8 Februrary 2005
BERLIN – Defusing a row after alleged Turkish pressure forced removal of the Armenian genocide from German public school curriculums, a state premier said on Tuesday the 1915 killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians would be again be taught in history classes.
Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Matthias Platzeck admitted it had been a mistake to remove all mention of the genocide from his state’s education ministry website curriculum planner.
The Armenian genocide – which had been used as the only example in history classes other than the Holocaust – will now be returned to high schools along with other cases of 20th century genocide, he said.
Platzeck denied media reports that he ordered removal of the Armenian genocide from his schools after strong pressure from a Turkish diplomat.
“None of that happened,” said Platzeck.
Platzeck made his announcement after a meeting with Armenia’s ambassador to Germany, Karine Kazinian, who had expressed deep anger over the move.
“The key point is that the genocide and everything that happened back then is being clearly addressed,” said Ambassador Kazinian.
The row began last month after Turkey’s Consul in Berlin, Aydin Durusay, raised the issue of Armenian massacres with regard to Brandenburg which is so far the only one of Germany’s 16 federal states, which described the killings as “genocide” in its official public school curriculum.
Most European and US historians say up to 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed by Moslem Ottoman Turks during World War I and that this was a genocide.
Eight European Union (EU) parliaments including France and the Netherlands – but not Germany – have passed resolutions declaring the deaths genocide.
Turkey, however, firmly rejects the genocide label and has long insisted far fewer Armenians died or otherwise succumbed during World War I. More recently it has moderated its tone somewhat and said the matter should be cleared up by a historical commission.
With about two million resident ethnic Turks, Germany is cautious about any issue which could disturb ties with its biggest minority.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is a firm supporter of Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
Platzeck is a rising star in Chancellor’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) and is tipped by some as a possible successor to Schroeder.