book. Finally, the University of Utah decided to publish my book.

Q: Are you receiving any kinds of death threats because you said there was no genocide. Are you afraid of radical Armenians?

A: No, I am not afraid. In the 1980s, Turkish diplomats were attacked with guns by radical Armenians. That is true, but these days they are using writing tools instead of guns (he’s smiling), so there is not a problem. I am a scientist and I do my job.

Q: The European Parliament passed a legislation which writes that Turkey needs to recognize the genocide before she can be a member of the European Union. What do you think of the European Parliament’s legislation and similar legislation approved by other parliaments? Do they have any legal bindings?

A: In my mind, this is a historical event. This is not the business of parliaments to comment on historical events. The European Parliament’s legislation has no legal binding. Parliaments need to avoid making assertions on historical issues. History should be written by historians, not by parliaments.

Q: The prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, proposed to form a committee of historians from both countries, but there was not a positive response from Yerevan. What do you think of the proposal and the fact that it was not accepted by Yerevan?

A: This is a very interesting proposal. In my opinion, this is a good attempt. The fact that there was not a positive response from Armenians is not surprising. I can understand why the Armenian Diaspora did not like this offer. According to them, for any debate to take place, The Turks need to recognize the alleged genocide and it is hard for the Turkish side to recognize the alleged genocide. Both sides need to exchange ideas on historical events. Both sides do not have the luxury of avoiding the exchange of ideas.

Q: Although the diplomatic relations between Ankara and Yerevan are frozen, $50 million of bilateral trade is taking place between the two nations. What do you think of the actions that are taken by business men and non government organizations?

A: It is very nice that business men to business men, non governmental organizations to non governmental organizations and trade relations exist. I hope politicians and historians follow suit.

Q: What do you think of the problems between Armenian people and Turkish people? When and how will they be solved?

A: I do not have a good answer for this question. I was more optimistic on my way to Ankara, but I do not think it’s going to be easy to solve the problems. Nationalist feelings in Turkey are on the rise as a result of the European Parliament’s legislation and the rejection of Erdogan’s proposal by the Armenian Diaspora. Armenians need to think about this issue. In order to open doors and to continue the relations between the two nations, The Armenians need to accept Erdogan’s proposal.

(The interview appears to have been conducted by Fatih Ugur.)

Who Is Guenter Lewy?

He was born in Germany in 1923. When Nazis were in power, he was 10 years old. As a result of Nazi’s oppression of the Jewish people, he and his family moved to Palestine in 1939. Then his family moved to the USA. He lost his relatives during the Jewish genocide. In 1953, he started his academic career at Columbia University. In his own words “All the painful memories of the past pushed him to become a historian”. He worked on a lot of books, articles and did a lot of research to uncover what happened in Spain and Germany under Hitler’s rule. His last book is the one which proves that alleged Armenian claims are not based on any evidence. He is still working as a professor of political science at Columbia University.


 Lewy-Related Articles on TAT:

Revisiting the Armenian Genocide

 The First Genocide of the Twentieth Century?

 Vahakn Dadrian Objects to Guenter Lewy

Guenter Lewy Responds to the Genocide Pros

Guenter Lewy Responds to Vahakn Dadrian


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This Site

...Is to expose the mythological “Armenian genocide,” from the years 1915-16. A wartime tragedy involving the losses of so many has been turned into a politicized story of “exclusive victimhood,” and because of the prevailing prejudice against Turks, along with Turkish indifference, those in the world, particularly in the West, have been quick to accept these terribly defamatory claims involving the worst crime against humanity. Few stop to investigate below the surface that those regarded as the innocent victims, the Armenians, while seeking to establish an independent state, have been the ones to commit systematic ethnic cleansing against those who did not fit into their racial/religious ideal: Muslims, Jews, and even fellow Armenians who had converted to Islam. Criminals as Dro, Antranik, Keri, Armen Garo and Soghoman Tehlirian (the assassin of Talat Pasha, one of the three Young Turk leaders, along with Enver and Jemal) contributed toward the deaths (via massacres, atrocities, and forced deportation) of countless innocents, numbering over half a million. What determines genocide is not the number of casualties or the cruelty of the persecutions, but the intent to destroy a group, the members of which  are guilty of nothing beyond being members of that group. The Armenians suffered their fate of resettlement not for their ethnicity, having co-existed and prospered in the Ottoman Empire for centuries, but because they rebelled against their dying Ottoman nation during WWI (World War I); a rebellion that even their leaders of the period, such as Boghos Nubar and Hovhannes Katchaznouni, have admitted. Yet the hypocritical world rarely bothers to look beneath the surface, not only because of anti-Turkish prejudice, but because of Armenian wealth and intimidation tactics. As a result, these libelous lies, sometimes belonging in the category of “genocide studies,” have become part of the school curricula of many regions. Armenian scholars such as Vahakn Dadrian, Peter Balakian, Richard Hovannisian, Dennis Papazian and Levon Marashlian have been known to dishonestly present only one side of their story, as long as their genocide becomes affirmed. They have enlisted the help of "genocide scholars," such as Roger Smith, Robert Melson, Samantha Power, and Israel Charny… and particularly  those of Turkish extraction, such as Taner Akcam and Fatma Muge Gocek, who justify their alliance with those who actively work to harm the interests of their native country, with the claim that such efforts will help make Turkey more" democratic." On the other side of this coin are genuine scholars who consider all the relevant data, as true scholars have a duty to do, such as Justin McCarthy, Bernard Lewis, Heath Lowry, Erich Feigl and Guenter Lewy. The unscrupulous genocide industry, not having the facts on its side, makes a practice of attacking the messenger instead of the message, vilifying these professors as “deniers” and "agents of the Turkish government." The truth means so little to the pro-genocide believers, some even resort to the forgeries of the Naim-Andonian telegrams or sources  based on false evidence, as Franz Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. Naturally, there is no end to the hearsay "evidence" of the prejudiced pro-Christian people from the period, including missionaries and Near East Relief representatives, Arnold Toynbee, Lord Bryce, Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and so many others. When the rare Westerner opted to look at the issues objectively, such as Admirals Mark Bristol and Colby Chester, they were quick to be branded as “Turcophiles” by the propagandists. The sad thing is, even those who don’t consider themselves as bigots are quick to accept the deceptive claims of Armenian propaganda, because deep down people feel the Turks are natural killers and during times when Turks were victims, they do not rate as equal and deserving human beings. This is the main reason why the myth of this genocide has become the common wisdom.