Hilsenraths Other Genocide
by Dagmar C. G. Lorenz
Edgar Hilsenrath. Das Marchen vom letzten Gedanken. Munich and Zurich: R. Piper, 1989. 509 pages.
Edgar Hilsenrath, the author of the ghetto novel Nacht, the Holocaust satire Der Nazi und der Friseur, and fiction about the exile experience, has turned to a new topic at a time when writing about the Holocaust for a German readership is more difficult than ever. The subject of Hilsenrath's new novel is the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks from 1915 to 1922, its background, and its aftermath. The 500-page novel, Das Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, for which the author received the prestigious Alfred Doblin Prize in 1989, holds its own next to The Last Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel (1933), Toda Raba by Nikos Kazantzakis (1939), and Ararat by Elgin Groseclose (1939).1
On the dust jacket of the novel, the publisher described the subject of Marchen vom letzten Gedanken as follows:
The fairy tale tells us that the last thought of a human being stands outside time. Sitting at the gate of the Anatolian town of Bakir, the last thought of Thovma Khatisian once more experiences the sufferings of the Armenians as reflected in the history of the family of Thovma Khatisian, their last descendent. Led by Meddah, the storyteller, Thovma follows the footprints of his father, which lead from a little idyllic mountain village to the torture chambers of the Turkish rulers. He becomes an eyewitness to the great 1915 massacre of the Armenians, which served the government in Constantinople as a means to solve the Armenian problem once and for all.
Hilsenrath's work is realistic if one follows the definition of Meddah, the storyteller:
"Everything that takes place in the mind of a human being is true," said the storyteller, "although it is a different reality from the actual reality, which often appears unreal to us."2
Hilsenrath calls things by their proper names and portrays life first and foremost as physical existence, of whose details the reader is constantly made aware: birth, nursing, feeding, sex, and excretion accompanied by feelings of pleasure and pain. The rhetoric of politicians and political theory are shown to be the schemes of beings ultimately dependent on these bodily processes and subject to physical desires. Hilsenrath's very approach is a protest against disrespect toward the mortal body, against the tyranny of the mind over matter.
Hilsenrath avoids vilification of the Turks. He also does not idealize the Armenians, refusing to follow earlier authors, for instance, Heinrich Vierbiicher, who described them as "brave, hard-working country people characterized by especially strong loyalty toward their family and love of children."3
Das Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken transcends reality by taking into account the dreams and hopes of human beings, their inner reality. At the center of the novel is, after all, the last thought of a dying man, which retraces the kind of existence that the exterminated Armenians might have hoped for but were denied for the sake of political theorems and chauvinistic ambitions. As in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's fantastic novels,4 the visionary sphere is, if anything, as important as the world of logic. In Marchen vom letzten Gedanken the dreams are physical. They deal with life's pleasures: good food, sex, security, family, and love. The Young Turks, on the other hand, envision power, glory, and national unity-but underneath it all, wealth.5
Hilsenrath's protagonist Thovma Khatisian, a Swiss citizen who in the end becomes Hayk, the Eternal Armenian, symbol of his nation, has a different ideal. In his fantasy of paradise, his mother Anahit, who was named after the pre-Christian Armenian fertility goddess, and his father Wartan, who was named after an Armenian Christian hero, are united with him, their lost son. The mother nurses her son here for the first time.6 This fairy tale of personal healing runs parallel with a vision of historical justice; much to the dismay of the minister, Khatisian's last thought threatens to penetrate into the gaps of the Turkish history books, where it might cause a quiet revolution "when all who were victims in this world would suddenly make their whispered claims. The entire world would suffocate in their whispers."7
Das Marchen vom letzten Gedanken is a family saga. In contrast to most works of this kind, it does not follow a linear development, but is organized around leitmotifs that are examined and re-examined in different contexts. Wartan Khatisian's fate, for instance, is unraveled several times. The interrogation is dominated by the hostile bias of the Turks; book two by the empathetic perspective of Thovma, his supposed son, who conjectures the events leading up to the massacres, the building of the "Case Khatisian," the conspiracy to frame a scapegoat, the fate of the Village Yedi Su, and the destruction of the Armenian people.
Hilsenrath, who survived the Holocaust in the Romanian ghetto Mogilev Podolsk, knows the reality of genocide. As an intended victim of extermination, he takes the side of other victims. His narrator and the imaginary storyteller are Armenian in spirit. It is left open if Thovma Khatisian's identity is based on genealogy - if he is, in fact, the orphan survivor of Wartan and Anahit- or if an acquired familiarity with the Armenian discourse, the tales of survivors, has shaped the emotional and intellectual identity of a Swiss citizen.
As in Hilsenrath's earlier novel Der Nazi und der Friseur,8 personal identity, rather than being a given, is constituted by social structures and experience. The omniscient Meddah explains: "If you want to know if someone is Armenian, look into his eyes.9 By creating discourse, the Meddah creates optional identities and memory. The decision to identify with the the persecuted or the persecutors is presented as a matter of choice. The Meddah suggests a basic sameness of all humans to the Wali of Bakir:
Wali Bey, when you look into the eyes of an Armenian, you look into your own eyes! And I notice how the Wali grows pale. He answers: Into my own eyes?10
Hilsenrath himself had the choice of several identities: American (he lived in New York for close to 20 years), Israeli (his mother's option), and German, specifically German Jewish. Thovma Khatisian is the author's case in point. He had the options of being Turkish (since a Turkish couple raised him), Swiss (since he has a Swiss passport), and Armenian. The last was for him the hardest to attain, since he had to reconstruct or even construct an entire biography and national history. Yet he chooses to become a survivor of the massacres and a witness.
For 60 years I asked survivors of the massacres to tell me stories, stories from Hayastan, also called Turkish-Armenia or Anatolia - whichever you prefer-and from the many stories I patched together my own. And thus one day I had a genuine family history. I knew my roots. I had a father and a mother once again, and I had many relatives. I also had a name and a tradition, which I could procreate in my children and grandchildren.11
Hilsenrath proposes that one does not have to be Armenian by birth in order to feel and speak for the victims of genocide. As Joe Verhoeven phrases it, "every member of the international community has the right to demand sanctions for the genocide of the Armenians and to assist the Armenian people for safeguarding of its fundamental rights."12 Remembrance and history are a part of these fundamental rights, but exterminated people write no history. Information about them is transmitted by victors and a few survivors. While the former tend to pose as bearers of the official truth, the latter are often successfully discredited. Perpetrators of genocides generally do their best to obscure the truth about their motives, intentions, and deeds.
