Day 9 of 30 Days of Testimony: Michelle Tusan on the testimony of Urlich Temper

Historians continue to debate the extent of German responsibility for the Armenian Genocide in 1915. The Ottoman Empire was an ally of Germany during WWI (1914- 1918). During the war, Germany was blamed for the Armenian Genocide. Historian Arnold Toynbee in his widely read pamphlet Armenian Atrocities published in 1915 “indicted” Germany for what he called a “shameful and terrible page of modern history” in Armenia.

This interview considers German culpability for the Armenian Genocide by claiming that states always act in their own interests and not out of any moral obligation to defend human rights. Therefore, Germany did not do anything to stop the Genocide because it went against the more important goal of winning the war. Historian Donald Bloxham has argued that although Germany did play a significant role in the massacres that “the German role should still be seen in a comparative, interactive context with those of the other Great Powers.” Rather than focus on Germany, Bloxham suggests, scholars should understand German culpability alongside the ultimate failure of American and European Powers to stop the Genocide.

Author: Michelle Tusan is Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and author of Smyrna’s Ashes: Humanitarianism, Genocide and the Birth of the Middle East

Further reading:

Margaret Anderson, “Down in Turkey Far Away’: Human Rights, the Armenian Massacres in

Germany,” Journal of Modern History, (March 2007), 79:1, pp. 80-111.


Donald Bloxham, Great Game of Genocide (Oxford UP, 2005)

Isabel Hull, Absolute Destruction (Cornell UP 2005).

Ronald Suny, et. al. A Question of Genocide (Oxford UP, 2012)

Michelle Tusan, Smyrna’s Ashes (UC Press, 2012)

Michella Tusan,“Crimes against Humanity": Human Rights, the British Empire, and the Origins of the Response to the Armenian Genocide. The American Historical Review 2014 119: 47-77

Language: English