Friday, April 24, 2015, marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The date commemorates the deportation of Armenian intellectuals by the Turkish government.
This would be the beginning stage of a massacre that would leave 1.5 million Armenians dead and a community, history and culture destroyed. A fact unknown to many is that the first systematic genocide of the 20th century was committed against Christians. It is important to note that also Assyrians Christians and Greeks were killed en-masse in this systematic campaign that would wipe out the Christian minorities in Turkey. Christians were 20 percent of Turkey’s population before World War I, and they are now just one percent.
Shortly after deporting the intellectuals, whole communities were deported by cattle car and massacred in a process that would repeat itself in Nazi Germany with the Jews. Hitler was to use the passivity of the world in the face of the genocide as proof of being able to get away with the Holocaust.
But the comparison went further.
He would also use the systematic methods of the Turks to carry it out.
While we must always remember the massacre, let us also remember a great period in American history in which the American public raised today’s equivalent of 2 billion dollars to help survivors of the genocide. Near East Relief, the world’s first large-scale, modern humanitarian project, was created to help and everyone from First Ladies and churches to actors and newspapers got involved.
Let us remember some of the heroes of American history, such as Henry Morgenthau Sr., the father of the Famous Secretary of Treasury and Ambassador to Turkey during the genocide. He refused to remain quiet about the genocide and alerted the US government to what was happening. As a result he lost his job, but he nevertheless spoke throughout the U.S., urging people not to standby while this was happening. He was a founder of the Near East Relief.
Let us remember the Aremenian genocide and refuse, as we did then, to stand idly while a genocide occurs!