The Turks declared the so-called relocation of the Armenians a strategic necessity, the fatalities an integral part of World War I; or they denied them altogether. After Mustafa Kemal (Ataftirk), chief of staff under Enver Pasha and later organizer of the Turkish Nationalist Party, had been elected first president of the Turkish Republic, his highest priority was the assertion of national unity. "The Turkish argument of denial was constructed step by step during the four years that followed the collapse of the central powers and their allies."13 If anywhere, Walter Benjamin 's observations about the dominant role of the conqueror in the writing of history applies in the case of Armenia.14
It does not matter that biographically speaking the narrator is not the "real" Thovma Khatisian. His consciousness is, indeed, Armenian, so much so that his last thought and his dying merge into Wartan Khatisian's last thought and death, the man who was set up as an Armenian Herschel Grynszpan by the Turkish authorities in an attempt to find an excuse to move against the disarmed Armenian minority. Wartan Khatisian was even less involved than vom Rath's assassin; having spent a number of years in the United States in order to make enough money to start a family, he was on his way to marry his fianc6e back home, a girl he had saved from the ruins of her village ransacked during an earlier massacre. Hilsenrath makes the framing of Khatisian a central event and thus draws even closer the parallel, often previously observed, between the extermination of the Armenians and that of the Jews.15
Wartan, the tortured apolitical victim of a political plot, was terrorized into incriminating himself and his people as world conspirators. He died, and his pregnant wife was forced on a death march into the desert. Wartan's would-be son Thovma bears witness years later, as does Hilsenrath, who examines this century's first genocide to find answers to his own questions. This earlier genocide preceded the one Hilsenrath barely survived by less than 40 years, and its machinations, even some of the guilty parties, are -surprisingly -the same. Perhaps Hilsenrath hopes that the story of the destruction of the Armenians will meet with a more open-minded audience in German-speaking countries than does that of the European Jews.16
Hilsenrath approaches the extermination of the Armenian people with the sensitivity of someone who witnessed genocide perpetrated against his own people. He is conversant with every Holocaust and genocide discourse and has studied the patterns of dissimulating the crime before, during, and after it is committed. Hilsenrath's literary techniques and his light-hearted presentation deceive only the sporadic reader. His work is based on solid research of historical material, both Armenian and Turkish, and the study of Armenian society and culture, as well as first-hand knowledge of the scene of the crime.
The Armenian genocide discourse is more marginalized, in even more immediate danger of being silenced than is the Jewish Holocaust discourse. The Turkish authorities used World War I to conceal the murders much in the way the Germans used World War II to obscure theirs. Moreover, the Armenian catastrophe is further removed from the present.17 Internationally, Turkey and its minorities were less visible than Central Europe. Thus events there were taken less seriously.
Talking about the Armenians in and outside of Turkey may, indeed, have been more difficult than discussing the Holocaust in Germany. Dickran Kouymjian calls the Turkish genocide of the Armenians one of the most systematic genocides of all times with geopolitical and chauvinistic "root causes." He explains that the Turkish government went to great length
to efface all trace of Armenian civilization on the historical homeland; thus it consistently changed the names of towns, villages and hamlets in the eastern provinces in the late 1950s, as evidenced by the Turkish census of 1959-1960 .... Roughly 90% of the names of historical Armenia have been changed; only the major cities-Van, Bitlis, Erzurum, etc. -have been spared. As Turkish historians continue to revise the past, newer generations of Armenians will be hard pressed to find the localities inhabited by their ancestors.18
He states, as Hilsenrath suggests as well,19 that in contemporary "Turkish-occupied Armenia there are no Armenians, except for dissimulated ones of uncertain number."
Willful destruction of Armenian churches, civil buildings, and homes by fire or explosives was encouraged during the period of the massacres from 1915 to 1922. Even thereafter, monuments were destroyed by dynamite, artillery, and neglect. Armenian churches were converted into mosques, prisons, stables, farms, and museums, not maintained at all, or demolished for road construction. Other monuments were neutralized by effacing Armenian inscriptions, or they were reattributed to Turkish architects. Similar techniques of dissimulation caused Jewish monuments in Germany and Austria virtually to disappear-synagogues were left in ruins and eventually torn down. Others were transformed into secular buildings.
To this day, German revisionists take the stand of the turn-of-thecentury colonialists who, seeking compensation for the lack of German colonies in Africa and Asia, promoted the idea of German hegemony in the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. Such studies support the Turkish cryptofascist anti- Armenian propaganda rationalizing simultaneously why Armenians deserve to be persecuted and denying that any massacres took place. Invariably the victims are blamed for the injustice they suffered. Such texts differ only in their specifics from the arguments that appear in neoconservative Holocaust revisionism.20
Hilsenrath's novel lends a poetic voice to those who were silenced by a ruthless system:
Believe me, my little lamb. No matter what hits us, the historians will chuckle, particularly the experts in contemporary history, since they need a new subject to interrupt their boredom, a subject with which they can work. With their lack of imagination, they will search for figures to estimate the masses of the slaughtered, to register them, so to speak; and they will search for words in order to describe and categorize the great massacre in their pedantic way. They do not know that every human being is unique, and that even the village idiot in your father's home village has the right to a name. They will call the great massacre the murder of a people or mass murder, and the scholars among them will say that the proper term is genocide. Some know-it-all will say it is called Armenocide, and the last one of the idiot experts will search in dictionaries and finally claim that the term is Holocaust.21
Writing about the Holocaust for a contemporary German-speaking audience presents a considerable problem, especially since Bitburg,22 the election of Kurt Waldheirn,23 and the so-called Historikerstreit 24 legitimized the refusal to deal with the past. The shift toward the political Right in the 1980s made unveiled antisernitic discourse acceptable in the public sphere, particularly in the German and Austrian media. In the spring of 1986 when the Waldheim controversy was in full swing, Edgar Hilsenrath had begun writing Marchen vom letzten Gedanken. He had traveled to Turkey and visited the sites of the destroyed Armenian communities, which to a foreigner were accessible only with difficulty. At times he relied on older individuals who remembered the massacres and volunteered to show him the sites of ruined villages, next to or on top of which new Turkish settlements had been established.25
Hilsenrath approaches his subject matter with the respect of an outsider and the knowledge of an insider. He knows what it means to have one , s future and that of one's community shattered. He was born in Leipzig in 1926. In 1938 his Romanian-born mother decided to escape to Sereth, a German Jewish town dose to Czernowitz. Here she and her son enjoyed a respite from persecution - long enough for Hilsenrath to appreciate the peaceful, almost feudal conditions of Romanian country life, but too short to complete his education. At the time that he should have received his high school diploma, the Abitur, the entrance card to higher education, he and his mother were interned in the Czernowitz ghetto. His novel Nacht reflects the experience of having his existence reduced to physical survival at the lowest level.26
Hilsenrath began to write about the Holocaust immediately after his liberation and flight from Soviet-occupied Romania to Paris, where he and his mother were reunited with his father. His first notes served primarily a therapeutic function -as is often the case with early texts by survivors. His ability to write was impaired by electroshock therapy prescribed as a remedy for his post-Holocaust trauma. From 1945 to 1951 Hilsenrath lived in Palestine and Israel. In 1951 he moved to New York and in 1975 to Berlin. In New York he determined to become a German writer. Perhaps because Holocaust literature in the United States did not carry the stigma it did in Germany, his first novel, Nacht, grew into one of the most uninhibited and controversial Holocaust novels in the German language.
