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The Passion of Max von Oppenheim

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Lionel Gossman

IV. Oppenheim’s Relation to the National Socialist Regime in Context

17. By Way of Conclusion

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  • 1 Emerging from his study in the Savignyplatz, after a two-hour conversation with his old boyhood fr (...)

1Because of their “hyperacculturation,” in Ritchie Robertson’s phrase, their love of and faith in Germany, their identification with German culture, their desire to belong and to be seen as belonging in toto to the German Volk, their joy at the emergence of their country from the discord, disorder, and shame of the Versailles settlement, their eagerness to have Germany restored to national greatness and international respect, and — not least — their lack of commitment to liberal democracy, which many of them, like their Aryan compatriots, associated with their country’s enemies and held responsible both for the humiliating defeat of the Kaiserreich and for the social and economic chaos of the despised Republic that followed, the leaders of the Jewish veterans’ association (Reichsbund jüdischer Frontsoldaten) and of the Verband nationaldeutscher Juden, as well as highly educated and cultured professionals of Jewish origin (like Schoeps and Pevsner) and idealist Jewish members of the exclusive George-Kreis were able to discern some good, for a time at least, in the new National Socialist regime. Such reservations as they had were chiefly due to the regime’s racially defined anti-Semitism, because of which they were effectively barred from participating in the national revival they welcomed. It is not as surprising as it might at first have appeared, therefore, that Max von Oppenheim — who, after all, as the son of a Christian mother and a Jewish convert father was only half Jewish, even by the standards of the Nuremberg Laws — could greet the new regime in a seemingly positive spirit, decide to stay in Germany and work for his country’s victory over its enemies in World War II as he had done in World War I, even though, like many national conservatives, including some of the military top brass, he appears to have been sceptical of Hitler’s aggressive military schemes.1 Moreover, he belonged to an exceptionally wealthy, old-established, and thoroughly assimilated family, whose services to Imperial Germany had been recognized by the conferring of titles and even the benevolent personal interest of the Kaiser; he also had friends and colleagues, from his time of service with the Auswärtiges Amt and from his membership in elite social clubs and circles, in high places. His behaviour was no different from that of many in all ranks, from upper to lower, of the military, the various state bureaucracies, and the Auswärtiges Amt, even when they harboured reservations about the new regime.

2Above all, the identity, the very being of the Oppenheims, was tied up with institutions in Germany: in the case of Waldemar and Friedrich Carl (and even, to some extent, Max von Oppenheim) with the Oppenheim Bank; in Max’s case, with his Museum, with the treasures he had uncovered at Tell Halaf, with his Stiftung. These were his legacy to Germany and to posterity. Different political regimes might come and go, these institutions and treasures, which were now part of Germany’s heritage, had to be defended at all costs. For Max, ensuring the survival of his life’s work probably justified all his efforts to ingratiate himself with the regime. After its fall, he did not hesitate — for the same reasons — to try to get on the right side of the new powers that be. His letter of 21 June to Ernst Herzfeld, for example, is marked at one and the same time by expressions of what seem like genuine friendship and interest and by an unpleasantly ingratiating tone.

3The tables had certainly been turned. Herzfeld — who had lost his university position in the mid-1930s because of the racial laws and had had to emigrate — was now a respected member of the élite Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Oppenheim — who had lived under the National Socialist regime in relative comfort — was down and out. In his letter Oppenheim recalls their friendship and the happy times of their collaboration, inquires with apparent (and possibly genuine) interest about Herzfeld’s family (a sister and a nephew) and about his work, and explains apologetically that he had been trying to obtain Herzfeld’s current address for some time but had only recently been able to get hold of it. There is no mention anywhere in the letter of the racial discrimination from which Herzfeld had suffered and Oppenheim, after all, had not.

4The words “Jew” and “race” are entirely absent from the letter. With complete aplomb, Oppenheim even describes Herzfeld’s emigration as “Ihre Abreise” [“your departure”], as though it were the most ordinary, everyday departure in the world and implies, rather startlingly, that it was Herzfeld who broke off relations with him, “causing him thereby much pain.”He refers in his letter to “den Abbruch der Beziehungen, […] den Sie vorgenommen haben” [“Your breaking-off of relations”].

