Below is a book review written exclusively for the Weekly by the father of the Genocide Convention Raphael Lemkin, and published 50 years ago. In Dec. 2008, as the world marks the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, Lemkin’s review is a powerful reminder of the impact the Armenian genocide had on the person who coined the term “genocide” and dedicated his life to fighting this crime.
Dr. Lemkin, Father of genocide Convention, Reviews Work Relating to Turkish Massacres
Published in the Hairenik Weekly: Thursday January 1, 1959
We are honored herewith to present an evaluatory commentary on the recently published “Les Memoires of Mgr. Jean Nashlian” sent to the Weekly by Dr. Raphael Lemkin, the world famous crusader for the United Nations Convention Against Genocide, an extraordinary international document now ratified by fifty-eight nations.
The history of the atrocious crime perpetrated by the Turks in 1915 which claimed the lives of more than one million Armenia’s has been substantially enriched by the recent publication in Vienna (Imprimerie Mechithariste, Les Memoires de Mgr. Jean Naslian, 2 vols., 1639 pages, in French) of the memories of a remarkable catholic spiritual leader Monsignor Jean Naslian, the late Bishop of Trebizonde. The Armenia’s as a community are known to be very religious, and in the supreme test of their lives they clung closely to their spiritual leaders, whether of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Roman Catholic or Protestant faiths.
These leaders did not fail their flocks. Monsignor Naslian describes the plight of his people in great detail. He places responsibility for the origin of the plan to destroy the Armenian people on the young Turkish committee called Ittihad, a political party which became prominent in Turkey in 1912. It was a very nationalistic movement which wanted to effect the fusion of all races and religions into one homogeneous entity, the Turkish nation which would reign supreme. There was no room in it’s new creation for the ancient Armenian people whose first trace of historical existence goes back to the 15th century BC. The Armenia’s in Turkey had grown into a highly cultured, cohesive, industrious and prosperous community which could not easily be integrated.
The first ominous sign came into deportations from Constantinople of 270 Armenia’s-intellectuals, writers, artists, editors, teachers- into the interior of Turkey, where most of them were immediately massacred. In order to deprive the Armenia’s in other parts of Turkey of their leadership as well, the Armenia’s intellectuals elsewhere were arrested at the same time. With one blow the brain of a people was damaged. From this deported group, Aram Andonian survived to publish after the first World War a book with authenticated documen’s revealing the governmental orders for these massacres. In the course of the war he managed to send information to America (this reviewer had the privilege of meeting Andonian and obtaining from him a rare publication on the Armenian case).
The second phase of destruction came soon when the Armenian population was rounded up in all cities of interior Turkey and marched into the Syrian desert. During this march most of them were mowed down by the guns of the escorting police. Pope Benedict XV intervened on behalf of the Armenia’s but succeeded only in preventing the mass destruction of the Armenia’s in the capital city of Constantinople.
The US ambassador in Turkey, Henry Morgenthau did a yeoman’s job in attempting to save the Armenia’s. He got nowhere, however, with the Minister of Interior, Taalat Pasha. In his own memoirs the former American ambassador relates that Taalat Pasha told him that insurance policies were found on some Armenian corpses which were taken out on some insurance companies in Hartford, Connecticut. Since these were the insurance policies belonging to Turkish citizens, Taalat Pasha reasoned, the American Ambassador should help to get the money from the insurance companies for the Turkish government. The ambassador was incensed at this request and of course refused.
Those further interested in the Armenian tragedy should read the collection of documen’s by Johannes Lepsius of Berlin, called Deutschland und Armenian. Lepsius was the man who stormed the foreign offices of Turkey and Germany (both allies in World War I) to save the Armenia’s.
The Turks tried to drown their guilt in rumors about Armenian rebellions. Both Naslian and Lepsius refute this charge with the Turkish government’s own documen’s. Certainly women, children, and the aged could not all have been involved in rebellion. No charges were levelled against these innocent people except that they were Armenia’s.
Monsignor Naslian ascribes a great part of the motivation of the crime to economic reasons. All the long-coveted property of the victims was taken over by the Turks they enriched themselves through the murder of a people.
In terms of the larger issues involved, the losses in culture through the genocide of the Armenian people in Turkey were staggering. The
Armenia’s, as the intellectual core of Turkey, were in possession of valuable personal libraries, archives, and historical man’scripts, which were dispersed and lost. Churches, convents, and monumen’s of artistic and historical value were destroyed.