Rather than trying to come to terms with the German perpetrators, Hilsenrath focused on the victims in Nacht: hungry people who under duress reproduce the Nazi system of exploitation in the crassest terms. The text is void of adventure, villains, and heroes. There is no escape from suffering. Hilsenrath described collective rather than individual fate: the destruction of a community, an entire culture, without the sentimentality that German writers reserve for Holocaust themes. Hilsenrath's macabre humor is reminiscent of Jakov Lind's, Eine Seele aus Holz (A Soul of Wood, 1962). Not surprisingly he was, just as Lind, criticized for what sanctimonious German critics and authors mistook for irreverence.
In 1964 Nacht was published by the Munich publisher Kindler, who himself prevented distribution. For 14 years the novel was inaccessible to German readers while its English translation enjoyed some success. When the novel reappeared in the avant-garde Literarischer Verlag Braun in 1978, Hilsenrath's second novel, Der Nazi und der Friseur (1977), had put its author on the map. This novel is less autobiographical, although Hilsenrath does draw on his experience -his life in postwar Palestine and newly founded Israel. The background details of prewar Germany, Eastern Europe during the Holocaust, the Kibbutz, Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem are as authentic as a travelog. Other elements, however, such as the characters' relationships and perceptions, are grotesquely overdrawn.
In Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, Hilsenrath developed and refined his earlier literary approaches, synthesizing the extreme, and therefore intentionally absurdist, naturalism of Nacht and the cynical black humor of Der Nazi und der Friseur. The result is a novel that blends the painfully intimate closeness of Nacht and the broad perspective of Der Nazi und der Friseur.27 Das Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken simultaneously introduces an omniscient narrator and also one limited by his subjectivity. If one takes into consideration Wartan Khatisian's perspective as well, a third point of view, one generation removed, opens up. This dual or triple perspective enables Hilsenrath to present his characters' intimate thoughts and feelings as well as a large historical panorama and the social situation. In the dialogues between Thovina and Meddah, the text captures the moment as well as the contexts to which the literary characters react. Thus the dialectic structure of Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken combines the intense subjectivity of Nacht and the ironic detachment of Der Nazi und der Friseur.
In addition, the novel creates the discourse of a collective. As in his earlier work, Hilsenrath seeks out stereotypes and utilizes them. Each stereotype is relativized by a counterstereotype. It is the task of the readers familiar with cliche-ridden discourses and themselves affected by them to question every generalization -be it about masculinity, motherhood, the Turks, or the Armenians. Similar to the enemy images that are presently all too common in Germany and Austria, Turks are often portrayed as primitive and brutal, an impression that is reinforced by images of suffering Armenians. There is, for instance, the Turkish soldier who administers the "Caesarean section" with his bayonet to Thovma's would-be mother. The storyteller, however, at times discernible as the voice of the author, advises caution and transforms this brutal scene into its opposite. The Saptieh, "basically not more evil than most people who serve the state and obediently do their duty," inadvertently saves the protagonist's life and cannot help but enjoy the baby's first cries.28
As in Nacht and Der Nazi und der Friseur, in Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken the theme of survival is embedded in the genocide story. Although the protagonist succumbs, survival presents the ultimate hope in Nacht. Ranek is survived, if only in his imagination, by Deborah and the orphan child, and implicitly by the narrator, who lives to bear witness through the novel. Even Max Schulz, the mass murderer of Der Nazi und der Friseur, nolens volens becomes a witness to survival. By sliping into the identity of a Jew, by perpetuating Itzig Finkelstein's family history and culture rather than his own, by fighting for Israel and raising a Jewish family, he has traded places; in his private and social life, he actively contributes to the community of the intended victims of the Nazis. Even his salon bears the trademark of the murdered Finkelstein: professional, clean, efficient.29
Life is even more prominently the focus of Marchen zvm letzten Gedanken, whose plot extends into the era preceding the genocide of 1915. It explores prewar Armenian social and political history until the time when the nation had been "effectively delivered into the hand of three implacable enemies of the Armenians: Enver, Talaat, and Djemal Pasha."30 Historical figures are as much a part of Hilsenrath's novel as are the fictitious ones, who are memorable because of the vivid, tableau-like impressions of robust country people. Vitality and optimism prevail in spite of the disadvantages and setbacks they suffer at the hands of the Moslems (Wartan's family commemorates the persecution under Abdul Hamid by naming a rooster after the oppressor)31 and of the Kurds (they impose marriage taxes and other "duties" on the unarmed, fundamentally civilian population). Even under duress, the love of life is stronger than the fear of death.
Parallels are suggested between Thovma and the child whom Deborah saves against Ranek's will in Nacht. Thovma also appears to have been a child that lived against all odds. From his survival he derived his mission to inform about the genocide and to keep the memory of the Armenian people, their culture, and their language alive. This language, as a witness to its speakers, is cited repeatedly. Above and beyond the narrative, Hilsenrath added at the back of the novel a glossary of Armenian and Turkish expressions. Further, throughout the novel, Hilsenrath explains the differences between Armenian and Turkish terms. Thus, we learn that "the farmers of Yedi Su call their living room Oda, and only the Muchtar calls his Selamlik."32 Hilsenrath also provides the following lesson on the difference between Armenian and Turkish:
Her mother-in-law said to her after the wedding night: gelin -that is, the Turkish word for "young bride" -although there is after all also an Armenian expression. For instance, she might simply have said: hars ... that is, "bride". . . but the Turkish word is more demanding on the tongue, sounds somewhat harsh, instills respect, perhaps even fear, is considered more progressive and effective in the interaction of two women of different status.33
The memory of Armenian locations and cities is evoked as an indictment of the conquerors:
And I would now show to our son Wartan all Armenian villages and cities, all those in this area. Do you see it? All this the Turks took from us. There, for instance, is Urfa. And there is Diyarbakir, and farther over there, the town Konya; and also the city of Sivas belongs to the Armenians, and it is not far from here. And if our Wartan should ask what are those mountains called, then I would say to him, "I do not know, my son. Some call them the Kurdish mountains, some the mountains of Hayastan."34
Countless allusions recall the folklore and legends of the origin of the Armenian people: the stories of Hayk, the mythological first Armenian who led his followers to Mount Ararat;35 of pre-Christian Armenia and its fertility goddess Anahit, after whom Wartan's second wife is named;36 of Christian Armenia with its hero Wartan,37 the namesake of Thovrna's martyred father; and of Saint Gregor.38 This tradition is portrayed as alive. Based on it are the beliefs and superstitions of Wartan's contemporaries concerning supernatural forces and spirits, healing, remedies, 39 and the art of divination. 40 The characters' names and misnomers are a part of this tradition; ironically Hamest (modesty) is the name of the domineering grandmother, Zovinar (lightning without thunder) that of the modest daughter-in-law. As a part of Armenian culture, native foods and cooking are mentioned: Gatnachpjur, the traditional milk dish; Lavosh, Armenian bread; Harissa, the Armenian national food; and Tonir, the oven.41
The novel consists of a prologue, an epilogue, and three books. Its structure repeats the dialectics established by the prologue's dualistic narrator, Thovma and the Meddah, and by the dramatic dialogues in the individual scenes. The deliberate, indirect presentation creates tension and forces the reader to put together the plot as if in a mosaic.