5It does not seem, however, that Oppenheim made any attempt to contact Herzfeld in the late 1930s, during the first years of the latter’s emigration, or that he ever expressed sympathy, or offered help. Perhaps that would have been too compromising and might have endangered the Tell Halaf Museum and the Max von Oppenheim Stiftung. Now, however, in 1946, the old scholar disclaims any close connection with the “scheussliche Nazizeit” [“horrible Nazi period”], during which he had had to struggle, he complains, with “allen möglichen Schwierigkeiten und Widrigkeiten” [“every possible difficulty and adversity”]. He, in short, he seems to imply, was also a victim of the “scheussliche Nazizeit,” even perhaps the greater victim, since Herzfeld had managed, after all, to forge a highly successful career for himself in America, whereas he, Oppenheim, had succeeded only “mit der grössten Mühe, mich durchzulavieren” [“with the greatest difficulty in manoeuvring through it”] in order to be able to do what matters most (as Herzfeld was undoubtedly expected to agree) to all scholars — “meine Arbeit fortzusetzen” [“continue my work”] and, above all, “die Stiftung weiterbestehen zu lassen ” [“ensure the survival of the Foundation”].

  • 2 Letter dated Landshut, 21 June 1946, Ernst Herzfeld Papers, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. (...)

6Toward the end of the four-page, single-spaced typewritten letter Oppenheim gets to what one suspects might have been one of the main reasons for his writing it. He is eager, he says, to defend the original controversial dating of the sculptures (which, as we know, had been proposed by Herzfeld) against the views of A. Moortgat, the editor of the forthcoming third volume of the great scholarly study of Tell Halaf being put out by de Gruyter. But with his library gone, “Was kann ich wohl tun, um mir Bücher zu verschaffen? Von der Stiftung-Bibliothek sind, wie gesagt, nur 8–900 Bücher gerettet, nicht mehr. Die Stiftung muss aber wie ein Phönix aus der Asche erstehen. Ich will nichts unversucht lassen, um die Bibliothek wieder aufzurichten” [“What can I do to get hold of books? As I said, only 800–900 books from the Foundation Library were saved. No more. The Foundation has to arise like a phoenix from the ashes. I will spare no effort to build the Library up again”]. In addition to ensuring the survival of the Foundation and the reconstitution of its library, the eighty-odd year old scholar wants to ensure a continued role for his Foundation in the excavation of Tell Halaf. Though he had fought tooth and nail in 1939 — unsuccessfully, as we saw — to stop the French from conceding excavation rights at Tell Halaf and Fakhariya to Calvin McEwan and his team from the Chicago Oriental Institute, he now declares that he would welcome the assistance of a well-endowed American partner (which, by implication, Herzfeld with his American connections, could doubtless help him to find): “Glücklich wäre ich, wenn ich mit irgend-einem amerikanischen Institut, einem Museum z.B., in Verbindung setzen könnte, damit dieses gemeinsam mit der Stiftung den Tell Halaf und Fecherija Wassukani ausgraben würde” [“I would be very happy if I could establish contact with some American institution or other, a museum, for instance, that would undertake excavations, in collaboration with the Foundation, at Tell Halaf and Fakhariyah Wassukani”].2

7For the vast majority of those Germans — Aryans, non-Aryans and Mischlinge alike — who could not wholeheartedly support the National Socialist terror state, even for those who were consciously opposed to it, open resistance was hardly an option. Emigration was a drastic and by no means easy step, and few took it who were not under immediate threat. What else were those who did not like everything about the new regime to do, except hang on and hope that it, or at least the worst of it, would pass? For the Oppenheims — Waldemar and Friedrich with their immense personal and psychological, as well as financial investment in the 150-year old family bank; Max with his no less profound investment in the Tell Halaf Museum and the Max von Oppenheim Foundation, the achievements of the labours of a lifetime — emigration, if it was considered, must have been quickly ruled out. The only course was to swim with the tide, so as to ensure as best they could the survival of what was most important to them. And that was not democratic freedoms or individual rights, however they may (or may not) have valued these things. What seems to have counted for them most was their place in German history and in German society, the Bank, the Museum, the Foundation.

  • 3 Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Hentig papers, folder 46 www.ifz-muenchen.de/archiv/ ed_0113.pdf, p. (...)
  • 4 Sean McMeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010) p. 364. In h (...)
  • 5 For information on policy decisions concerning “half-Jews” taken at the Wannsee Conference (Januar (...)

