Author: Oleg KUZNETSOV, Moscow
In the previous parts, we have provided in detail the expectations of Armenian nationalists from their Nazi patrons during the World War II. In general, these can be summarised as follows: victory of Germany over the USSR, creation of an independent Armenian political state within the boundaries of the present-day Armenia ruled by the Nazi form of government and, finally, expansion of the 'Armenian habitat'. The latter implied the annexation to Armenia of Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgian region of Borchali and some Turkish territories known to Armenians as the 'Turkish Armenia'. In other words, thanks to the military backup of the Hitler regime, they wanted to create another Nazi state for and ruled by Armenians same as Slovakia and Croatia in 1941. Yet we have not mentioned what the Nazis expected from their Armenian cronies, how they treated them and what exactly were their plans for modern Armenia in the event of the Soviet defeat. So, what was the common ground between the plans and interests of German Nazis and Armenian nationalists?
The answer to this question has been well documented by the Soviet Ministry of State Security (MGB), namely the testimony of Peter Kamsarakan, the repeatedly mentioned agent of the Office VI of RSHA (Reich Main Security Office) responsible for external operations in SD (foreign intelligence service under SS), who was the curator of Armenian nationalists in Nazi Germany. In the spring of 1940, when SD and the leadership of European cells of the Dashnaktsutyun party just began talks on collaboration, Dashnaks demanded the creation of an independent Armenia as a precondition for collaboration with the Third Reich. As a foreign intelligence service, SD could not respond favourably to this request, as it was a mandate of the highest political leadership of the Nazis. In addition, Germany had not yet declared a war against the USSR, albeit it had planned to do so. Hence, the Germans had no reason to continue the discussion. Neither had the Armenian nationalists, who had yet to score points with the Nazis for bargaining. Anyway, the question naturally hung in the air.
According to Kamsarakan, in the autumn of 1940, shortly after the Nazi occupation of Northern France and Paris, SD Brigadeführer (major general) Heinz Jost met in Berlin with a group of European Dashnaks, including Araratian, Jamalian, Kanayan (Dro) and Ter-Harutyunian (Nzhdeh). Jost was one of the organisers of the Gleiwitz incident (also known as Operation Canned Goods), a casus belli eventually leading up to the World War II. During the meeting, the parties defined the functional responsibilities of Armenian nationalists and the system of communication, including the transfer of intelligence and remuneration for services. Then, the Dashnak leaders stayed in Berlin for a few more weeks waiting for audience with Martin Franz Julius Luther, Undersecretary of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who would later supervise the deportation of Jews from European countries to the Nazi death camps. At that time, Luther was responsible for propaganda and relations with the Nazi Party, SD and SS. According to Kamsarakan, the meeting did not take place, meaning that the ministry had not had any interest in creating an independent allied state of Armenia.
The issue became relevant again in the summer of 1941 during a large-scale German offensive against Moscow, when Nazis had a strong feeling of a quick victory over the Soviet army. Armenian nationalists began hinting their liaisons from SD about a meeting with Nazi leaders to clarify the issue of collaboration. Eventually, the meeting took place in August 1941, shortly after the supervision of Armenian nationalists temporarily changed from SD to Wehrmacht's intelligence service, Abwehr. Kamsarakan described the events as follows:
"Following the military success of Wermacht, Dro and Araratian shared with Germans their views on the future of government system in the Caucasus. Araratian believed that Germans should create a federal protected state, including three independent states of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Dro was fully agree with the idea, but added that rich regions of Northern Caucasus could also be a part of this federal state.
[Heinz] Gräfe helped set up a meeting between Dro, Araratian, Vahan Papazian and the future German governor of the entire Caucasus, [Arno] Schickedanz, a Baltic German responsible for all the issues concerning Caucasian peoples under Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories headed by [Alfred] Rosenberg. The reception was extremely unemotional and non-productive, as neither Schickedanz nor his staff members were willing to share the power with Dashnaks after the occupation of the Caucasus. Araratian handed over to Schickedanz an anti-Soviet brochure about the hard living conditions of Armenians in the Soviet Russia, claiming that the latter had been deliberately reducing the Armenian population as opposed to other peoples of Transcaucasia. Araratian also asked to be mindful of the Dashnak service to Germans.
As to the future form of government in Transcaucasia, the Dashnaks were very embarrassed when I told them, according to Gräfe, about German's intention to unite Kalmyks and all the Caucasian peoples under a single administrative unit. Dro thought that Germans underestimated Dashnaks, as they could not provide any guarantees in return of the Dashnak loyalty.
Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) Gräfe used to tell me that Araratian was a faithful person who could be appointed a burgomaster of some big city in Armenia. Apparently, Gräfe's confession had disappointed Araratian very much, as he believed that he deserved at least a ministerial post."
Meanwhile, in August 1942, the situation with the implementation of Armenian initiatives within state bodies of the Third Reich was completely different compared to 1940. On July 17, 1941, Hitler issued his infamous decree "On civil administration of the newly occupied eastern territories" (Erlaß des Führers über die Verwaltung der neubesetzten Ostgebiete), establishing the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete, RMfdbO), also known as the Eastern Ministry. During the war, the ministry was responsible for the civil administration of the occupied Soviet territories outside the military command area. One of its divisions, I-5 or Amt Kaukasus of the First Main (political) Directorate, supervised the Caucasus region through its Reichskommissariat Kaukasus headquartered in Tiflis/Tbilisi, Georgia. This administrative body included several general commissariats for Kuban, Stavropol, Georgia, Azerbaijan, main commissariats for Armenia and Kalmykia, as well as a general commissariat covering Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia (Generalkommissariat für die Gebiete der Bergvölker). Obviously, Nazi Germany had no vision whatsoever for an independent Armenian state within its administrative control of the Caucasus after occupation. Moreover, the status of Armenia was relegated to a second-class main commissariat, while the Nazis intended to grant Azerbaijan and Georgia a status of first-rank provinces under respective general commissariats. In fact, for two years, Nazi intelligence services have cynically and prudently exploited the narcissism and morbid faith of Armenian nationalist leaders in their own uniqueness. Armenians considered themselves the Übermensch, representatives of a superior race, according to the Nazi interpretation of racial discrimination, while in fact the Nazis treated them as a third-class people. Germans believed that Armenians were able neither to have their own statehood nor even self-government under the German protectorate, as opposed to other Caucasian peoples. In fact, they regarded the leaders of Armenian nationalists, who by that time had proved to be loyal Nazi servants, for their past merits in the military or police, no greater than an auxiliary middle- or lower-level administrative staff. Hence, Armenian nationalists, who had firmly believed in their lofty mission within the German army, experienced deepest disappointment in their new masters, but they no longer had a way back.
In 1941, Arno Schickedanz, Chief of Staff of the NSDAP Foreign Policy Department and Reichskommissar of the Caucasus in RMfdbO, declared the official position of the Nazi regime with regard to Armenians. Although his last name sounded like Armenian one, he was an Ostsee German coming from a noble Rigan family. He had been childhood friends with one of the founders of the NSDAP, Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, and his future chief, the Reich Minister of the Eastern Ministry, Alfred Rosenberg, whose protection and patronage he has always enjoyed. In 1927, Schickedanz published 'Social Parasitism in the Life of Nations' (Sozialparasitismus im Völkerleben), a book where he described "destructive influence" of Jews on the German society. Shortly after, he positioned himself as a specialist on the 'Jewish question' and, as an active member of NSDAP and an official of the Eastern Ministry, became responsible for anti-Semitic indoctrination of these state bodies. However, due to his origin (Schickedanz had been a subject of the Russian Empire until he turned 25 y. o.) and upbringing, his views on the administration of the Caucasus were not that different from those that he had established in younger years. The only difference was that he considered not the Russian Orthodox imperialism but the German National Socialism on top of the hierarchy of peoples in the region under his control. As such, among the other Caucasian peoples, Armenians were not regarded as a first- or second-class nation.
In August 1941, it became crystal clear that Nazis were not going to create an independent allied state of Armenia (like Slovakia or Croatia) or an autonomous enclave within the Reichskommissariat Kaukasus. Neither was there any intention to assign Armenia a status of a first-class territory under a general commissariat, which would otherwise grant the local population a certain degree of local administrative autonomy and self-government. For Nazis, Armenia would be subject to direct control without a slightest chance of materialising the illusory national idea. Moreover, Nazis had openly declared their plans to the leaders of the Armenian diaspora in Europe. So, a completely logical and legitimate question in this case is: why did Araratian, Ter-Harutyunian, Kanayan, Jalalian, Papazian and other leaders of Armenian nationalist organisations in Europe strive for serving the Nazis, if they were denied from the very beginning permission to implement the seemingly divine idea of 'Greater Armenia'?
It turns out that it was not the 'great national dream' behind the collaboration with Nazis, as certain Armenian circles are trying to interpret the historical past, but a primitive desire to overcome the feeling of inferiority and vested interests, which they had been denied in civilised European countries.