As early as the prologue, the major characters and topics are introduced. Already here, Hilsenrath draws the parallels between the Armenian and the Jewish people, and between the suffering of Christ, the Jews, and the Armenians.42 It is resumed in later passages, for instance:
I see a crucifix, my little lamb. And crucified is not Jesus Christ, but the eye of an Armenian. A Turk nails it to the cross.43
The language and thought patterns of the Turkish prime minister, one of the characters who still remain in the epilogue, are reminiscent of Nazi and neo- Nazi politicians and foreshadow the thinking of the Turkish dignitaries mentioned later.44 The words of the archivist at the "United Peoples' Conscience" evoke a worldwide public indifferent to troublesome truths such as genocide.45 Silence, a theme that for decades dominated the German Holocaust discourse, is introduced and denounced:
I told Silence the story of the genocide. I brought to Silence's attention how important it is to talk about it openly. I said: Everyone must know! How else could one prevent future genocide if everyone claimed they had not known and had been unable to prevent it, because they could not imagine such a thing?46
It is the narrator's intent to create a true, that is, subjective, story. He is cognizant of the fact that being personal and specific is a most difficult task.47 The integration of serious and funny, bawdy and intellectual passages as early as the prologue creates the composite mood typical of Hilsenrath's unmistakable kind of subjectivity. With this technique the author meets the challenge of addressing a public that is trained to take seriously only texts that create an illusion of objectivity.
The main body of Hilsenrath's novel consists of three books. The first is subdivided into six, the second into twelve, and the last into eighteen sections. The first book opens in 1915, the first war year of World War I, in the town of Bakir. Only the bodies of three hanged Armenians indicate a disturbance, the coming of the Tebk,48 the massacre, in the still peaceful panorama dominated by impressions of a Moslem culture that allows no deviation: mosques, muezzins, awareness of the holy cities and shrines of Islam. From the point of view of the culturally dominant majority, the Wali and the Major verbalize stereotypes of the Armenians as traitors, a dangerous people of inferior race multiplying like rats, Russian infiltrators -in other words, the same images Nazi propaganda employed to berate the Jews. Thus, Mudir Bey claims that "the Armenians are a people of conniving merchants. The Turk acting in good faith is at their mercy." This use of the generalizing singular is also typical of Nazi texts. Wartan contradicts him: "My father was a farmer, Mudir Bey. Most Armenians are simple farmers and craftsmen."49 The Major's comment elucidates the meaning of such images in the German context as he free-associates:
Several weeks ago I was in Galicia, says the Major, at the Austrian front. And do you know, Mudir Bey, what I noticed there? No, says the Mudir. There are too many Jews there. And do you know how they act when they barter? No, says the Mudir. Like Armenians, says the Major. These two peoples are so similar, one can barely tell them apart. It is unbelievable. May be, says the Mudir. Do you have problems with the Jews here? No, says the Mudir. Here we have problems with the Armenians.50
The description of the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide brings to mind those who staged the Holocaust - men whose appearance does not betray their character. Enver Pasha is portrayed as a man in a smart brown uniform having the tender face of a virgin and the soft hands of a piano player with long, sensitive fingers, a "likable man, a man with sensitive hands and a sensitive face. He is the hangman of the Armenians."51 Mindful of the humanity of both perpetrator and victim, the narrator reminds the reader that also Wartan Khatisian had "beautiful, almost tender hands" but instantly rejects further comparison: "But shall I compare the hands of your father with those of a hangman?"52 In such passages Hilsenrath rejects the ancient and still powerful superstition that a person's physical appearance can be taken as an indicator of his character.
Typically, only your own minority poses a problem, not those in other countries. Thus, the Major has a certain appreciation for the Armenians as an ancient Christian culture.53 He remarks that the "ancient" Armenians roamed the area around Bakir at a time when Mohammed was still undergoing illumination. One German officer uses research to bolster these conclusions. He suggests that there are fewer murderers, thieves, and swindlers among the Armenians than among the Turks because there are hardly any Armenians among the prison population. The lower crime rate may reflect greater honesty and love of peace. While the Mudir in theory concedes that Armenians may have some positive qualities, his mind is made up, and he chooses to disregard empirical facts.
By introducing the perspective of common folk, Hilsenrath exposes the concealed interests of the privileged and powerful. Although the Turkish beggar is aware of the anti-Armenian doctrine, he and his partner are unequivocally motivated by greed to disregard the value of human life. Poverty generated their malice. Motivated by impulse, they recognize their wrongdoing. Their disappointment is equally direct when they discover that the coveted boots of the hanged Armenian are merely the boots of a poor man. This realization causes them to regret their behavior.
Lust is another important factor in the killing and maiming of human beings. Hilsenrath insists on unveiling this rarely discussed source of cruelty men exhibit toward men, women, and children. Characterizing violent sadism as specifically male behavior, he associates it with power and male sexuality. Wartan's interrogation consists of mindless, repetitive questioning -the goal is not to extort a secret, but to confirm a plot for Mudir Bey. Torture, oral rape by the Saptieh, threats, and intimidation are the methods in this "educational" process of brainwashing, whose aim is total submission. Sexuality, particularly homosexuality (verbally disavowed yet factually blatant), is associated with the sphere of the bathhouse and the locker room, and is shown to be a part of everyday military life.54 While the pretty blond German lieutenant, the object of desire and scandal for his Turkish associates, is openly gay, the Turks commit homosexual acts without defining them as such. The sphere that appears private is connected with the political arena. The lieutenant's penis is associated with that of the "great German Emperor," and it, in turn, with the cannons the Germans provide for the Turkish war.55
On various levels Hilsenrath is concerned with constructions of history. By exposing the state investigation against Wartan Khatisian as a sham, he exposes the history as fiction. Wartan is proven guilty because Mddir Bey needs someone to be guilty for a crime he has invented. Wartan's conviction provides an excuse to exterminate the Armenians, the primary goal of Mddir Bey and his government. However, the crime and the supposed criminal seem ludicrous even to the friends of Turkey. To avoid international embarrassment, the matter is dropped. Hilsenrath implies that many such apparently authentic historical proofs are generated by manipulation and coercion.