8As has been suggested earlier, it is extremely likely that Oppenheim, with real ties to the conservative and traditionalist personnel of the Auswärtiges Amt, but apparently none whatsoever to any Jewish organization or community, did not think of himself — whether because he could not or because he would not — as in any respect anything less than one hundred percent German. Characteristically, after he became homeless as a result of the bombing of Dresden and had to be taken in by his sister Wanda von Pocci in 1945, he immediately set about reconnecting with his old friends. Thus on 11 December 1945, he got in touch with von Hentig, informing him about common acquaintances, inquiring about others, telling of his own most recent wartime experiences, and expressing his concern for the future of the Oppenheim Foundation.3 The historian Sean McMeekin expresses astonishment, indeed outrage at Oppenheim’s apparent indifference to the disaster that had befallen the Jews of Europe: “In the section of his memoirs touching on the war, composed in 1946, the Baron blamed Hitler for having unleashed a war in which ‘millions of Germans had fallen on the battlefield, and nearly all of Germany’s cities, along with her immense and irreplaceable cultural possessions, have been destroyed by enemy bombs.’” “There is not a single word in Oppenheim’s voluminous memoirs,” McMeekin continues, “about the mass murder of the Jews during the war in Germany, Europe, or the Near East. […] Although it was understandable that he would keep his distance from his Jewish kinsmen in the interest of self-preservation during the Nazi period, one might think the Baron would have spared a thought for Jewish suffering once the world had learned about the Holocaust.”4 From a general moral and humanitarian point of view, Oppenheim’s silence on the topic of Jewish suffering certainly does him no credit. But he may well not have felt any special obligation to refer to the Holocaust. In fact he may have chosen not to refer to it in order to sustain his own image of himself and the image he wanted others to have of him as fully and completely German. The fact appears to be that Oppenheim did not — and would not — think of Jews as in any way “his kinsmen.” He might have been perturbed, as his young friend and Nazi Party member Prüfer was, by the stories circulating about death camps and he must have heard by 1942 about the fate of other individuals classified as “half-Jews,” but we have no way of knowing whether or to what extent he felt personally threatened.5

  • 6 The ‘Jewish Question’ in German Literature 1749–1939, pp. 243–44.
  • 7 The Home Letters of T.E. Lawrence and his Brothers (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1954), p. 225, letter (...)
  • 8 Cit. Tilman Lüdke, Jihad Made in Germany (Münster: LIT, 2005), p. 71.
  • 9 Memos cited in Donald McKale, “The Kaiser’s Spy,” Annales-Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 51 (Novembe (...)
  • 10 La Politique de la France au Levant 1939–1941, Ch. 5, p. 85, note 16.

9It is all the more ironic that he was consistently seen, on the outside, as Jewish. Herbert von Bismarck’s dismissal of him, in 1887, as unsuitable for a career in the Auswärtiges Amt because of his Jewish family background has already been mentioned, and Ritchie Robertson reminds us that in the early twentieth century a second generation convert like Georg Simmel, both of whose parents had converted, found it difficult to avoid being perceived by ill-disposed colleagues as “Israelite through and through.”6 T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) who, while excavating with his teachers D. G. Hogarth and Leonard Woolley at Carchemish in July 1912, received an overnight visit from Oppenheim identified him as “the little Jew-German-Millionaire who is making excavations at Tell Halaf.”7 Hogarth himself, as Director of the Arab Bureau of the Cairo Intelligence Department in 1916 referred to him as “that chattering, egotistical Jew.”8 In a report from its special correspondent in Cairo, under the heading “German Intrigues in Egypt — Attempts to Weaken British Power — The Activities of Baron von Oppenheim,” the Times of London for 6 January 1915 informed its readers of “intrigues which from 1905 onwards were carried on by members of the staff of the German Agency,” foremost among them “the Jewish Baron Max von Oppenheim.” Also in 1915, Sir Mark Sykes, a key official of Kitchener’s in the British War Office, reported from the Middle East that Oppenheim, “a Jew of great wealth,” would not hesitate to “incite massacres of Armenians in Turkey and do his best to get our isolated people murdered in Persia.” Another memo informing Foreign Minister Grey on 24 October 1915 of alleged German propaganda efforts to create the impression among Muslims that the Kaiser and his Government had embraced Islam, asserted that “the notorious Baron Max von Oppenheim, a Jew, is known to have made speeches in mosques approving of the massacre of Armenians.”9 Recalling his dealings with Oppenheim in the late 1930s, when he had been French High Commissioner in Syria, Gabriel Puaux, a strong French nationalist who had obstructed the activities of the Italian Armistice Commission in Syria after the fall of France, been dismissed by Vichy, and thrown in his lot with de Gaulle, described Oppenheim in an interview after the war with the French-Jewish scholar Isaac Lipschits as a “vieux juif intrigant”10 [“a scheming old Jew”].

