Berlin, 23 April 2015 Translation of advance text

This service commemorates the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who
fell victim to planned and systematic murder a century ago.

Men, women, children and the aged were deported, sent on death marches,
abandoned in the steppe and desert without any shelter or food, burned
alive, hunted down and beaten to death, and shot dead indiscriminately.

This planned and calculated criminal act was meted out against the
Armenians for one reason, and one reason only: because they were
Armenians. A similar fate befell their fellow sufferers - Pontian
Greeks, Assyrians and Aramaeans.

With our present day knowledge, and against the backdrop of the
political and humanitarian horrors of recent decades, it is to us
clear today that the fate of the Armenians exemplifies the history of
mass annihilations, ethnic cleansing, deportations, even genocides,
that marred the twentieth century in such a terrible way.

These crimes were committed in the shadows of wars; war also served to
legitimise these barbaric acts. This is what happened to the Armenians
in the First World War. This is what also happened elsewhere over the
course of the last century. And this is what sometimes continues to
happen to many other religious and national minorities today. They
were branded variously as spies, as the henchmen of foreign powers,
as troublemakers threatening national unity, as enemies of the people
or enemies by race, or as pathogens infecting the body politic.

We remember the victims so that they and their fate are not forgotten.

We remember them for their own sake. Above all, in doing so we call
to mind the inalienable dignity of every human being. While this
dignity cannot be destroyed, there is unlimited potential for running
roughshod over it by violating and crushing it underfoot.

We remember the victims so that they are once again given a voice,
so that their story is told - a story that was supposed to vanish
without a trace.

Yes, we remember the victims also for our own sake. We can only
preserve our humanity by ensuring that it is not only the victors and
the memory of the living that determine history, but that those who
were beaten, the missing, the betrayed and the annihilated, also have
a voice.

Commemorating the victims would only be half of the act of remembrance
if we failed to talk about the perpetrators. There are no victims
without perpetrators. The perpetrators, the then rulers of the
Ottoman Empire and their henchmen - as essentially all perpetrators
of racially, ethnically or religiously motivated mass murder - were
convinced, to the point of fanaticism, that what they were doing
was right.

The Young Turkish ideology saw in the concept of an ethnically
homogeneous nation state with a uniform religion an alternative to the
lost tradition of the coexistence of different peoples and religions
in the collapsing Ottoman Empire. Division along ethnic lines, ethnic
cleansing and expulsions often formed the darker side of the emergence
of nation states at the beginning of the 20th century. However,
ideologies preaching unity and purity often lead to exclusion and
expulsion and, ultimately, to murderous acts. In the Ottoman Empire,
this developed a genocidal dynamic to which the Armenian people
fell victim.

We are currently right in the middle of a necessary debate on which
term most appropriately describes events that took place one hundred
years ago. But let us ensure that this debate is not boiled down to
differences in terminology. What matters above all is - even after
one hundred years - to recognise, deplore and mourn the systematic
annihilation of a people in all of its terrible reality. If we fail to
do this, we will lose sight of the compass that guides our actions -
and also lose respect for ourselves.

If we achieve understanding in our assessment of history, if we
call injustice by its name even if our people were guilty of such
injustice, if we are united in our commitment to respecting rights
and human rights in our daily lives, then we will manage to preserve
the dignity of the victims and create a shared humane basis for
coexistence at home and beyond borders.

We are not putting anyone alive today into the dock by remembering
this. The perpetrators of this crime committed long ago are no longer
with us, and their children and their children's children cannot
be found guilty. However, what the descendants of the victims are
rightfully entitled to expect is that historical facts, and thus
historical guilt, are recognised. It is part of the responsibility
of those living today to feel a sense of commitment to respecting
and protecting the right to life and human rights of each and every
individual, and also of each and every minority.

In the case of the Armenians, we therefore follow no other principle
than that of our deep-rooted human experience, which teaches us
that we cannot free ourselves from guilt by denying, suppressing or
trivialising it. We in Germany have painstakingly, and often after
shameful procrastination, learned to remember the crimes committed
in the National Socialist period - above all the persecution and
annihilation of Europe's Jews. And, in so doing, we have also learned
to differentiate between the guilt of the perpetrators, which must be
recognised unconditionally, and the responsibility of their descendants
to engage in appropriate acts of commemoration.

It is utterly important and clearly justified to remember, also
here in Germany, the murder of the Armenian people. Descendants of
Armenians and Turks live here, and each has their own story to tell.

It is important, however, for the sake of peaceful coexistence, for
us all to follow the same objective principles when coming to terms
with the past.

In this case, we Germans as a whole must also take part in this
process insofar as we share responsibility, perhaps even guilt,
in the genocide committed against the Armenians.

German military officers were involved in planning, and to an extent
in carrying out, the deportations. Advice from German observers and
diplomats, who plainly recognised the destructive intent behind the
actions taken against the Armenians, was overlooked and ignored. At
the end of the day, what the German Reich wanted least was to damage
relations with their Ottoman ally. Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg,
who had been informed about the persecution of the Armenians in
painstaking detail by a special envoy, remarked dryly in December
1915 that: "Our sole objective is to keep Turkey on our side until
the end of the war, irrespective of whether Armenians are killed in
the process or not."

But there were also Germans, most notably the highly dedicated Johannes
Lepsius, whose publishing activities made the suffering of the Armenian
people known around the world.

It was the medic Armin Theophil Wegner who captured the fate of the
Armenians on camera and brought their plight to a German audience
at his slide shows in Germany after the war. And it was the Austrian
Franz Werfel who erected an artistic monument to the resistance of the
Armenians against their planned destruction with his novel The Forty
Days of Musa Dagh. The book was quickly banned in Germany following
its publication in 1933 - but it was read in the Jewish ghettos of
Biaƅ~Bystok and Vilnius as an omen of what was soon to happen to
the Jews. Both the censors of the Third Reich and the Jews therefore
understood the book and the story it recounted entirely correctly.

When Adolf Hitler ordered the German army groups to attack Poland
and explained his plans to his military commanders in his operation
order of 22 August 1939, which urged them to "kill without pity or
mercy, all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language",
he expected the reaction to be one of collective disinterest, which
is why he concluded with the rhetorical question: "Who, after all,
speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

We are speaking about them! Even today, one hundred years later, we
are still talking about this - about this and other crimes against
humanity and human dignity. We do this so that Hitler is not proved
right. And we do this so that no dictator, no tyrant and no one who
considers ethnic cleansing to be legitimate can expect their crimes
to be ignored or forgotten.

Yes, we are still talking about uncomfortable facts of history, a
denial of responsibility and past guilt. We do not do this in order to
shackle ourselves to the bleakness of the past, but rather in order
to be watchful and to react in time when individuals and peoples are
threatened by destruction and terror.

It is good when we do this together, and not separately according to
denominations and religions, languages and ethnic and state borders.

Today, we are thankful for signs of remembrance and reconciliation
from around the world. I am especially thankful for each and every
encouraging sign of understanding and rapprochement between Turks and
Armenians. No one must be afraid of the truth. Only together can we
overcome what divided and continues to divide us. Only together will we
be able to enjoy a bright future in this One World entrusted to us all.


From: A. Papazian