Monday, April 28, 2008

Armenia's 'Christian holocaust'

In late August 1939, the day before his invasion of Poland, Adolf Hitler gathered his commanders at his home and informed them he had placed "death's head" military formations in the east with orders "to send to death mercilessly and without compassion men, women and children of Polish derivation and language."

He assured his commanders the world would not long condemn them, justifying his brutality by asking rhetorically, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Hitler was referring to the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces beginning in April 1915. Until today, the Turkish government denies the authenticity of both Hitler's statement and the genocide itself.

Tel Aviv University professor Israel Charny, chief editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide, insists the statement was recorded by "an indisputably serious" Associated Press correspondent, and that other remarks were made by Hitler that "confirm that the Armenian genocide was an active guiding concept in the monster's mind."

Kevork Kahvedjian, son of Jerusalem photographer and Armenian genocide survivor Elia Kahvedjian, explains his father was personal testimony to the genocide and its savagery. "When it started, he was only five years old, but he remembered it very clearly. Especially the last year of his life he remembered it..." Kevork continually slipped into the first person while recounting his father's story, as if it had happened to him: "I used to see lots of dead people, piles of them. Some had been burned. Until today I remember the smell of burned flesh," he narrated, detailing the death march through the desert.

He remembered the sound of the German cannons pounding the city, then a lull of about a month before the Turkish soldiers entered his home and took Elia, his mother, a sister and two brothers - one brother was just a few months old. Two older brothers had already been hanged.

"Soldiers came and started pushing my mother. She tried to go back to the house but the soldiers hit her with rifle butts and she had to take the children and start walking." The Armenians were allowed only what they could carry. They walked for weeks through the desert of Deir Zor with soldiers on both sides. The soldiers offered neither food nor water, but the prisoners ate some plants and drank brackish water on the way.

After weeks of carrying her six-month-old baby, Elia's mother, exhausted, set the infant in the shade of a tree and abandoned him, hoping some kind person would find him. The older sister, about 12 years old during the march, was abducted. Elia found her 18 years later and discovered she had been forced to serve in a harem.

In a wadi, near the end of the trek, "I heard my mother say, 'Today, I think they're going to kill us.'" It happened that that a Kurd was passing by. She called the Kurd and told him, "Take this boy and go." The Kurd took Elia and the boy remembered, "At the top of the hill we turned around and saw the soldiers killing everyone." The Kurd took Elia, burned his clothes, gave him medicine for dysentery, and sold him to a blacksmith, who eventually sent him away. Elia sought refuge in a Syrian convent. In 1918, when the war was over, the American Near East Relief Foundation began to gather Armenian orphans and distribute them in its orphanages throughout the Middle East.

Elia was transferred to Lebanon, then to Nazareth in 1920. There, one of the teachers was a photographer and Elia worked for him. Elia learned the photography trade and became a prominent photographer. Many beloved pictures of early 20th-century Jerusalem were taken by Elia; the album, Through My Father's Eyes, celebrates his work.

Turkish authorities strive to discredit accounts such as Elia's, although his testimony is confirmed by an abundance of contemporary journalism, eyewitness accounts by statesmen such as American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, as well as German and Austrian documentation.

Charny claims there was "most certainly" a religious element in the persecution of the Armenians, the first empire to embrace the faith. (Armenia officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in 301 CE, about 25 years before the Roman Empire did so.) "There are even some who want to refer to this period overall as 'The Christian Genocide,' because the victims of the Turks' genocide were not only Armenians but also Assyrians and Greeks," he explains. Still, he is reticent to use that term as it "could seem to remove from the Armenian community their hard-won gains for recognition of the genocide of their people."

According to Charney, "What stands out about the denials of the Armenian genocide is that for many years, the full power of the Turkish government has been devoted to denials of the genocide. Turkey literally spends millions on advertising agencies and on publicity efforts. It also throws the considerable weight of its government behind coercing denials from other countries, with threats to the United States of not allowing American military planes to use Turkish air space or threatening to pull out of joint NATO military exercises, as well as with threats of major economic retaliation should or when a country, such as France, confirms recognition of the Armenian genocide.

"Israel is regularly the object of threats by the Turks and, regrettably to say the least, for many years has kowtowed to these threats. But then too so has the stronger United States"

MK Haim Oron (Meretz) proposed in March that the Knesset appoint a committee to consider recognizing the Armenian genocide, adding, "It is unacceptable that the Jewish people is not making itself heard." Although the measure passed, MK Shalom Simhon (Likud) responded, "this has become a politically charged issue between Armenians and Turks, and Israel is not interested in taking sides."

Many Israelis are eager for their country to recognize the genocide. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will hold an event titled "A Symposium in Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide" at its Givat Ram campus on April 29 at 6:30 p.m. Both Kevork Kahvedjian and Charney will speak.

Israel will eventually recognize the genocide, insists Kevork, who manages his father's business, Elia Photo Service, in Jerusalem's Old City. Kevork, named for the baby left under a tree in the desert, believes, "One day they are going to say, 'Yes, it happened.' If not now, then in 50 years!"

Otherwise, Armenians worry, states that refuse to recognize the genocide risk rendering Hitler's rhetorical question a reality.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Swedish Archives Confirm: It Was A Genocide!



