GLENDALE—The confluence of major milestones – the centennial of the Armenian Genocide and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – is the focal point of the Armenian American Medical Society’s (AAMS) 30th anniversary celebration, “Heroes and Healers: Stories of Courage and Altruism in Times of Genocide.” The event will be held Saturday, April 11, 2015, at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California at 6:30 p.m.
As the AAMS publicly observes the anniversaries of the Armenian Genocide and the liberation of Auschwitz, the society will posthumously honor medical professionals and others who embody the spirit of humanitarianism, looking past ethnic and religious differences to save lives and champion the plight of the victims of these atrocities. The honorees include: Ara Jeretzian; Harutyun Khachatryan, MD; Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr.; Clarence Ussher, MD; and Armin T. Wegner.
“As doctors, we take an oath to treat all who need care, regardless of who they are, and to put the needs of our patients ahead of our own,” said Raffi Tachdjian, MD, MPH, AAMS board member and event co-planner. “These men not only lived by this oath but took it to a whole other level, going above and beyond and at great peril to their own lives. Their stories are compelling, reminding us of our responsibility to help others and inspiring us to make a difference in the world.”
Ara Jeretzian was born in Istanbul to Armenian parents and raised in Hungary. In 1944, as commander of civilian defense in Budapest’s sixth quarter during the rule of the Arrow Cross, Jeretzian organized a clinic in a house that was under the protection of the Swedish embassy, covering the clinic’s costs out of his own pocket and protected the lives of 400 Jews, including 40 Jewish doctors, until the liberation.
Harutyun Khachatryan, MD, a military doctor with the Soviet Red Army during World War II, was captured by the Nazis and held in a prison camp. During his captivity, he risked his own life to save Jewish prisoner of war, Josef Kogan, from certain death. Dr. Khachatryan not only provided medical care to Kogan, but also helped conceal his identity from the captors.
Henry Morgenthau, Sr. was a lawyer, businessman and most famously, United States ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during World War I. While serving as ambassador, Morgenthau was the most prominent American to speak out against the Armenian Genocide. Post-war, Morgenthau raised funds for the surviving Armenians–his efforts planting the seeds for the relief organization now known as the Near East Foundation. Robert Morgenthau was the grandson of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. Robert, who was a district attorney for New York, carried on the work of his grandfather, working to raise the public’s awareness of the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide throughout his lifetime.
Clarence Ussher, MD, an American physician and missionary serving in Van, risked his own life to treat Armenians who suffered at the hands of the Turkish government. During this time, Dr. Ussher laid witness to the Siege of Van. In 1917, Dr. Ussher published a detailed first-person account of the events of Van in his memoir, An American Physician in Turkey: A Narrative of Adventures in Peace and War.
Armin T. Wegner was a German soldier and medic during WWI. Stationed in the Ottoman Empire, Mr. Wegner was witness to the horror and brutality of the death marches during the Armenian Genocide. Against direct orders and at great peril to himself, Mr. Wegner documented the Armenian Genocide through documents, notes, and letters, and photographed the Armenian deportation camps in Der Zor.
“We think it particularly fitting to honor these individuals on our 30th anniversary, as we commemorate the Armenian Genocide” said Serineh Melidonian, MD, AAMS president. “They represent the very best of humanity during its darkest hours and serve as a stirring reminder that the heinous act of genocide can never be ignored or tolerated, no matter the people. Their humanity is an important lesson we will carry with us through our work as doctors and through our outreach with the AAMS.”
The Near East Foundation (NEF) was established in 1915 as an urgent response to the Armenian genocide, saving the lives of over one million Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek refugees. The organization is considered a pioneer in international humanitarian assistance–a tradition that continues today, as the NEF continues to help improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people in the region. Many of the missionaries who helped save the Armenians during the war and helped them get back on their feet following the war were aided by the NEF.
The event is being co-supported by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and the Near East Foundation. The USC Shoah Foundation, founded by filmmaker Steven Spielberg, aspires to be the world’s academic authority on the study of genocide and personal testimony. The Institute has collected more than 53,000 recorded testimonies of the survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides, preserving their voices to inspire action against intolerance. The Institute is currently indexing nearly 400 testimonies from the Armenian Genocide, which will be integrated into the Visual History Archive in honor of the Genocide’s centennial. The Shoah Foundation has graciously provided video archives of survivors discussing the heroic actions our honorees, which will be played during the evening’s presentation.
The evening’s celebration will engage the audience with a dynamic presentation that will include the surviving family members of the honorees. The story of each honoree will be brought to life through a multimedia presentation incorporating video, photos and interviews. Surviving family members of the honorees will be on hand to accept the awards on their behalf, each offering their unique perspective about their relatives’ experiences. The event will also feature a musical performance by Dr. Khachatryan’s granddaughter, famed singer Anna Khachatryan, as well as other surprise performances. Following the program, attendees will have the opportunity to meet and speak with family members of the honorees during a cocktail reception.
During the event, the Tents of Witness: Genocide and Conflict exhibition will be open to guests. The exhibition is a multimedia, multicultural and multigenerational exhibit designed to educate people about genocide; explain the causes and consequences of genocide; present action steps to prevent it; and remember those in our own communities who have fled from these atrocities and whose families and communities have been destroyed. There will be 10 tents that simulate those used in refugee camps with each tent depicting the story of different groups persecuted based on their race, religion, ethnicity or national origin.
“The program promises to be very meaningful and very moving,” according to Evelyn Baghdasraian Barkhoudarian, MD, event co-planner. “We are excited and privileged to have the ancestors of these great humanitarians on hand as we celebrate their heroic feats and indomitable spirit. The AAMS is looking forward to a very memorable evening of Heroes and Healers: Stories of Courage and Altruism in Times of Genocide.”
For tickets to Heroes and Healers: Stories of Courage and Altruism in Times of Genocide, The AAMS 30th Anniversary Evening, or to become an event sponsor, please contact 818.980.7777.
The AAMS, with more than 500 members, is the largest Armenian medical society in the Diaspora. Its directory of health practitioners is a vital resource for patients seeking care in various health-related disciplines and specialties. Our mission is to cultivate and develop professional, social, and collegial relations amongst our members and contribute towards the improvement of health services rendered to the Armenian community in the Diaspora and Armenia. We achieve this by offering community health education, humanitarian assistance, medical services and outreach, as well as providing professional development and networking opportunities for our health practitioners.