Monsignor Naslian did not simply suffer in silence during these agonizing times. He was informing the outside world as best he could through church connections. After World War I he joined the national delegation of Armenia’s in Paris and tried to arouse the conscience of the western world for the Armenian cause. Like most of the men who get for their own lives a high goal, he died a disappointed man. He felt that the European powers tried to use the Armenia’s for their own ends, letting them die when help might have been possible, and then forgetting the whole tragedy in order to escape their own conscience.
Although he does not show hatred, maintaining throughout a judicious objectivity and a trust in God’s judgment, Monsignor Naslian expresses one feeling which is especially close to the heart of the reviewer. This is that the victims of the genocide throughout the ages have filled history with their sufferings to such an extent that mankind can no longer escape the recognition of either the consequence or the moral responsibility. In this sense every community which has fallen victim of genocide acts as Christ carrying the cross to Golgotha. The result has been an ever stronger articulation of human conscience culminating finally in the enactment of an international law against this foul crime-the United Nations Convention Against Genocide, now ratified by 58 nations. The sufferings of the Armenian men, women, and children thrown into the Euphrates River or massacred on the way to Der-el-Zor have prepared the way for the adoption for the Genocide Convention by the United Nations and have morally compelled Turkey to ratify it.
This is the reason why the Armenia’s of the entire world were specifically interested in the Genocide Convention. They filled the galleries of the drafting committee at the third General Assembly of the United Nations in Paris when the Genocide Convention was discussed. An Armenian, Levon Keshishian, the well-known U.N. correspondent for Arab newspapers, helped considerably through his writings in obtaining the ratifications of many Near Eastern and North African countries.
One million Armenia’s died, but a law against the murder of peoples was written with the ink of their blood and the spirit of their sufferings.
To this the two well-documented volumes of Monsignor Naslian bear powerful witness for history.
Mouradian Lectures on Turkey-Armenia Dialogue
On Thursday, December 11, a lecture on Turkish-Armenian relations, titled “Soccer Diplomacy and the Road Not Taken,” was held at Haigazian University.
Haigazian’s Student Life Director and Haigazian Armenological Review’s executive secretary Antranig Dakessian spoke briefly about the current developmen’s in Turkish-Armenian relations and introduced the speaker, Khatchig Mouradian, editor of the Boston-based Armenian Weekly and a graduate of Haigazian University.
Mouradian first provided the context in which the recent Turkey-Armenia rapprochement happened. During the Russia-Georgia conflict, he noted, traffic was disrupted on an important highway connecting the two countries, stopping vital supplies from reaching Armenia. With the Russia-Georgia standoff unresolved, urgent attention was given in Yerevan to the Turkey-Armenia border, closed by Turkey when the Karabagh conflict erupted. Mouradian also talked about the presidential election in Armenia and how it affected the rapprochement.
The speaker then detailed the political situation in Turkey and the reasons behind Ankara’s interest in reaching a breakthrough in Turkey-Armenia relations. After a brief overview of the situation in Turkey, during which he spoke about the role of the Turkish army and bureaucracy and the difficult situation the ruling AK party has found itself in, Mouradian noted that Turkey’s interest in a breakthrough could be summarized by one word: genocide.
“With a democratic majority in Congress, and with the prospects of an Obama/Biden victory high, Turkey realized that it is only a matter of time before the U.S. officially recognizes the Armenian genocide,” Mouradian said.
Mouradian said, “In Turkey, the hardliners argued that Ankara should avoid normalizing relations with Yerevan before the latter stop pursuing international recognition of the Genocide and withdraws forces from Karabagh. The moderates, on the other hand, argued that the best strategy for Turkey would be to disrupt the harmony between the Armenian state, which has made genocide recognition a foreign relations priority, and the Armenian Diaspora, which has been pursuing genocide recognition worldwide for decades through activism and lobbying.” By starting negotiations with Armenia and receiving concessions from it on the genocide recognition front, Mouradian argued, Turkey hoped of creating a schism between the Diaspora and Armenia and undermine the passage of the Genocide Resolution in the U.S.
Mouradian then talked about the inherent asymmetries in the Turkey-Armenia dialogue. He said, “True transformation of Turkish-Armenian relations cannot take place without involving all sectors and levels of the affected population. ‘Soccer Diplomacy’ was not Turkish-Armenian dialogue-as it was portrayed in the media-it was Turkey-Armenia dialogue and ignored the large and powerful Diaspora that has been the coronary artery of Armenia’since its independence.”
He concluded, “A great amount of creativity is necessary to address the power asymmetries that are so inherent to this conflict-especially since these asymmetries are the product of the genocide perpetrated by one side and the denial and hostile attitude that continued to define the policies of that side towards the other.”