A recently conducted study at the Uppsala University has revealed
highly interesting information in the Swedish Archives, which once
again confirm the researchers' view of the events in the Ottoman
Turkey during the First World War: the Christian minorities, the
Armenians in particular, were subjected to genocide.

The massacres in Ottoman Turkey during the First World War claimed the
lives of approximately 1.5 million out of a world population of four
million Armenians, while over 250,000 Assyrians/Chadeans and equal
number of Pontic Greeks. In 1923, for the first time in over 2,500
years, Armenians no longer lived on 85 % of their fatherland. Thus,
the Armenian genocide was, in a sense, a successful genocide, acquiring
the perpetrators an Armenia without Armenians.

The conducted survey covers the period between 1915 and 1923 and
includes, among others, reports which the Swedish Ambassador, Cosswa
Anckarsvärd, and the Swedish Military Attaché, Einar af Wirsén,
both stationed in Constantinople, sent to the Foreign Department
(found in the National Archive) and the General Staff Headquarters
(found in the War Archive) in Stockholm, respectively. In total, about
eighty documents were found with direct relevance to the so-called
Armenian Question, of which some are over-explicit in their message:
the Turkish Government conducted a systematic extermination of the
Armenian Nation.

On July 6, 1915, Ambassador Anckarsvärd, writing to the Swedish
Foreign Minister, Knut Wallenberg, concludes: "Mr. Minister, The
persecutions of the Armenians have reached hair-raising proportions
and all points to the fact that the Young Turks want to seize the
opportunity, since due to different reasons there are no effective
external pressure to be feared, to once and for all put an end to the
Armenian question. The means for this are quite simple and consist
of the extermination [utrotandet] of the Armenian nation [emphasis
added]." Anckarsvärd's reports until 1920 persisted in the same
insight. At several occasions, the Ambassador points out that "It is
obvious that the Turks are taking the opportunity to, now during the
war, annihilate [utplåna] the Armenian nation [emphasis added] so that
when the peace comes no Armenian question longer exists." In a later
report (1917) he underlines that the massacres are not clashes between
the Muslim and the Armenian populations, but "that the persecutions of
Armenians have been done at the instigation of the Turkish Government
[emphasis added]..." As an explanation to the prevailing famine in
Turkey during 1917, the Embassy Envoy Alhgren mentions the shortage of
workers, which is claimed partly to be a result of "the extermination
of the Armenian race [utrotandet af den armeniska rasen] [emphasis
added]". Major Wirsén's reports to the General Staff concur with
Anckarsvärd's analysis. In 1942 Wirsén published his memoirs,
entitled Minnen från fred och krig ("Memories from Peace and War"),
reflecting upon his time as Swedish Military Attaché in the Balkans
and Turkey. In a chapter entitled Mordet på en nation ("The Murder of
a Nation"), Wirsén renders his observations of the Armenian massacres:
"Officially, these [deportations] had the goal to move the entire
Armenian population to the steppe regions of Northern Mesopotamia and
Syria, but in reality they aimed to exterminate [utrota] the Armenians
[emphasis added], whereby the pure Turkish element in Asia Minor would
achieve a dominating position." In the conclusion of this chapter he
recalls his conversation with the Turkish Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha
and notes: "The annihilation of the Armenian nation [emphasis added]
in Asia Minor must revolt all human feelings... The way the Armenian
problem was solved was hair-raising. I still can see in front of me
Talaat's cynical expression, when he emphasized that the Armenian
Question was solved."

The mentioned quotations are a fraction of the information presented
in the study. In addition to the mentioned archives of the Foreign
Ministry and the General Staff, the reports from the Swedish
missionaries and the Swedish newspapers were also included in the
study and concur with the same view.

The surveyed documents are mainly in regard to the Armenian Question,
but the data bed indicates that other Christian groups, such as Greeks
and Syriacs, were affected by the same fate.

The study clearly emphasises the concept of "bystander". While the word
itself implies that the bystanders do not participate in the genocide,
some contend that they are far from just a neutral viewer to the
tragedy, but passive participators in the annihilation. The British
statesman and political thinker Edmund Burke's statement captures
the essence of the bystanders to genocide: "the only thing necessary
for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The documents
clearly indicate that the Swedish Government was well informed about
the state-orchestrated extermination of the Armenians. They also
disclose that the Government, fully in accordance with the policy
of a small state, consciously chose not to intervene in the matter,
neither during the massacres nor after when the League of Nations
suggested Sweden as a mandate power in Armenia.

While resorting to isolationism during the period of the implementation
of the genocide, Sweden followed the general stream, in particular that
of the Major Power's, during the post-war period when the question
of securing the future of the Armenian Nation was discussed. Sweden,
as all other states, chose to secure its national interests rather
than standing out from the rest by advocating Armenia's right and the
question of punishing the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide. The
present-day Swedish Government does not seem to be willing to become
involved in the question either. Just last fall, the Foreign Minister
Carl Bildt, during an interpellation in the Swedish Parliament,
refrained from officially recognising the 1915 genocide, partly
by referring to "the need of additional research about what really
transpired in the Ottoman Empire."

The surveyed documents should at least quench that need; the official
reports from the Swedish Ambassador and the Swedish Military Attaché
in Constantinople are unambiguous: Armenians were subjected to

The study in its whole is included in a master thesis paper
which will be presented in the Higher Seminar at the Uppsala
University's Department of History. It will also be available at