The Armenian Genocide - the Warning that Went Unheeded
Stephen Kurkjian, the son of a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, spoke about its causes and its effects to the Sharon Men’s Club in late November of 2021.
In 1939, as he was poised to invade Poland with a blitzkrieg attack,
Hitler tossed aside the concern of his generals that such violence
against civilians would bring worldwide condemnation, telling them
“only thus shall we gain the living space that we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
The Armenian Genocide, which Hitler was referencing, had taken place less than 25 years before. In 1915, the Turkish regime had ordered an attack against the Armenian people who had lived in the region ofeastern Turkey since the dawn of civilization. In less than a year’s time, a third of the more than three million Armenians - most of the men - who had lived in small villages and larger towns in the mountain-side areas the size of New England were slaughtered. The rest, for the most part women and children under 12, were driven out of Turkey in caravans that had to travel hundreds of miles to safety or were forced to forsake their Christian faith and disguise themselves as Muslims.
The three pashas that were leading Turkey’s Ottoman Empire into
World War I used ethnic hatred against the Armenians in the same waythat Hitler did against the Jewish people to justify his attacks.
And though the major powers, including the US, realized that the Armenian minority and Jewish people were being decimated they declined to alter their military strategies and try to stop the attacks.
Thankfully, someone was paying attention. It was Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent. He carefully studied the origins of the attacks against the Armenians and in the late 1940s petitioned the United Nations to adopt the Genocide Convention, a series of standards and of laws that outlawed such violence against ethnic minorities.