Death Toll: 1,500,000 Armenians killed
The Genocide of the Armenians by the Turkish government during World War I represents a major tragedy of the modern age. In this the first Genocide of the 20th century, almost an entire nation was destroyed. The Armenian people were effectively eliminated from the homeland they had occupied for nearly three thousand years. This annihilation was premeditated and planned to be carried out under the cover of war.
During the night of April 23-24, 1915, Armenian political, religious, educational, and intellectual leaders in Istanbul were arrested, deported to the interior, and mercilessly put to death. Next, the Turkish government ordered the deportation of the Armenian people to “relocation centers” – actually to the barren deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia. The Armenians were driven out brutally from the length and breadth of the empire. Secrecy, surprise, deception, torture, dehumanization, rape and pillage were all a part of the process. The whole of Asia Minor was put in motion.
The greatest torment was reserved for the women and children, who were driven for months over mountains and deserts, often dehumanized by being stripped naked and repeatedly preyed upon and abused. Intentionally deprived of food and water, they fell by the hundreds of thousands along the routes to the desert.
There were some survivors scattered throughout the Middle East and Transcaucasia. Thousands of them, refugees here and there, were to die of starvation, epidemics, and exposure. Even the memory of the nation was intended for obliteration. The former existence of Armenians in Turkey was denied. Maps and history were rewritten. Churches, schools, and cultural monuments were desecrated and misnamed. Small children, snatched from their parents, were renamed and farmed out to be raised as Turks. The Turks “annexed” ancestors of the area in ancient times to claim falsely, by such deception, that they inhabited this region from ancient days. A small remnant of the Armenian homeland remained devastated by war and populated largely by starving refugees, only to be subsequently overrun by the Bolshevik Red Army and incorporated into the Soviet Union for seven decades, until its breakup in 1990. The word ” genocide” had not yet been coined. Nonetheless, at the time, many governmental spokesmen and statesmen decried the mass murder of the Armenians as crimes against humanity, and murder of a nation.
Reports of the atrocities gradually came out and were eventually disseminated the world over by newspapers, journals, and eyewitness accounts. In the United States a number of prominent leaders and organizations established fundraising drives for the remnants of the “Starving Armenians”. In Europe the Allied Powers gave public notice that they would hold personally responsible all members of the Turkish government and others who had planned or participated in the massacres. Yet, within a few years, these same governments and statesmen turned away from the Armenians in total disregard of their pledges. Soon the Armenian genocide had become the “Forgotten Genocide”.
In effect, the Turkish government had succeeded in its diabolical plan to exterminate the Armenian population from what is now Turkey. The failure of the international community to remember, or to honor their promises to punish the perpetrators, or to cause Turkey to indemnify the survivors helped convince Adolph Hitler some 20 years later to carry out a similar policy of extermination against the Jews and certain other non-Aryan populations of Europe.
The Genocide Monument is designed to memorialize the innocent victims of this first genocide of the 20th century. The Genocide Museum teaches that understanding the Armenian Genocide is an important step in preventing similar tragedies in the future, and that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
The German Vice Consul at Erzerum, Count Max Erwin von Scheubner- Richter, summarizes the Armenian Genocide quite succintly in a report to his superiors:
I have conducted a series of conversations with competent and influential Turkish personages, and these are my impressions: A large segment of the Ittahadist [Young Turk] party maintains the viewpoint that the Turkish empire should be based only on the principle of Islam and Pan-Turkism. Its non-Muslim and non-Turkish inhabitants should either be forcibly islamized, or otherwise they ought to be destroyed. These gentlemen believe that the time is propitious for the realization of this plan. The first item on this agenda concerns the liquidation of the Armenians. Ittihad will dangle before the eyes of the allies the specter of an alleged revolution prepared by the Armenian Dashnak party. Moreover local incidents of social unrest and acts of Armenian self-defense will deliberately be provoked and inflated and will be used as pretexts to effect the deportations. Once en route however, the convoys will be attacked and exterminated by Kurdish and Turkish brigands, and in part by gendarmes, who will be instigated for that purpose by Ittihad.
Armenian Genocide Fact Sheet
Knights of Vartan Armenian Research Center
The University of Michigan-Dearborn
Dearborn, MI 48128
The Armenian Genocide was carried out by the “Young Turk” government of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916 (with subsidiaries to 1922-23). One and a half million Armenians were killed, out of a total of two and a half million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Most Armenians in America are children or grandchildren of the survivors, although there are still many survivors amongst us.
Armenians all over the world commemorate this great tragedy on April 24, because it was on that day in 1915 when 300 Armenian leaders, writers, thinkers and professionals in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) were rounded up, deported and killed. Also on that day in Constantinople, 5,000 of the poorest Armenians were butchered in the streets and in their homes.