  • 11 In addition to previously mentioned studies of Prüfer by Donald McKale, see Richard Evans, “The Ge (...)

10The insistent identification of Oppenheim as a Jew by Germany’s enemies clearly reflects their own anti-Semitism or at least their exploitation of anti-Semitic prejudice in order to present an even blacker picture of a fairly formidable foe. Oppenheim was doubly dangerous and evil: as a German and, worse yet, a wily Jew. It is true that there is no reference to anything Jewish about Oppenheim in the many entries about visits to “Onkel Max” in the diaries of Curt Prüfer, even though, as already noted, Prüfer appears to have been himself strongly anti-Semitic11 and — as personnel director from 1936 until his appointment as ambassador to Brazil in 1939 — is generally held to have done his best to “Nazify” the traditional and conservative

11Auswärtiges Amt. Perhaps decades of association with the old scholar-diplomat as well as Oppenheim’s many services to Germany allowed his former colleagues in the Auswärtiges Amt to think of him chiefly as one of their own, with only a negligible defect which they were permitted or perhaps even required to overlook.

12From the point of view of the leadership itself, two considerations may have militated in Oppenheim’s favour in addition to his past services. First, he had an international reputation; mistreating him would have seriously aggravated the regime’s already tarnished reputation in the world outside Germany and, more important, might also have offended many Arabs who thought of him, rightly, as their friend and advocate. Second, he had an expertise in Arab and Middle Eastern affairs as well as valuable contacts in the countries of the Middle East that were not easily replicable and could be useful (as his recommendations to Hentig on the occasion of the latter’s mission to Syria testify). The fact that Oppenheim’s part-Jewish assistant Werner Caskel also survived the Nazi regime is further evidence of a certain inconsistently applied pragmatism on the part of the authorities. As we saw, Caskel was consulted, as an Arabic scholar, on a planned authoritative translation of Mein Kampf into Arabic, took his task seriously and offered pertinent suggestions. The Nazi leadership was not incapable of overlooking racial deficiencies in exceptional cases, as the careers of Field Marshal Milch and Admiral Rogge demonstrate. Perhaps the reasons Oppenheim himself gave for his surviving, unmolested, right through to the end of the War, are close enough, after all, to the truth. (See above, beginning of Part III.)

  • 12 Vahakn N. Dadrian, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide, pp. 65–81. Dadrian’s work in ge (...)
  • 13 Vahakn N. Dadrian, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide, p. 65.
  • 14 “There were no better Germans than these” (Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, La traversée des fleuves(...)

13Though the case of Max von Oppenheim may well be, almost certainly is, sui generis, it throws an unusual light on the situation and the mentality of a section (well-to-do and politically conservative) of Germany’s long-established and strongly patriotic Jewish and part-Jewish population. Not many in that group were as wealthy and well-connected as he, not many had the resources he could call upon to sustain his cultural and scholarly interests, few pursued such interests more seriously or successfully, and few had the opportunities he had of putting his unreserved patriotism to work in Germany’s national interest. To a considerable degree he appears to have succeeded in pushing aside, if never quite eradicating, his own and others’ awareness of his Jewish background. Nonetheless, even though he managed to survive his government’s racial policies, the moral cost to him of pursuing what turned out to be an impossible complete identification was high. His super-patriotism earned him the dubious distinction of being one of the most eager advocates of the dangerous and morally indefensible policy of exciting and exploiting Muslim religious zealotry as a political and military tool in the imperial war-games of non-Islamic nations, to the extent that he has been accused of providing excuses and justifications for the atrocities perpetrated by Germany’s ally Turkey on its Christian Armenian citizens in World War I;12 and in his World War II activities he demonstrated as callous an indifference as any dyed-in-the-wool Nazi to the fate of over 300,000 Jews, a fair number of them refugees from racial persecution in Germany, who had immigrated to Palestine after 1914 and who, he recommended, should be removed in the Middle East settlement that would follow Germany’s victory in the war. On the other hand, it is impossible not to admire the talent and dedication that, vain though he undoubtedly was, he brought to his scholarly interest in the Orient; the care, elegance, generosity, and sometimes wit with which he communicated his findings and his enthusiasms; and even his untiring (and undiscriminating) efforts to promote Germany on the world stage, politically, economically, and culturally — despite the fact that he was never permitted to be anything other than a familiar outsider, a wealthy amateur among the academic archaeologists and the professional diplomats alike. Though excessive, there is a grain of truth in the harsh judgment of one of his detractors, the Armenian scholar Vahakn N. Dadrian; Oppenheim’s “inveterate urge to impress the powers [that] be with displays of demonstrative patriotism,” Dadrian writes, reduced him to a “caricature of an actual patriot. [His] zealousness to please the German emperor and to be of service to the German state was such that he ended up losing a sense of balance and proportion [and] became an opportunist, a careerist and an exceedingly pushy operator.”13 Exceptional as he was in terms of his wealth, his talent, and his personal character, and not even a full Jew, Oppenheim may well have been at the same time exemplary in many respects of a certain class of patriotic, cultivated German Jews of the second half of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, to whom complete assimilation into the German nation was the number one priority — the goal relentlessly pursued and never attained. In the words of the French writer Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, describing the middle-class professional family of converted Jews into which he was born in Germany in 1928, “Il n’y eut pas de meilleurs Allemands que ceux-là.”14

