Academic Books
Academic Director of the Potsdam Lepsius House about Armenian Genocide, knowledge of history and comparative questions.

1. Mr. Hosfeld, can you tell us about the activities of the Lepsiushaus, the events organized there and the directions of further developments of the Haus?

Rolf Hosfeld:

It is the house - or better a small villa - where Johannes Lepsius lived with his family from 1908 to his death 1926, located in an area close to Cecilienhof castle where the Potsdam Conference took place in 1945. From here Johannes Lepsius started his well-known trip to Constantinople in summer 1915 where he met Enver Pasha on August 10, and here he wrote his Report on the Situation of the Armenian People in Turkey which was distributed secretly in 20500 copies throughout the German Empire in 1916. After the Second World War the house was owned by the Soviet KGB as part of a larger Soviet intelligence service site until 1993. As a private initiative in the 2000s, we raised money to restore the house so that it could be opened in early 2011 as a center for study, research and dialogue, focused on the history of the Armenian Genocide. We host all of Lepsius’ private papers in our archive, we teach at Potsdam University, organize trainings for high school teachers, host regular public evening talks in our house, and organize workshops and international conferences. Research has been and is done on the history of the Armenian Genocide, the life and work of Johannes Lepsius and the history of humanitarian movements.


2. I know, that the house has published a few books. Can you tell us more about the published materials?



I myself have published two books on the history of the Armenian Genocide, one in 2005 (2nd edition 2009) and one in 2015, translated into Turkish in 2018 and into Armenian this year (to be released in 2020). We have also published an anthology on Johannes Lepsius in 2013, one on Franz Werfel and the Armenian Genocide in 2015, one on the question of the Armenian Genocide and German Protestantism in 2016, and one on the German Empire and the Armenian Genocide in 2017, based on an international conference at the German Historical Museum in Berlin 2015, and one on the 20th century as a Century of Genocides in 2017, based on a international conference at the Berlin Museum “Topography of Terror” 2015. I am also co-editor of an academic book series with Duncker & Humblot publishers in Berlin, titled “Violence in Politics and Human Rights”. Furthermore, we released a brochure with materials on the Armenian Genocide for teachers to use in high schools.


3. Mr. Hosfeld, please tell us about the cooperation with YSU and other institutions and what kind of International Network Lepsiushaus has.



We have signed a formal cooperation agreement with YSU, as well as with the ARMENIAN GENOCIDE MEMORIAL INSTITUTE, and have given several talks there in the last years. Other cooperation partners are the University of Potsdam, the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies in Potsdam, the Leibniz-Institute for the History of Eastern Europe in Leipzig and the International Institute for Regionalism and Minority Questions in Munich. Cooperation partners are also AGBU Lebanon in Beirut and AGBU Europe in Brussels.  Besides this, we cultivate an international informal network with genocide scholars, which we regularly invite to Potsdam or Berlin.


4. How do you think what steps need to be taken towards international recognition of the Armenian genocide?



Knowledge of history is the main issue. We have been very successful to bring the question of the Armenian Genocide to the attention of the German media and audience, through publications, events, and interviews. In 2015 we organized a Worldwide Reading in Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide which took place at more than hundred places around the globe. This was made possible by cooperating with the Berlin International Literature Festival and its network.


5. Is the Armenian genocide  well-studied?



The “if” is without question and almost known since more than hundred years, not at least through the efforts of Johannes Lepsius as well through numerous witness accounts from survivors, missionars, diplomats and bystanders. But the “why” and “how” are still debated and need more detailed and close research. We can compare it to Holocaust studies, which even after more than 60 years widespread international research still is not completed.


6. What are the achievements and things to do in the study of the Armenian Genocide?



Study should more focus on comparative questions. What makes a political ideology, a society, a state, a political movement to become genocidal? As to the Armenian Genocide: Were the radical Young Turks something like a negative “avantgarde” of a dark 20th century? Focusing on comparative questions makes us stronger for the challenges of our unstable world today and in the future.