Cemal Pasha’s Grandson Says Genocide, Morgenthau’s Great Granddaughter Doesn’t

Harut Sassounian


Hundreds of Armenians turned out at UCLA last Thursday night to hear with great apprehension Hasan Cemal, the grandson of Cemal Pasha — one of the top three Turkish butchers of the Armenian nation. This unique and controversial event, titled “From Der Zor to Dzidzernagapert: A Conversation with Hasan Cemal,” was organized by AGBU Asbeds.

Understandably, there was great tension in the air. The large hall was filled to capacity and many were turned away due to lack of room. The presence of armed policemen and security guards inside the hall was both reassuring and disturbing. Cemal confirmed that he was cautioned against coming to Los Angeles, but fortunately everything proceeded calmly. The most shocking thing that evening was not what Cemal said, but what another speaker, Dr. Pamela Steiner, the great granddaughter of Amb. Henry Morgenthau, did not say!

Kurken Berksanlar, Chairman of ABGU Asbeds, welcomed everyone to “an open-minded conversation.” While admitting that some Armenians view with great suspicion Turks who acknowledge the Genocide, he believed that “progressive” Turks, who are speaking openly about the evens of 1915…, appear to be above and beyond the reach and control of today’s Turkish government.” Berksanlar then introduced the keynote speaker Hasan Cemal and the two discussants, Dr. Pamela Steiner, and Prof. Richard Hovannisian.

A columnist at Milliyet newspaper, Cemal immediately won over his skeptical audience by greeting them in Armenian — “parev harkeli paregamner” — and telling them: “I came here to open my heart and open my mind to you…. I know your pain, your grief of Genocide, your grief of Meds Yeghern.” Ignoring Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which bans the use of the term Armenian Genocide, he courageously repeated those words several more times during his talk. He also condemned the Turkish government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, calling it “colluding in the crime!”

Cemal described his deeply moving 2008 visit to the Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan, where he laid three carnations in memory of his close friend, Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist who was assassinated in Istanbul by Turkish extremists. While visiting Yerevan, he had a startling encounter with Armen Gevorkyan, grandson of the man who in 1922 assassinated his grandfather, Cemal Pasha.

Cemal described the progress made in Turkey during the past three decades on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, going from total denialism to an apology campaign, restoration of Armenian churches, and holding academic conferences on this topic. He asked Armenians to come to Turkey to participate in the “recovery of memory.” He urged them never to forget the past, without becoming its captives.

While Cemal’s candid remarks left a good impression on the audience, Dr. Steiner turned off the attendees with her adamant and intentional refusal to use the word genocide. Instead, she used such typical Turkish denialist terminology as “tragedy,” “suffering,” and “events of 1915.” As director of the Inter-Communal Trust-Building Project, she spoke about “possible steps towards building trust between Armenians and Turks.” She stunned the audience by asking Armenians to acknowledge that “the Turkish people [who] suffered horrendously during World War I … need and deserve acknowledgment for that!” As if that request was not outrageous enough, she went on to urge Armenians to “consider acknowledging Turkish suffering before they receive an acknowledgment for theirs!”

During the question and answer period, when I pointed out the irony of Cemal Pasha’s grandson freely using the term Armenian Genocide, while the great granddaughter of Amb. Morgenthau would not, Dr. Steiner’s response was inadequate. Her justification was that she was playing the role of a “facilitator,” seeking “conciliation” between Armenians and Turks.

The final discussant, Prof. Hovannisian, in a stern voice, gave a polite, yet powerful response to the previous speakers. He told Hasan Cemal that the large Armenian audience had come not to listen to him as a Turkish journalist, but as the grandson of Cemal Pasha. He explained that understanding the Turkish perpetrators’ mindset cannot in any way justify their actions. He cautioned everyone not to equate Armenian suffering resulting from intentional destruction with the suffering of Turks as a result of war. He emphasized that Armenians were seeking not only recognition, but, more importantly, restitution of their confiscated properties. He urged the Turkish government to return the hundreds of Armenian churches in Turkey to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul. Finally, in a direct allusion to Dr. Steiner, Prof. Hovannisian emphasized that “conciliation” required “acts of contrition.” His remarks were greeted with a standing ovation.

I found Cemal to be both candid and brave. He could have easily avoided the use of the term Armenian Genocide, maintaining that doing so could land him in jail. However, he made no excuses and used the genocide term several times. Considering his grandfather responsible for “the Great Catastrophe,” he described today’s Turkey as “a manic-depressive country!”