The Armenian Genocide was masterminded by the Central Committee of the Young Turk Party (Committee for Union and Progress [Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyet, in Turkish]) which was dominated by Mehmed Talât [Pasha], Ismail Enver [Pasha], and Ahmed Djemal [Pasha]. They were a racist group whose ideology was articulated by Zia Gökalp, Dr. Mehmed Nazim, and Dr. Behaeddin Shakir.
The Armenian Genocide was directed by a Special Organization (Teshkilati Mahsusa) set up by the Committee of Union and Progress, which created special “butcher battalions,” made up of violent criminals released from prison.
Some righteous Ottoman officials such as Celal, governor of Aleppo; Mazhar, governor of Ankara; and Reshid, governor of Kastamonu, were dismissed for not complying with the extermination campaign. Any common Turks who protected Armenians were killed.
The Armenian Genocide occurred in a systematic fashion, which proves that it was directed by the Young Turk government.
First the Armenians in the army were disarmed, placed into labor battalions, and then killed.
Then the Armenian political and intellectual leaders were rounded up on April 24, 1915, and then killed.
Finally, the remaining Armenians were called from their homes, told they would be relocated, and then marched off to concentration camps in the desert between Jerablus and Deir ez-Zor where they would starve and thirst to death in the burning sun.
On the march, often they would be denied food and water, and many were brutalized and killed by their “guards” or by “marauders.” The authorities in Trebizond, on the Black Sea coast, did vary this routine: they loaded Armenians on barges and sank them out at sea.
The Turkish government today denies that there was an Armenian genocide and claims that Armenians were only removed from the eastern “war zone.” The Armenian Genocide, however, occurred all over Anatolia [present-day Turkey], and not just in the so-called “war zone.” Deportations and killings occurred in the west, in and around Ismid (Izmit) and Broussa (Bursa); in the center, in and around Angora (Ankara); in the south-west, in and around Konia (Konya) and Adana (which is near the Mediterranean Sea); in the central portion of Anatolia, in and around Diyarbekir (Diyarbakir), Harpout (Harput), Marash, Sivas (Sepastia), Shabin Kara-Hissar (�ebin Karahisar), and Ourfa (Urfa); and on the Black Sea coast, in and around Trebizond (Trabzon), all of which are not part of a war zone. Only Erzeroum, Bitlis, and Van in the east were in the war zone.
The Armenian Genocide was condemned at the time by representatives of the British, French, Russian, German, and Austrian governments—namely all the major Powers. The first three were foes of the Ottoman Empire, the latter two, allies of the Ottoman Empire. The United States, neutral towards the Ottoman Empire, also condemned the Armenian Genocide and was the chief spokesman in behalf of the Armenians.
The American people, via local Protestant missionaries, did the most to save the wretched remnants of the death marches, the orphaned children.
Despite Turkish denial, there is no doubt about the Armenian Genocide. For example, German ambassador Count von Wolff-Metternich, Turkey’s ally in World War I, wrote his government in 1916 saying: “The Committee [of Union and Progress] demands the annihilation of the last remnants of the Armenians and the [Ottoman] government must bow to its demands.”
German consuls stationed in Turkey, including Vice Consul Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richner of Erzerum [Erzurum] who was Adolf Hitler’s chief political advisor in the 1920s, were eyewitnesses. Hitler said to his generals on the eve of sending his Death’s Heads units into Poland, “Go, kill without mercy . . . who today remembers the annihilation of the Armenians.”
Henry Morgenthau Sr., the neutral American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, sent a cable to the U.S. State Department in 1915:
“Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and from harrowing reports of eye witnesses [sic] it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion.”
Morgenthau’s successor as Ambassador to Turkey, Abram Elkus, cabled the U.S. State Department in 1916 that the Young Turks were continuing an “. . . unchecked policy of extermination through starvation, exhaustion, and brutality of treatment hardly surpassed even in Turkish history.”
Only one Turkish government, that of Damad Ferit Pasha, has ever recognized the Armenian genocide. In fact, that Turkish government held war crimes trials and condemned to death the major leaders responsible.
The Turkish court concluded that the leaders of the Young Turk government were guilty of murder. “This fact has been proven and verified.” It maintained that the genocidal scheme was carried out with as much secrecy as possible. That a public facade was maintained of “relocating” the Armenians. That they carried out the killing by a secret network. That the decision to eradicate the Armenians was not a hasty decision, but “the result of extensive and profound deliberations.”
Ismail Enver Pasha, Ahmed Cemal Pasha, Mehmed Talât Bey, and a host of others were convicted by the Turkish court and condemned to death for “the extermination and destruction of the Armenians.”
The Permanent People’s Tribunal recognized the Armenian Genocide on April 16, 1984.
The European Parliament voted to recognize the Armenian Genocide on June 18, 1987.
President Bush issued a news release in 1990 calling on all Americans to join with Armenians on April 24 in commemorating “the more than a million Armenian people who were victims.”
