This is the story of humanity’s darkest hours. What happened is almost inconceivable and almost impossible to describe. Not having either murdered or been murdered it is almost impossible for us to understand what happened. Even people who were actually there as bystanders were not able to make much sense of it. Take, for example, the account of two German nurses working with the Red Cross in Anatolia, who described in a detailed report what they had witnessed in 1915 during the Armenian Genocide. After recounting how men were killed, women abused, and children’s skulls bashed in, they quoted an Armenian woman passing them by: “We want to become Muslims. We want to become Germans, whatever you want, just save us, now they are bringing us to Kemnagh and will cut our throats.” The nurses’ reaction to this plea for life was to characterize this woman as “clinically insane.” Yet, it was probably a very sane reaction of somebody destined for slaughter, but the circumstances, events, and reactions, in short the reality of it were apparently difficult to comprehend.
Justifying Genocide is not a book that sets out to put Turkey on trial. It is a book about Germany and Germany’s road towards the Holocaust. The core argument of the book is simple: The Armenian Genocide was and is of towering importance for German history, even though its role there has so far been largely ignored. It was influential in Germany’s turn to immense “ethnic engineering” later.