How an innocent bystander is stigmatized as a conspirator, how the accidents in an average citizen's life are construed into premeditated high treason, is the topic of the second third of book one. While the text contains clear signals that Wartan is indeed the simple Armenian he claims to be, a man who went to the United States to earn money to start a family with his fiancee, Mudir Bey chooses to disregard anything that does not fit his scheme. He interprets Armenian customs as suspicious behavior and sees ulterior motives behind every statement by Wartan. He suspects Wartan's ambition to become a poet, his attendance at evening school, the fact that Wartan's American uncle was a junk dealer, even the fact that Wartan lives in a house with a number because all houses in the United States are numbered. Whatever appears regular in Wartan's account is declared a cover for political activities- for instance, his marital status, his preference for a woman of his own culture, his taking pictures when he was a tourist. On his way to Yedi Su, Wartan passed through Sarajevo the day when the Austrian heir apparent was shot. This is sufficient evidence for Mudir Bey to hold Wartan and his entire people responsible for World War I.
Against this satire, any defamatory political discourse can be measured, also antisemitism. Implicitly Hilsenrath addresses the problems of both Armenians and Jews as members of nations without an army and without a homeland.56 He knows that America was the Golden Land not only for poor Armenians such as Wartan, but also for Jews escaping antisemitism in Eastern Europe. Yet the narrator discourages unwarranted enthusiasm about the supposed land of freedom by having Wartan return to Turkey. Among Wartan's American experiences, the unquestioned discrimination of African-Americans figures prominently. It illustrates that having been persecuted does not automatically raise the level of consciousness, as Uncle Nahapeth's uncritical account of the lynching of a black man illustrates.57
The parallels between Jews and Armenians also become clear through the prejudice exhibited against Armenian customs and clothing, for instance, the reference to the broad-brimmed hats of the American Armenians and the hatred with which Turks viewed those "hatmen" 58 something the Armenians misinterpreted as prejudice against Americans rather than themselves. This attitude corresponds to the prejudice against Jewish groups such as the Hasidim. It also applies to the secret woes of the immigrants. Although most of them did not go from rags to riches, they may have lost their identity while trying. In his zeal to assimilate himself, Wartan's uncle, whose nose is red from drinking, lost his native language. His situation reflects that of American Jews who forgot the Yiddish of their parents.
The Armenian customs cited are reminiscent of Jewish ones. The Armenian kosher-style slaughter of the lamb evokes Christian and Jewish symbolism, the Lamb of God and the averted sacrifice of Isaac. The horseshoe nailed to the door frame recalls the mezuzah. The phrase until a hundred and twenty is also a Yiddish saying. The divination ceremony at the time Wartan takes his first steps and its initial outcome, "Yes, a businessman," are in the spirit of popular Yiddish lullabies.59
Just as Mudir Bey tries to blame World War I on Khatisian and the Armenians, German circles -particularly those around Ludendorff blamed Jewish conspirators for Germany's defeat. During the 1920s and 1930s, Hitler and his collaborators blamed all the ills of the world on the Jews.60 Both in Turkey and in Germany, a lost war became the impetus for genocide; it was impossible to believe that one's own soldiers had not been invincible.61 By mentioning Mudir Bey's theory about an Armenian world conspiracy alongside a supposed Jewish world conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 62 Hilsenrath closes the circle; being accused as conspirators, as evil personified, is specific to neither Armenians nor Jews-it is the fate of any minority under an autocratic government backed by a fanaticized population. The massacres of the Armenians and the Holocaust are not an Armenian or a Jewish problem respectively, although the dominating cultures invented terms such as the "Jewish Question" or the "Armenian Question." They are the problem of the persecutors. The perpetrators invent these problems; they have it in their power to solve them.
Hilsenrath introduces the pseudoscientific racist discourse by a German anthropologist at the turn of the century, who speculates about an ancient, racially superior native population in contemporary Turkey. Coached by his Turkish conversation partner, he concludes with the politically convenient condemnation of the Armenians'genetic makeup. This argument parallels similar statements maligning Jews by scientists such as Hans F. K. Gunther.63 The anthropologist uses as his demonstration object the three hanged men. This episode encapsulates the essence of racist ideology: objectification and extermination of the "other," the use and production of dead people for pseudoscience.
Hilsenrath insistently places discussions of state affairs, such as dealing with classified materials, next to discussions of digestion and excretion.64 Crudeness in the vicinity of administrative jargon not only indicates the low esteem in which he holds ideology and politics, but also points out their concrete physical origins and effects. Accordingly, he portrays as simple the impulses underlying the discourse of those in power.
The dual function of literary characters as types and individuals is a vital aspect of Marchen vom letzten Gedanken. Naturalistic, psychologically "correct" portrayal is not the object. While Hilsenrath does not disavow individualism as a value -compare, for instance, the Austrian satirist Elfriede Jelinek, who denies its possibility and desirability in contemporary society -he strives for a balance between the paradigmatic and the unique. Characters represent both themselves and their group. Any psychology that makes the attempt to standardize human behavior is suspended. In keeping with his conviction that people know what they do and why they do it, he disallows such phenomena as repression and sublimation. Hilsenrath leaves no escape from direct and personal responsibility.
Causality is rejected with regard to not only psychology but also history. Genocide is shown to be an end in itself. While its proponents are plotting with the tools of reason and logic, they are not rational people. The breakdown of their logic is demonstrated in circular arguments, such as the one between father and son about the "hatmen," which ends with the father's capitulation: "The reasons make no difference. Is it not enough that the brim of the hat made him angry?"65 The search for causes and explanations are, here and elsewhere, relegated to the realm of children, fairy tales, and historiography; adults have learned to accept and arrange themselves with facts. Irrationality, however, is not ascribed exclusively to the oppressors, but presented as an integral part of human nature.
A close, albeit empathetic, look at Armenian society reveals gross prejudice, oppression, and injustice evidenced by the bias against the Kurds, as well as sexism and the exploitation of women.66 The assumption on the part of Thovma's grandfather that a pre-teenage Kurdish girl is fair game, the public punishment of the adulteress, and the fattening up of Wartan's bride before the wedding exemplify some of the inequities. Women are perceived only fragmentarily. Because of her inferior status as a woman, Wartan's bride is rarely referred to by her own name, rather defined as daughter or bride. Her buttocks, ever growing because of the baklava diet imposed on her, not the girl, are the object of Wartan's desire.67 Wartan's second wife, Anahit, on the other hand, may have a name, but lacks both fat and face. Her value increases with her pregnancy.