Notes

1 Emerging from his study in the Savignyplatz, after a two-hour conversation with his old boyhood friend, the diplomat Prince Hermann Hatzfeld, on 2 September 1939 (the day after the invasion of Poland and the day of the British and French ultimatums), he is reported to have greeted Werner Caskel with the words “Mein lieber Caskel! Diesen Krieg verlieren wir” [“My dear Caskel! We shall lose this war”] (“Aus den Erinnerungen eines Orientalisten,” in Festschrift Werner Caskel, ed. Erwin Gräf [Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1968], pp. 5–30 [p. 30]).

2 Letter dated Landshut, 21 June 1946, Ernst Herzfeld Papers, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, B-16. For the complete original text of the letter, see Appendix.

3 Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Hentig papers, folder 46 www.ifz-muenchen.de/archiv/ ed_0113.pdf, p. 17.

4 Sean McMeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010) p. 364. In his Die deutsche Katastrophe (1946), the eminent German historian Friedrich Meinecke expressed his thoughts about the War into which the National Socialists led Germany in similar terms. The book “displays virtually no awareness of the untold suffering inflicted on the victims of the Third Reich and it is disappointingly silent on the persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust. Meinecke’s few expressions of regret or pain are evoked by the plight of the German people under attack and in defeat” (Gossman, Basel in the Age of Burckhardt [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], p. 450).

5 For information on policy decisions concerning “half-Jews” taken at the Wannsee Conference (January, 1942), see http://half-jewish.net/holocaust%20 / and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wannsee_Conference.

6 The ‘Jewish Question’ in German Literature 1749–1939, pp. 243–44.

7 The Home Letters of T.E. Lawrence and his Brothers (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1954), p. 225, letter to his “small brother,” dated from Jerablus (another name for Carchemish) 21 July 1912. These words had been deliberately omitted from David Garnett’s 1938 edition of The Letters of T.E. Lawrence (London: Jonathan Cape). According to Lawrence, Oppenheim “came about 5 p.m. […], stayed till 11 p.m. then went off to eat & sleep: came back at 4:30 and stopped till 10 a.m. […] Invited me over to his place by his relay of post-horses.” However, Lawrence found him “such a horrible person” that he never took him up on the invitation. A Year later when Oppenheim apparently tried to spirit some of his finds out of Ottoman Syria, only to have his efforts discovered by the authorities, Lawrence considered him “an ass to have his things taken so and not very virtuous to take all those things from his excavations” (The Home Letters of T.E. Lawrence and his Brothers, p. 264, letter dated 21 September 1913, from Carchemish). Not surprisingly, Lawrence kept track of “the Kaiser’s spy” during the War, reporting from Military Intelligence Cairo on 3 July 1915 that “Oppenheim went to Jerablus on the 15th. I fancy not with good intentions” (p. 306).

8 Cit. Tilman Lüdke, Jihad Made in Germany (Münster: LIT, 2005), p. 71.

9 Memos cited in Donald McKale, “The Kaiser’s Spy,” Annales-Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 51 (November-December 1996): 199–219 (pp. 208–09 and 217, note 40). These reports seem not to be wildly exaggerated; on Oppenheim’s disturbing support of Turkish persecution of the Armenians, out of “zealousness to please the German emperor” and “impress the powers that be with displays of demonstrative patriotism,” see Vahakn N. Dadrian, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide, pp. 65–81.

