National Geographic's article on Genocide (January 2006)

Azad-Hye, Dubai, 18 January 2006: The “National Georgraphic” magazine's article on genocide (“Genocide and the Science of Proof”, by Lewis Simons, January 2006) mentions the Armenian Genocide by one line only, without providing any information about the historical setting and the mechanism in which it was carried on.


We believe that it is important for the reader to have a clear view about the intents of the leading “Young Turk” politicians such as Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha, who masterminded the Genocide against the Armenians during WWI. Any in-depth article about the subject of the genocide should contain far more information about the Armenian experience than what National Geographic had offered.


Below is a letter by Alfred de Zayas, J.D., Ph.D, a Geneva based professor of international law, in which he mentions some of the most inhuman acts in recent history, asking the Editors of the “National Geographic” to consider them as part of any genocide related studies or reports.




National Geographic Magazine

PO Box 98199

Washington DC 20090-8199


Dear Editors,


As a professor of international law (I hold a J.D. from Harvard and currently teach at the Geneva School of Diplomacy) and history (I hold a Ph.D. in history from the University of G?ttingen and currently teach the history of genocide at the American College of Switzerland), I find the article by Lewis Simons disappointing and well below the standard of what National Geographic readers may expect.


Forensic medicine is a tool in determining certain aspects of war crimes, but the crucial test of genocide is the ?intent? to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic or religious group.   


When it comes to ?intent? to destroy a group, you find strong examples of genocidal animus in the policies of the Ottoman Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha and Minister of War Enver Pasha with regard to the extermination of the non-Islamic population of the Ottoman Empire, the Armenians, the Assyrian Christians and the Greek orthodox 1915-1922. 


A particularly grotesque example of ?ethnic cleansing? in the 20th century, which Mr. Simons completely ignores, was the destruction of the 700-year old German settlements in Central Europe through the brutal expulsion of 15 million men women and children from their homelands in East Prussia, Pomerania, East Brandenburg, Silesia, the Bohemian Sudetenland, the German villages and towns of Moravia, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Romania.  More than two million Germans perished in this largest demographic catastrophe in the 20th century.


As abundantly shown in the available archival documents, in the public statements of President Eduard Benes of Czechoslovakia, President Boleslaw Bierut of Poland and Marshal Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, and in the execution of the expulsion policy ? including the internment of tens of thousands of Germans and the deportation to the Soviet Union as forced labour of over one million of them as ?reparations in kind?, there was clear intent to kill many Germans civilians.  Without a doubt, many more Germans were killed during this ethnic cleansing than during Milosevic?s wars against the Bosnians and the Kosovars, many more than were killed in Saddam?s campaigns against the Kurds.


Genocide, of course, is but a new word for an old phenomenon.  Noone should suggest that it is an invention of the 20th century.  Surely one of the worst examples of genocide is the Spanish, British and French colonization of North and South America.  Indeed, the entire indigenous population of the Antilles ? Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Santo Domingo), Jamaica, Puerto Rico — was wiped out.  The decimation of the Aztecs and Incas also qualify as genocide.  In North America the indigenous were more thoroughly exterminated than in South America, and we recognize their traces in names like Massachusetts, Narraganset, Cherokee, Chicago, Dakota.  It is surely not a page of glory when we reflect on  the politics of ?manifest destiny? and realize that it too amounted to genocide, and that the intent to eliminate, extirpate, displace the native Americans (whom we called ?Indians?) was quite brazenly articulated by many Americans from Cotton Mather to George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and Oliver Wendell Holmes.


Sincerely yours,


Alfred de Zayas, J.D., Ph.D