Hilsenrath's portrayal of the persecuted group differs from texts that paint the victims of genocide as exceptionally good people, and their culture as superior to that of their killers. Such idealization occurs occasionally in Holocaust texts by German mainstream writers and is generally achieved in two ways. While some authors do not critically examine and correct traditional stereotypes but reassess them as positive, others create unrealistic, often female Jewish protagonists, products of their own fantasies. Such works are flawed by the assumption that genocide is wrong because it destroys morally good people. In Hilsenrath, neither Turkish nor Armenian society, neither Turkish nor Armenian individuals are exemplary, not even universally desirable.68 What calls for compassion with the Armenians is their suffering, as well as the absence of an Armenian army and a fanatic Armenian ideology. Compared to the Turks, the Armenians are portrayed as politically naive and disorganized. Turkish society, on the other hand, is distorted by chauvinism and delusions of grandeur.69
Otherwise, the Armenians are not depicted as qualitatively different from the Turks, since this would imply a kind of reverse racism on the part of the narrator. However, it is suggested that such racism governs world opinion. The hesitation abroad to send assistance to the Armenians was caused by political considerations rather than ignorance or disbelief of the massacres. Every effort was made to discredit sources informing about the Armenian tragedy, even Henry Morgenthau, because he happened to be Jewish and American. While Turkish antiArmenian propaganda, for instance, about the riots at Van, was blatantly one-sided, foreign commissions and politicians chose to accept it on face value because of their economic interests in the former Ottoman territories. Once again, the parallels with the Holocaust are striking: the international rejection of information about the atrocities committed by the Germans.
Economic interests held by nations and individuals overrode moral concerns. With great irony, Hilsenrath describes different approaches to the business of enriching oneself through the misfortunes of one's neighbors. While the masses go looting without restraint, the public officials requisition the leftovers. The privileged, however, do not plunder at all:
No, not all Moslems plundered houses. Refined Moslems had already been there while the drummers marched through the city and everyone knew for whom the bell had tolled. They purchased what they could buy for a pittance. Many Armenians gave to the refined Moslems quite a few items for free and asked them to keep them until their return.70
While Hilsenrath characterizes particular ways of stealing as classspecific, the phenomenon itself is universal. He also mentions Greeks and Jews, not only Moslems, as taking advantage of the situation.
Hilsenrath interprets the two genocides of the twentieth century in the broadest terms. His view corresponds with Dekmejian's: "Genocide is a part of the human condition." 71 Being Armenian is not defined in exclusively ethnic terms, but as a condition that results from life, from being treated as Armenian, from having developed the sensitivities of an Armenian. These are produced by the experiences of insecurity, oppression, fear, a mixture of compliance and rebellion, the precarious balance of self-assertion and assimilation. Such assimilation ironically had its peak during the early phase of the Young Turkish government that preceded the genocide.72 Again, the parallel with the German Jewish situation is obvious: in the twentieth century, the German Jews had become almost indistinguishable from non-Jewish Germans.
Ironically, in both genocides the atrocities were initiated by nations which, because of their geographic locations, had come to be considered outposts of Western civilization: Turkey during the radical westernization under Atatiirk 73 vis-a-vis the Middle East; Germany and Austria vis-a-vis Eastern Europe. And thus it was not the feared barbarians (Kurds play a similar role in Armenian lore as do the Cossacks in Jewish lore), but Turks and Germans, who planned and perpetrated the most heinous crimes of the twentieth century. Hilsenrath's cultural criticism attacks the commonly held idea that westernization and technology are a manifestation of human progress.
The cycle of oppression and persecution exposed in Hilsenrath's novel is enough to set the readers' heads spinning. There is no improvement of the human condition; there are only role changes. After the demise of the Armenians, the victims of the next genocide are the Jews, while the instigators in the former case have become the perpetrators in the latter. Previous perpetrators become victims: Turks living in Germany and Austria, the countries of their former allies, are exploited as foreign workers; Kurds form a contemporary diaspora; and the Germans, once the gray eminence behind Turkish nationalism, by now losers of two world wars, are colonizers and are colonized at the same time. A constant flow of oppression from West to East leads not only to individual, but also to national assimilation, as evidenced by Turkey after 1923 and Europe after 1945.
Hilsenrath's Marchen vom letzten Gedanken is a powerful artistic statement against all forms of oppression. In addition to racism and nationalist arrogance, Hilsenrath isolates inequality, poverty, and ignorance, but above all, dishonesty, as factors contributing to genocide. The dynamics of oppression and submission are present in all enclaves of society and thus difficult to combat, although Hilsenrath argues that to avoid further genocides they must be eradicated. Wars and genocides will continue as long as relationships are arrangements between exploiters and exploited, be it between males and females, males and weaker males, adults and children, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, majority and minority. Until this point in history, the stronger have not been able to resist taking advantage of the weaker, to refrain from unnecessary violence and killing. Hilsenrath confronts his readers with what seems the ultimate temptation in the human realm: domination and elimination of the defenseless, destroying life gratuitously.
This temptation presents the ultimate challenge for the future. Like Elias Canetti, Hilsenrath rejects even seemingly justified violence.74 Any situation in which human beings are oppressed is rejected as counterproductive even for the oppressors. The perpetrators of genocide also have to live in the impoverished world they created, disfiguring themselves by their lies and rationalizations. Their crimes do not bring them the desired advantages; the stolen fortunes do not cure their economic problems nor satisfy their greed. The example of Thovma Khatisian shows that there is only one choice in a world where he can be a Turkish perpetrator, a disinterested Swiss, or a persecuted Armenian.
1. Richard G. Hovannisian, "The Armenian Genocide and Patterns of Denial," in The Armenian Genocide in Perspective, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian (New Brunswick and Oxford, 1986), pp. 120-21, elaborates that the 1934 filming of Werfel's novel in Hollywood by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer evoked Turkish protests. As a result, the State Department got involved, and the Turkish embassy was authorized to censor the script before filming began. Continued Turkish activities caused the film to be suppressed until 1982, when it was released by a group of private Armenian businessmen.
2. Hilsenrath, Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken, pp. 138.
3. Heinrich Vierbiicher, Was die kaiserliche Regierung den deutschen Untertanen verschwiegen hat: Armenian 1915. Die Abschlachtung eines Kulturvolkes durch die Tiirken (Bremen, 1985; original publ. 1930), p. 34.
4. See, for example, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Hundred Years of Solitude (New York, 1970).
5. Vierbdcher, Armenian 1915, p. 80: "The Turks not only murdered but also robbed the Armenians in 1915. The value of the stolen cash and valuables amounted to many hundred million gold marks. Of this stolen money, the Turks transferred 100 million gold marks to Berlin as gold guarantee for their currency."