President Clinton issued a news release on April 24, 1994, to commemorate the “tragedy” that befell the Armenians in 1915.
The Russian Duma (the lower house of the bicameral Russian legislature) voted on April 20, 1994, to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Israel officially condemned the Armenian Genocide as Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin proclaimed on the floor of the Knesset (the Israeli legislature), on April 27, 1994, in answer to the claims of the Turkish Ambassador, that “It was not war. It was most certainly massacre and genocide, something the world must remember.”
The Armenian genocide is similar to the Jewish holocaust in many respects. Both people adhere to an ancient religion. Both were religious minorities of their respective states. Both have a history of persecution. Both have new democracies. Both are surrounded by enemies. Both are talented and creative minorities who have been persecuted out of envy and obscurantism.
– The Republic of Turkey must cease to be the only major country in the world to deny the Armenian Genocide.
– The Republic of Turkey must show good will by allowing American aid to present-day Armenia to pass through unhindered.
– The Republic of Turkey must cease to train Azerbaijani soldiers in Turkey for the purpose of attacking Armenia.
Ironically, Turkey’s Accusers are also guilty of genocides they seldom recognize or teach:
Germany committed genocide against the Herero tribe in then Southwest Africa during its colonial occupation in the 1890s. The best evidence shows the Germans slaughtered members of the tribe because they believed they were genetically and mentally inferior. The tribe was not guilty of treason and not provoked the German savagery by its own massacres of Germans. The butchery of the Hereros was not during wartime when excesses are inevitable. Those who survived the initial German genocide revolted against their brutal treatment with the Hoitentots in 1904, but were viciously destroyed with vastly superior arms or otherwise.
Substantial evidence implicates France in Algerian genocide during 1954-62 war of independence in which more than 200,000 Muslims were slaughtered. Senior French officers who fought in Algeria have recently confessed that torture and summary executions were routine grisly instruments of French warfare. President Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin, however, have fiercely opposed a parliamentary inquiry into the genocide as exploring a subject best left to historians.
Belgium is seemingly guilty of genocide during its gruesome colonization of Belgian Congo under King Leopold II. The genocide spurred the legendary book by Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness. The King deliberately inflicted on numerous Congolese tribes conditions of calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part. Belgium’s ugly Congo genocide has been recently chronicled in the book, King Leopold’s Ghost.
Portugal’s apparent genocides uncurtained in Angola, Portuguese Guinea, and Mozambique during colonial years. The Portuguese sold back tribal members as slaves, and inflicted brutal conditions of slave and caused death to Angolan, Guinean, and Mozambican tribes.
Spain seems implicated in the genocides of hundreds of Caribbean and Central and South American peoples, like the Mexican Aztecs, and the genocide of Basques in mainland Spain. Spanish killings and enslavements of indigenous tribes and peoples are notorious, and stretched over centuries. Ditto for Spanish Basques living on the border with France. Slavery was not ended in Cuba until Spain’s defeat in 1898 Spanish-American war. Spain may also have been guilty of genocide in Spanish Morocco during its colonization.
6. Great Britain
The British apparently committed genocide of the Irish during the Great Potato Famine, 1845-48. the Irish lost ½ their population from emigration provoked by starvation conditions, and the British aggravated the starvation by callous policies permitting the exports of foodstuffs from Ireland during the famine calamity. The state of New York in the United States teaches the Potato Famine as an example of genocide.
Austria is guilty of the Jewish Holocaust. The sole reason it escaped that hideous stigma is because of Cold War politics after World War II when it was occupied by the West and the Soviet Union until 1955.
Greece is guilty of genocide of Ottoman Muslims in Crete and of Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus twice, 1963-64 and 1974. The evidence of genocide is voluminous, including testimony from former U.S. Undersecretary of State George Ball and foreign reporters on the scene.
Italy is guilty of genocide in Ethiopia and Somalia during its colonization and war aggressions, and a co-inspirator in the Jewish Holocaust as an ally of Hitler’s Third Reich.
The Dutch seem indictable for genocide of Indonesian tribes during its long colonial rule that ended only after World War II. The Dutch slaughtered and subjugated indigenous populations for economic gain and a belief in their racial and religious superiority.
11. United States
The United states is seemingly guilty of genocides of several Native American Indian tribes and blacks during slavery. The Sand Creek massacre of helpless Indian woman and children and General Phil Sheridan’s fighting fighting creed that only good Indian is a dead Indian exemplifies the former genocides. The lethal conditions of black slavery captured in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin illustrates the latter genocide.
12. Australia and New Zealand
Neither country is a EU member, but both associated with its lofty ideology of moral superiority, and were former colonies of Great Britain. Both under the colonialism of the latter and during their early years of independence, these twin nations committed genocides against Australian aboriginals and New Zealand Maoris, respectively.