Although it is not easy to forget that Hasan Cemal is the grandson of one of the three masterminds of the Armenian Genocide, it would be wrong to hold children responsible for the sins of their parents. His position has dramatically evolved since his Boston appearance two years ago, when he avoided the term Armenian Genocide. I asked him privately at the end of his UCLA talk if he was not concerned that he could be taken to court for using the word genocide. Even though he said he did not think so, he found it important enough to mention my concern in a column he wrote in Milliyet upon his return to Istanbul.

The only sour note in Cemal’s words that evening was his rejection of demands for the return of Armenian territories from Turkey. Nevertheless, it is not surprising to hear a Turk, no matter how tolerant, defend his country’s territorial integrity. He did state, however, that the Turkish government should apologize to Armenians and pay compensation to them.

On the other hand, Dr. Steiner, as a Jewish-American and direct descendant of Amb. Morgenthau, cannot be excused for her persistent refusal to use the term genocide, despite her self-avowed good intentions. Anyone who does not acknowledge the truth of the Armenian Genocide loses the moral authority to play a constructive role in Armenian-Turkish relations. One cannot remain neutral between a victim and victimizer. She should heed the wise words of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel who stated: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim!”

As facilitator between the two communities, Dr. Steiner probably believes that she should not take sides. But telling the truth is not taking sides between Armenians and Turks, anymore than acknowledging the Holocaust is siding with Jews. Furthermore, it is not clear what exactly her role is as facilitator. Genocide is not a dispute that requires the services of a mediator. How can she reconcile two nations without the victimizer first making amends for what her own great grandfather called “The Murder of a Nation!”

Two days after her talk at UCLA, Dr. Steiner sent me a lengthy e-mail explaining further her role as facilitator and insisting that Amb. Morgenthau would have supported her work. I cannot pretend to know her great grandfather better than her, but being familiar with the Ambassador’s humanitarian efforts during and after the Genocide, I have no doubt that he would have done everything possible to bring justice to Armenians, rather than remaining neutral between the perpetrators and their victims.

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  1. Halo said:

    Yet another idiot (Pamela Steiner) trying to play political correctness with the murder of the Armenian nation. Pathetic, really, as clearly she has come out a fool, not a “facilitator”. We don’t need the (dis)services of the likes of these pseudo-intellectuals like Pamela Steiner; she can pack up and join the Turkish Coalition and continue her denialist rhetoric disguised as “fairness” along with her other “I will do anything for money” tribesmen.

  2. ARA said:

    Come on- we know better- Her grandfather was honest and the declared holocaust had not taken place in Gernany yet-She is ignorant for sure of the real happenins as she was not there and Y would she care or support non-0jewish cultures etc- but a good Jew and supporter of Israel- she certainly is-
    they continue to act (some of them) as though they only suffered a Genocide- we know- she is only defending her Israel-why would she or they care for us-they sell arms to the azeris and other stuff-tons of it-I got the proof- she is lucky to be alive-the Germs were trying to kil em all-like the Turks us- if the Jews admit or support that-they diminish their role- I guess I can only say they are human and looking our for their own- which is what WE MUST ALWAYS do

  3. Natalie said:

    As a Native American I am very happy to read that Pasha’s grandson had the fortitude to stand up and say the truth. Only true heals.

  4. Zareh Sahakian said:

    One thing is clear, Armenian organizers of this event did not do their homework. They naively thought inviting anyone associated with the name “Amb. Morgenthau” is an honest individual. How amateur of us, again!!

    The only way we can redeem ourselves is to show this individual that there are consequences in permitting oneself to appear in an Armenian Genocide conference and lecture us about “Turkish suffering” and go as far as saying “even before any Turks acknowledging Armenian suffering”. How dare she permit herself to express her anti-Armenian remarks and go home with a confident sense of accomplishment.

    As a consequence to her open hostility, we should do our best to discredit her and render her a useless “academic”, these people only understand when it hits them in their pocket.

    Just imagine if an Armenian academic appeared in a Jewish-organized event and talked about German suffering all the while avoiding the words “Holocaust” or “Showa”, s/he would be torn to pieces.

    This event, unfortunately, also shows how weak our adversaries believe we are.