6. Hilsenrath, Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, pp. 502-3.
7. Ibid., p. 506.
8. Edgar Hilsenrath, Der Nazi und der Friseur (Cologne, 1977). This is a novel about a Nazi mass murderer, Max Schutz, who successfully impersonates his boyhood friend and Holocaust victim Finkelstein, and becomes a respected Israeli citizen and freedom fighter.
9. Hilsenrath, Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, p. 32.
10. Ibid., p. 77.
11. Ibid., p. 21.
12. Joe Verhoeven, "The Armenian People and International Law," in The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, A Crime of Silence: The Armenian Genocide (London, 1986), p. 209.
13. Pierre Vidal-Naquet, "By Way of a Preface and by the Power of One Word," in Crime of Silence, p. 3.
14. Walter Benjamin, "Ober den Begriff der Geschichte," Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schwepphauser (Frankfurt, 1974), vol. 1/2, p. 695:
Das wahre Bild der Vergangenheit huscht vorbei. Nur als Bild das auf Nimmerwiedersehen im Augenblick seiner Erkennbarkeit eben aufblitzt, ist die Vergangenheit festzuhalten. "Die Wahrheit wird uns nicht davonlaufen" - dieses Wort, das von Gottfried Keller starnmt, bezeichnet im Geschichtsbild des Historismus genau die Stelle, an der es vorn historischen Materialismus durchschlagen wird. Denn es ist ein unwiederbringliches Bild der Vergangenheit, clas mit jecler Gegenwart zu verschwunden droht, die sich nicht als in ihm gerneint erkarmte.
15. R. Hrair Dekmejian, "Determinants of Genocide: Armenians and Jews as Case Studies," in Armenian Genocide in Perspective, pp. 87-88, mentions striking parallels between the republic of the Young Turks and Nazi Ger- many, including details such as the mechanics of genocide, cattle-car transports followed by death marches and concentration camps. Both in the Ottoman and German cases the raison detre to perform genocide was embedded in the official justification ideologies espoused by the re- spective political entities, i.e., Pan-Turanism and National Socialism. Ide- ologies that not only condone but specifically prescribe genocidal "solutions" are reflective of serious social discontinuities. He points out that both the Turkish and German societies were experi- encing traumas leading to "a pervasive crisis in identity among Turks and Germans." The differences in both cases were, according to Dekmejian, the result of the developmental disparities between the Ottoman Empire and Nazi Germany. While the Jews in Germany were perceived as a racial and economic threat, the Armenians in Turkey were seen as an econon-dc and political danger (p. 94).
16. Ruth Beckermann, Unzugehdrig: Osterreicher und Juden nach 1945. (Vienna, 1989), p. 125, describes the difficulties she, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, experienced when discussing her point of view, even with progressive intellectuals in Vienna. "On the one hand, we had to fight against the deep-seated prejudice that all Jews were rich; on the other hand, we wanted compassion and empathy. And we were granted those only if we conformed to the anti-fascist ideology which focused on Victims of Fascism. In secret we hoped that the others would also think a little of the Jews when they raged against fascism."
17. Recent apologetic publications (often Turkish) list in detail presumed Armenian rebellions while classifying genocide as an act of war, thus imitating the denial of the Holocaust by German revisionists. See Halil Kemal Tdrkozu, Armenian Atrocity: According to Ottoman and Russian Documents (Ankara, 1986), published by the Institute for the Study of Turkish Culture; and Kamuran Giiriin, The Armenian File: The Myth of Innocence Exposed (London, Nicosia, Istanbul, 1986).
18. Dickran Kouymjian, "The Destruction of Armenian Historical Monuments as a Continuation of the Turkish Policy of Genocide," in Crime of Silence, p. 173.
19. Hilsenrath, Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken, p. 32. 20. Erich Feigl, A Myth of Terror: Armenian Extremism. Its Causes and Its Historical Context (Freilassing and Salzburg, 1986) is such a revisionist publication. It abounds with misleading details. A photo supposedly illustrating the presumed "expansionist campaign into Anatolia" by the Armenians in 1919 is even in color, probably from a film (pp. 106 et al.).
The work follows the standard Turkish argumentation that denies the genocide. According to Feigl, the death marches into the deserts and the concentration camps of Mesopotamia were a part of a legitimate relocation program (see map inside cover). While the Armenians are denounced as terrorists who made genocidal attempts on the Turkish majority, the Moslems are portrayed as culturally superior victims (pp. 88ff.). Feigl compares the Armenians to the Nazis (pp. 78-79) and proclaims all and any Armenian documentation as forgery. Vidal-Naquet, "By Way of a Preface," p. 4, summarizes this type of argument: "There has not been a genocide of the Armenians; this genocide was fully justified; the Armenians massacred themselves; it was they who massacred the Turks." Playing on greed and materialist jealousy, Feigl includes photos of luxurious buildings to drive home the point that Armenians were pros- perous and thus guilty of a world conspiracy, as is repeatedly insinuated, for instance, when Armenian-American as well as Armenian-Russian relations are slanderously exposed. Hilsenrath pokes fun at the notion of such a conspiracy in Wartan Khatisian's American experiences and the episodes in his uncle's shady Sarajevo coffeehouse. Feigl's book contains passages that vilify Armenians as a group. He cites instances of contem- porary Armenian "terrorism" out of context to justify the Turkish mas- sacres retroactively. He goes so far as to deny the existence of an Armenian people and an Armenian identity. He describes Armenians as allies of the Soviet Union ("Armenian terrorism is, willingly or unwillingly, still today offering its services to Russian superpower politics," p. 72), as Marxists (p. 69), and as "rebels" (p. 73), who ultimately brought upon themselves their demise (pp. 74f.). He dismisses scholarship contradicting his find- ings, suggesting that authors expressing pro-Armenian points of view do so out of fear of becoming the targets of Armenian terrorism (pp. 6 et al.).
21. Hilsenrath, Mdrchen vom,etzten Gedanken, p. 174.
22. "Despite great protest against an event that honors Hitler's killer elite, Ronald Reagan goes on record as saying that between the murderers and their victims there is no distinction; that the crimes of the past are better forgotten; and that this vastly powerful signal to the world - the champion of holocaustal weapons absolving the agents of the Holocaust- is 'morally right.'.. The contempt for history is plain to see." Terrence Des Pres, "Remembering Armenia," in Armenian Genocide in Perspective, p. 9.
23. Waldheim's election posters suggested conscious defiance of world opinion. As Josef Haslinger, Politik der Geffihle: Ein Essay aber Osterreich (Darmstadt and Neuwied, 1987), p. 44, points out, Waldheim's effective campaign was undertaken by the American advertisement company Young and Rubicam. This election campaign in the spring and early summer of 1986 was fought with right-wing rhetoric, slogans reminiscent of Nazi propaganda that appealed on a variety of levels to Austrian anti- semitism. Haslinger analyzes the notion of duty as advanced by Waldheim. and his followers, namely the duty to collaborate with the Nazi occupiers; and the symbolism used to activate latent antisemitism, for instance, the defamation of the World Jewish Congress, the use of a shade of yellow suggestive of the hue of the yellow star in election posters, and reminders of the Kristallnacht, which for a large number of mainstream Austrians may still give rise to euphoric recall (pp. 27ff.).
