Celebrating German Publisher, Human Rights Activist Helmut Donat on His 75th Birthday

For Helmut Donat, such an “Armenian Evening” was a means of assisting Armenia and its people in building their future. “And we can help out even just by becoming acquainted with their great heritage of literature, music, poetry and culture, with the Armenian people…” Over the decades, Donat has contributed significantly to acquainting Germans with this heritage, by organizing such cultural events , like the Armenian Cultural weeks in Bremen, but, especially, by publishing works on Armenia’s history, politics and rich culture. He has received numerous awards for his achievements from him. In April 1990, he was given the Bremen Villa Ichon’s Peace and Culture Prize in recognition of his editorial achievements “which demonstrate a commitment to peace on a high cultural level.” In May 1996, he got the Carl von Ossietzky Prize for Contemporary History and Politics. By spring 2007, his publishing house had produced over 300 books on contemporary history, with the primary focus on the peace movement, Nazism, the Armenian genocide, pacifism and the history of militarism, especially in Germany. Since then, the list of publications has continued to grow in quantity, quality and impact.

And, although he has reached an age at which many people retire into private life and tend their gardens, it is to be hoped and expected that Helmut Donat will preserve his energy and determination, to continue producing meaningful, beautiful books.

Genocide Poets by Tessa Hofmann

Herzlichen Glückwünsch zum Geburtstag! or: Congratulations on Your Birthday!

Tessa Hoffman

The Bremen publisher Helmut Donat is celebrating his 75th birthday. And the Working Group Recognition – Against Genocide, for International Understanding (AGA) eV says thank you wholeheartedly: Thank you, dear Helmut, for having worked towards human rights, peace and justice as a publisher for 40 years. Your commitment as a publisher for and with Armenians stems from your pacifist orientation. You have recognized that wars — including civil wars — are among those constellations that promote genocide and other atrocities. This was the case in World War I in the Ottoman Empire as well as in World War II in Nazi-occupied Europe.

You have reissued classics of German-language documentary works on the extermination of Ottoman Armenians, especially the correspondence of the German Foreign Office published by Johannes Lepsius under the title “Germany and Armenia” in 1919 (reprint 1986), but also documentation of current violence against Armenians, including the one published in 1989 by the Armenische Kolonie zu Berlin eV, the Armenian Apostolic Church Community of Berlin, and the Federation of Armenian Associations in the German-Speaking World, “Tanks against Perestroika: Documentation on the Conflict in and around Artsakh (Karabakh).” This work, published shortly before the beginning of the First Karabakh War (December 1991 – May 1994), helped many Germans to understand the struggle for freedom and the independence movement of the Armenian region of Artsakh, which was forcibly annexed to Azerbaijan by the Soviet regime in 1920.

Today we are one Karabakh war (autumn 2020) further, but still no closer to the realization of the right to self-determination in Artsakh. And it seems that in the shadow of the Ukraine War, which is occupying the attention of Europe almost completely, war and acts of violence in the South Caucasus are being once again “ignored.”

With your engagement, dear Helmut, you have actively and effectively supported the movement for genocide ‘recognition’ launched by the Armenian community in Germany as well as human rights organizations working here. We know of no other publishing house – even by comparison on the international stage – that you have published as many books on the Armenian Genocide as yours; the following publications are currently available from Donat Verlag: http://www.donat-verlag.de/buch-kategorie.php?id=13

That the German Bundestag (Parliament) in June 2016 finally recognized the historical fact of the Ottoman genocide against about three million Christians before, after and especially during the First World War, is therefore also thanks to you. Some matters, unfortunately, take a long time. We, the Working Group on Recognitionsubmitted the first petition for parliamentary recognition to the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag as early as April 2000.

As a historian, you are familiar with the staying power of history, the slowness and obduracy of politicians, but also the power of perseverance. On your birthday, you can look back on many achievements that are due to your perseverance and principledness. But at the same time, unfortunately, we still face many unresolved issues. Nationalism and militarism are again threatening peaceful coexistence. Our wish for your birthday is therefore also to know that you will continue to be healthy and strong at our side, and to be able to leaf through the latest books of your publishing house, which, as always, you will print with attention and loving care.

Let us celebrate you today, our dear Helmut!

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