Last week, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 to pass H.Res.252, the Armenian Genocide Resolution. Several of those 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 be erased from history, and I wonder why they don’t fathom the connecting relationship of those two genocides.
Why did the Jewish Holocaust happen? Could it be that Adolf Hitler learned from the first genocide of the 20th century, an event Turkey denies was intended to exterminate its Armenian population? 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 during World War I. 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?”
World War I started in 1914 and ended in 1918. Hitler was a decorated corporal in the German Army in Flanders, and like many Germans at the time, couldn’t believe Germany had lost the war. In addition to focusing on the war itself, the world media was also focused on the death marches of the Ottoman Armenians who were deported from their ancestral homes in Turkey to the barren deserts of Ottoman Syria. They were commonly written about as the “starving Armenians.” When the war ended in 1918, the United States displayed its greatest humanitarian effort by leading 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 interior minister, Talat Pasha, who was the architect of the Armenian deportations, was assassinated in Berlin by an Armenian survivor. The survivor gained worldwide notoriety and his trial was the subject of worldwide attention, particularly when the survivor was acquitted by the German jury.
The trial, 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 surviving Armenians and Greeks fled to safety in Greece. Less than 20 years passed as the memory of the Armenian Genocide faded into history and was forgotten by the world…but not by Hitler! And so it goes…..
Kay Mouradian is a professor of health and physical education in the Los Angeles Community Colleges. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on Mouradian, visit www.AGiftInTheSunlight.com.