Beckermann, Unzugehbrig, p. 58, observes that the Austrian majority had an unspoken consensus not to change the situation that had been created by the expulsion and killing of Jews. In 1948 persons who had stolen or acquired property from Jews well below its actual value organized an association to prevent the return of such property, the Verband der RUckstellungsbetroffenen (p. 91). Nowhere had unauthorized raids on property owned by Jews occurred more spontaneously and enthusiastically than in Vienna.
24. For information about the Historikerstreit, see Rudolf Augstein and others, Historikerstreit: Die Dokumentation der Kontroverse um die Einzigartigkeit der nationalsozialistischen Judenvernichtung (Munich, 1987).
25. Conversation with Edgar Hilsenrath, Columbus, OH, 6 Nov. 1987.
26. Edgar Hilsenrath, Nacht (Munich, 1964; Cologne, 1978).
27. Der Nazi und der Friseur concerns the confession of the mass murderer Max Schulz to the retired judge Wolfgang Richter in Jerusalem.
28. Hilsenrath, Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken, pp. 12-13.
29. The barbershop of Finkelstein's stepfather or father in contrast was filthy and unsuccessful.
30. Dickran H. Boyajian, Armenia: The Case for a Forgotten Genocide (Westwood, NJ, 1972), p. 56.
31. Abdul Hamid 11 (1876-1909), who acquired the reputation as the worst tyrant of his century, assumed the Turkish sultanate in 1876 and lost a sizable territory to Russia in 1878. He instigated large-scale massacres of Armenians in 1895-1896. Within the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Hamid was opposed particularly by junior military officers and the faculties of the technical institutes who united in the Committee of Union and Progress, commonly known as Young Turks.
32. Hilsenrath, Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, p. 200.
33. Ibid., p. 205.
34. Ibid., p. 180.
35. Ibid., p. 200. The legend is told in detail in Boyajian, Armenia, pp. 57ff.
36. Hilsenrath, Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, pp. 180 et al.
37. Ibid., p. 184.
38. Ibid., p. 190.
39. Ibid., pp. 189ff.
40. Ibid., pp. 219ff.
41. Ibid., p. 179.
42. Ibid., p. 5, introduces a rhetoric that is reminiscent of German Jewish authors: "The holy land of the Armenians ... where Christ was crucified a second time." In the poetry of Else Lasker-Schiller, Nelly Sachs, and Paul Celan, the notion that the Jews, who were persecuted throughout the centuries, were the real followers of Christ is a recurrent theme. On p. 7 the supposed cunning of Greeks, Jews, and Armenians is alluded to, while the trait that actually connects them, the oppression by Islamic rulers, goes unmentioned. In another passage (p. 15), a profession often identified as Jewish, that of the psychiatrist, is ascribed to Armenians while the Turks are cast in the role of the analysands because of their repressed guilt.
43. Ibid., p. 77.
44. Ibid., p. 16. The Turkish prime minister claims that the reports about the genocide were merely lying fairy tales (Lugenmarchen), just as the Nazis declared the news about the oppression and murder of Jews as defamatory propaganda (Greuelpropaganda).
45. Ibid., p. 18: "Me archivist said, one should not take the dust off forgetting. That is too dangerous."
46. Ibid., p. 19.
47. Ibid.: "Only much later I began talking about myself." Significantly, the assembly hall is empty when the narrator begins to talk about himself.
48. Ibid., p. 55: "He will have no time to pack his belongings once the great Tebk arrives-that is, the word Armenians use to describe a special event ... also a great misfortune or a massacre. He does not even have time to dig a grave for his slain children. Or his wife. Or his parents and grandparents. All he can do is run."
49. Ibid., p. 80.
50. Ibid., pp. 38-39.
51. Ibid., p. 75. In the same way, Dr. Josef Mengele has been described as a sensitive, even beautiful man.
52. Ibid., p. 76.
53. A similar interest is evident in Vierbucher's publication Armenian 1915, which supports the Armenians primarily because of their cultural tradition. See the subtitle: Die Abschlachtung eines Kulturvolkes durch die Turken (The Slaughter of a Civilized Nation by the Turks). The Major's latent antiMoslem bias is also found in Vierbilcher's book.
54. This bathroom sphere is depicted as particularly unsavory in the case of the nationalist Young Turks: "A spacious, democratic, big toilet, one with ten holes for ten behinds, preventing standing in line, just the right thing for the era of the Young Tukish revolution." Hilsenrath, Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, p. 104. Such latrines were also typical of German concentration camps.
55. Ibid., p. 113.
56. Ibid., pp. 161, 208.
57. Ibid., p. 308: "Human beings are equal over there, and everyone has the same rights. Only the Negroes are an exception, since they are not really human, but tamed monkeys ... And therefore, understandably, white men with black hoods had come at night and got the monkey out of bed and hanged him right away. That is the way it happened. But otherwise, everything is all right over there."
58. Ibid., pp. 261-62, 307, 311.
59. Ibid., pp. 120, 198, 223, 332. See the lullaby "Roszinkes mit mandeln."
60. Immediately after World War 1, the Berlin Scheunenviertel -like the Leopoldstadt in Vienna, a poor, predominantly Eastern European Jewish quarter -was raided by antisernites several times.
61. Hilsenrath, Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, p. 377.
62. Ibid., P. 97.
63. Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes (Munich, 1929), p. 63.
64. See, for example, Hilsenrath, Marchen vom letzten Gedanken, p. 101.
65. Ibid., p. 11.
66. Ibid., p. 268: "There are things that are below the dignity of a man."
67. Ibid., pp. 274, 294 ff.
68. Islam is not discussed at all, but rather seen from the outside, while serious criticism is launched against Christianity from which the narrator quite obviously distances himself.
69. Dekmejian, "Determinants of Genocide," p. 88.
70. Hilsenrath, Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken, p. 430.
71. Dekmejian, "Determinants of Genocide," p. 95.
72. Hilsenrath, Mdrchen vom letzten Gedanken, p. 366.
73. Among others, the Latin alphabet was adopted for the Turkish language, and the veil for women and the fez for men were outlawed.
74. Elias Canetti, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1981, dedicated his life work, Masse und Macht (Frankfurt, 1980), to the cause of radical pacifism, which precluded all killing -even the killing of Nazi criminals. In Hilsenrath's Der Nazi und der Friseur, the judge and Holocaust survivor Wolfgang Richter, who to a degree represents the author's view, cannot find an adequate punishment for the mass murderer, least of all a death sentence.