I applaud Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, with his new campaign to collect and document some of the tragic stories from Armenian genocide survivors who came to America and to include those accounts in the U.S. Congressional Record. For the last 25 years Turkey has continually denied that its intention was to exterminate its Armenian population during World War I and with its well funded lobby has successfully influenced many of our representatives.
Last March the U S House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 to pass HR252, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Schiff. Several representatives on the committee who opposed the resolution couldn’t understand why they should bother debating something that happened nearly a hundred years ago, as if Armenian history was not important enough to be recorded with dignity. Those same representatives would never have dared suggest that the World War II holocaust should be erased from history, and the reason is that they don’t understand the connection between the two genocides. They don’t have respectable knowledge of what actually happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915, but Adolf Hitler did. A decorated corporal in the German Army in Flanders during World War I, Hitler was fully aware of Ottoman Turkey’s extreme solution to the Armenian Question.
The world media, in addition to focusing on the war itself, featured a multitude of articles on the Ottoman Armenians during their deportation from their ancestral homes in Turkey. The New York Times alone ran more than 200 articles about the starving Armenians and the forced death marches to the barren deserts of Ottoman Syria. Those Armenians who survived when the war ended in 1918 were rescued and nurtured by compassionate American missionaries. The United States displayed its greatest humanitarian event during that time and led the world in funding and saving the lives of those Armenians who survived, mostly orphans. My mother was one of those orphans.
Then in 1921 the Turkish Minister of Interior, Talaat Pasha, who was the architect of the Armenian deportations was assassinated in Berlin by an Armenian survivor, Soghomon Tehlirian. Media coverage of the assassination triggered more dialogue about the Turkish atrocities and the trial, with Tehlirian’s newfound notoriety, gained worldwide attention, particularly when Tehlirian was acquitted by a German jury. The trial, the horrors of the Armenian deportations, and the relief effort for the Armenian survivors were subjects of conversation worldwide as was the burning of Smyrna (now called Izmir) in 1922 when thousands of Armenians and Greeks were at the mercy of the irregular Turkish army.
Less than twenty years passed when the memory of the Armenian genocide faded into history and was forgotten by the world…but not by Hitler! When Hitler was planning his annihilation of Poland in 1939, he knew Turkey had never been held accountable for what their Ottoman forefathers had perpetrated against its Armenian populace. Hitler said at the outset of World War II, “The destruction of Poland has priority. The victor will not be asked afterwards whether he told the truth or not. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?”
And so it goes…..
Kay Mouradian, EdD
Professor Emerita Education
Los Angeles Community Colleges