10 La Politique de la France au Levant 1939–1941, Ch. 5, p. 85, note 16.

11 In addition to previously mentioned studies of Prüfer by Donald McKale, see Richard Evans, “The German Foreign Office and the Nazi Past,” Neue Politische Literatur, 56 (2011): 165–83.

12 Vahakn N. Dadrian, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide, pp. 65–81. Dadrian’s work in general and his judgment of Oppenheim’s role in the Armenian massacres in particular have been severely criticized: Oppenheim, according to one critic, has been the “object of unsubstantiated innuendo about his complicity in the genocide” and Dadrian “fails to provide any solid evidence that Oppenheim was in any way implicated in the massacres — as opposed to vilifying the Armenians” (Donald Bloxham, “Power Politics, Prejudice, Protest and Propaganda: a Reassessment of the German Role in the Armenian Genocide of WWI,” in Hans-Lukas Kieser and Dominik J. Schaller, eds., Der Völkermord an den Armeniern und die Shoah/ The Armenian Genocide and the Shoah [Zurich: Chronos, 2002], pp. 213–44 [pp. 221, 240, note 54]). Bloxham concedes that Oppenheim’s negative view of the Armenians “may have served […] to rationalize a policy of non-intervention,” but insists that that “is qualitatively a different level of responsibility to outright ‘stimulation’” (p. 235). While this is true (it could also be said of the behaviour of many Germans in relation to persecution of the Jews in 1933–1945), there was no mistaking that the policy that was being “rationalized” was one of extermination of the Armenians. In a report to Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, dated 17 July 1915, even Ambassador von Wangenheim, notorious for his support of the policy of non-intervention, conceded: “It is obvous that the banishment of the Armenians is due not solely to military considerations. Talaat Bey, the Minister of the Interior, has quite frankly said to Dr. Mordtmann of the Embassy, that the Turkish government intended to make use of the World-War and deal thoroughly with its internal enemies, the Christians in Turkey, and that it meant not to be disturbed in this by diplomatic intervention from abroad. The Armenian Patriarch told the same gentleman a few days later that the Turkish government did not intend merely to make the Armenians temporarily innocuous but to expel them from Turkey or rather to exterminate them” (cit. in J. Ellis Barker, “Germany, Turkey and the Armenians,” [review of Johannes Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien 1914–1918. Sammlung diplomatischer Aktenstücke [1919)], Quarterly Review [London], 463 [April, 1920]: 385–400 [p. 389]). As for Oppenheim’s view of the Armenians, it recalls the standard clichés of anti-Semites about Jews: in a four-page memo to Bethmann-Hollweg, dated Damascus, 29 August 1915, Oppenheim refers to the Armenians’ “proverbial cunning in commerce, their scheming, their self-promotion and revolutionary spirit, above all their unceasing usurious exploitation of their environment and, most recently, their open hostility to the Turks” (Wolfgang Gust, ed., Der Völkermord an den Armeniern 1915/16. Dokumente aus dem Politischen Archiv des deutschen Auswärtigen Amts [Springe: Klampen, 2005], p. 272; see also http://www.armenocide.de/armenocide/armgende.nsf/$$Alldocs/1915-08--DE-001). Oppenheim claims emphatically that Djemal Pasha, who “has repeatedly instigated discussions with me on the Armenian question and ordered his officers to give me more written and verbal details from the files concerning this matter,” has done his best to make the removal of the Armenian population from strategically critical areas as orderly as possible. Documentary evidence of this claim is supposedly provided by a number of annexed exchanges between Djemal and Turkish civil and military officers. Oppenheim concedes that “hardships, unavoidable cruelties and terrible family disasters will still take place during the Armenian people’s expulsion from their homes and during the transports and resettlements,” but insists that “in these difficult times the Turks are attempting to protect themselves against the Armenian danger with all the means available to them.” For the Armenians, who, according to Oppenheim, “at the beginning of the present World War […] basically took sides everywhere with the enemies of Turkey and Germany,” are a dangerous and seditious element and there have been many signs of their revolutionary intent. The Turks understandably wish to avoid a repetition of the “bloody, repulsive atrocities that the Armenians carried out against the Mohammedans in Van and the surrounding area” in the spring of 1915 (ibid., pp. 271, 272, 274). Oppenheim thus repeats the official Ottoman account of the events in Van and says nothing in his report about the persecutions that led the Armenians to resort to violence.

13 Vahakn N. Dadrian, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide, p. 65.

14 “There were no better Germans than these” (Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, La traversée des fleuvesautobiographie, p. 63).

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