  5. Puzant said:

    Frankly I am not upset for what Morgenthau’s great granddaughter said or did not say,because simply
    she does not represent much. It is like when you are hungry and broke, some one gives you a penny and
    says go have lunch on me…
    Like the penny which does not buy you lunch. so does she means nothing to me …

  6. manooshag said:

    Who recommended such as a Steiner, who evidently, shows no pride in the fact that her forbear was an American Ambassodor and, too, has not read his book – his own words of his years as the American Ambassador dealing with the barbaric leaderships of a Turkey. It is common for Jews to take on names for themselves to suit the lands in which they reside… howsomever, it is disturbing to see that Armenians continue to use their obviously Turkic names – out of a turkey – and not changed.

  7. Manoog Two said:

    Some of us have been telling the Armenian American media for about 3 years to look into Steiner’s mini-TARC sessions between Turks and Armenians being held in the Boston area.
    We have been ignored time after time.

  8. ST. ECHMIADZIN said:

    We should ignore the granddaughter of the ambasador and never invite her any Armenian events . Just ignore the hore.

  9. Tigran said:

    we will find solution with turks if jews stay out of it. we don’t need them to meddle in our affairs for sure. Facilitator??? do we really need one, we can meet with turks directly, without any jewish “help”.

    • manooshag said:

      the Israeli/Turkish alliances on again/off again….
      especially a people that has suffered a Genocide to
      ally with a perpetrator of Genocides… they deserve each other!

  10. Enver jr. said:

    I think you should stop this discussion otherwise it will continue for centuries, yes there are some bad events, some can name it genocide but now we have to start to say new things for peace.
    We have to forget the damned past it has nothing to do with that.
    What are you planning to get from this genocide?
    It is done it is finished, armenians.What happens in 1915 stays in 1915.
    And i advice you focus on your poor country which is placed middle east -what are you guys doing in usa?- there are poor people and they need job, food and a democracy.
    Will you give them these from usa? No, its far away.But dont be afraid i am going to give them all.

    • Nigol "t" said:

      Enver djan, a discussion ends when there is a conclusion and to a conclusion we will reach when Turkey admits and repatriates, my friend. You want to give us “jobs, food and democracy” ?? just like you took away “jobs” from the Arab countries by dumping your cheap products, sold them “food” by cutting off their waterways so you can fill up your dams and instigated fake revolutions all over the Arab world, no thank you. We will create our own “jobs” with investments from diaspora Armenians, plant our own food in our own fertile land, as far as democracy is concerned, one day the western world will understand that democracy is built and not artificially implanted, we will build our own, thank you for your concern.

    • murat said:

      Enver Jr. ocourse you were not born than. yet.. There is a Genocide here .. more than a million Armenians were living at Eastern Turkey.. and look now how many of Armenians lives there?.. why do not ask these questions?.. Armenians had thousand of churches, schools and how many stands now?.. and who got them? what happened the properties of those Armenians that went to Syrians deserts?……….and why did the Enver, Talat, Cemal did this?..
      It is not that simple as Trukish Government says?..
      this can end when Turks admits what they did…………………….Genocide does not have a statu of limitation……..
      have a nice day.

  11. arziv said:

    A blunder of unpreparedeness. This ignorant woman, or cowardly person, should have been screened before letting her lose on the podium. We do not need knee jerk scarecrows to adorn our galleries and functions in memory of the martyrs.

  12. ArdeVast Atheian said:

    It is very touching to witness how Muslims and Christians in Yugoslavia have buried the hatchet and reconciled into a single communities again. I am sure we and the Turks are capable of doing the same. I’d love to embrace Turks and to reconcile however I could never forget how my father used to take me by the banks of the Euphrates river in Deir Zohr where I was born and show me the shorelines where the Armenians used to be slaughtered by the thousands like so much of a wasted cattle.
    Jews have never experienced a holocaust in the hands of Muslims only because they have never had a land dispute with them. Jews have always enjoyed overwhelming power and wealth in Christian countries dominating their politics and every aspect of their life enough to cause resentment.

  13. Edward Demian said:

    I wonder what the Jews would think if the world were to say: ” the Jews need to acknowlege German suffering during WW2, before expecting an apology from the Germans.” Or, it was not a holocost but some incidental and unfortunate losess; far fewer than German, Polish or Russian losses”.

  14. Gevork said:

    If Turks and Armenians want to deal with thier mutual past, perhaps they would both be better served without Non-Turkish and Non-Armenian middlemen. In the context of some of the stuff I’ve seen on the internet with regards to the background of the organizers of the genocide, I’m not surprised at Ms. Stiener, I get the feeling it isn’t only some Turks who may feel they have something to loose by acknowledging the past.