The Forgotten  Genocide
Of The 20th Century

 

April 24, 1915 marks the darkest day in Armenia's 3000 year history. On that day the Turkish government began the systematic genocide of the Armenian people. By 1922 1.5 million Armenians had been slaughtered. 

Remembering the Armenians
By Vartan Hartunian

 

A Survivor of the Armenian Genocide Remembers:
An interview with Reverend Vartan Hartunian

 

My name is Vartan Hartunian and I am the pastor of the First Armenian Church in Belmont, Massachusetts. I am one of a diminishing number of survivors of the Armenian genocide. I was born on February 11, 1915 and the genocide broke out on April 24, 1915. Prior to the genocide, in the 11th and 12th centuries, the Armenian people were subjugated by the Ottoman Turks. Since that time, they have been tolerated, but have had few civil rights, not comparable to the civil rights of the Turks. The Armenian people lived under tension, because of their situation, vis a vis the Turkish government. They lived in fear and massacres would break out here and there for various reasons. The greatest one was in 1895, when Abdul Hamid, "the bloody Sultan", ordered the massacres; some 300,000 Armenians were slaughtered throughout Turkey. The massacre began at a given hour and ended at a given hour 3 or 4 days later. This put the entire Armenian community in great jeopardy. When the Young Turks came to power and overthrew the Sultan Hamid, the Armenian political parties joined the Young Turks and the Young Turks welcomed them. When the new government was established, both the Armenians and the Turks rejoiced, but obviously the Armenians were unaware of the ultimate plan of the Young Turks.

In 1909 there was a massacre in Adana, and 30,000 Armenians were slaughtered. For a few years after that there was reasonable calm, and the thought was that perhaps Armenians and Turks could get along together. When World War I broke out, this gave the Young Turks the opportunity to fulfill a Turkish desire that had continued for centuries: to rid Turkey of all Armenians, perhaps to rid Turkey of all Christians, because in addition to the Armenians there were Greeks and other Armenian minorities in Turkey.

As I mentioned, I was born on February 11, 1915, and the genocide broke out on April 24, 1915. Even before I was born, the Turkish mayor of Marash, the city where I was born, called my father to his office and showed him the orders from Constantinople for the extermination of all the Armenian people. And this good mayor, this good Turk, pleaded with my father and said "What shall I do?" and my father told him to stay in office and to help him, his family and his people as much as he could. This good Turk did that, and we know he was later removed from office due to his lack of cooperation with the orders.

When I was born, my father knew that the decree had been given for my death, and for the death of his other children, his wife and for himself. But fortunately, under the mayor's guidance, my mother and I were hidden in a hospital room. I remember being there maybe a whole year, eating dry bread and cheese, and the only dessert I had was a handful of dried cherries. My three sisters were kept safe in the German orphanage and my father was finally deported. My father was in a death march of 12,000 Armenian men, women, and children, and by the time he had played dead and managed to escape to the American College in Aintab, there were less then 1,000 of those 12,000 remaining.

During the genocide, deliberated in the Turkish parliament, where all objections were silenced, 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children were slaughtered in various ways. Some 500,000 died after the armistice and not only from disease, heartbreak and starvation, but because even after the armistice, the troops of Mustafa Kemal, armed by the French and the English, went through Turkey and destroyed towns, cities and the survivors of the genocide. 



During 1920, 1921, as a child of 5 to 6, I witnessed an Armenian church in which there were 2,000 Armenian men, women and children taking refuge. The Turks surrounded the church and poured kerosene all around and set the church on fire, ready to shoot anyone who came out of the building. 


They came and did the same thing to the church in which our family and hundreds of others had taken refuge. But we found a trench that the French army, during its stay in that area, had dug from that building to another area where the Armenians were defending themselves. That's how we escaped from that second burning church.

"The suffering of the Armenian people is a gathering of all the suffering of peoples throughout the history of the world," were the words of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau. He realized how tragic it was. The Turks went to the extent of cutting off the hands of children and letting them bleed and yell themselves to death. They buried children alive in ditches in the desert, and they drove thousands of Armenians in death marches until they dropped dead or were shot dead.


 They were robbed on the way and they were forbidden to drink. At the end of the war, when an American official went into the area called Der-el-Zor, which was really the last stopping place of the deportees, he found piles and piles of dead bodies. He asked the Turkish official there how did these people die. The Turkish official said they died of thirst. The official asked if the Euphrates River had dried up. The Turkish official replied that they were forbidden to give the Armenians any water.

 

 

Therefore, it was a deliberate plan of the Turkish nation to eliminate the Armenian Christian population. They succeeded to such a degree that for about 50 years after, the Armenians were unable to properly speak about, document and reveal to the world the occurrence of this horrendous experience.

As a matter of fact, there were several reasons why the Armenian genocide was called, and is still called, the unremembered genocide. First of all, the world thought the first world war was a war to end all wars. If one had that belief, one would try to minimize all the tragedies of World War I. As a result, both the western powers and America and the American Congregation of Missionaries, in the delusion that the first world war was a war to end all wars, felt that all the tragedy should be minimized and not talked about. Turkey should be forgiven, and allowed to reestablish themselves in that area for stability purposes. The second reason was the Armenians were so disseminated, and so deeply hurt in their minds, hearts and souls that they were unable to speak as to what happened. It was only in 1965 that they finally began to proclaim to the world that this horrendous act had taken place.

Thirdly, the Turks found it very convenient to deny that a genocide ever took place; they said it was a civil war and both sides suffered. Ever since and to 1998, they have denied that the genocide ever took place, because they feel, that if this is established, they would be responsible to return lands, to return property, and to apologize. In denying the Armenian genocide, the Turks are denying themselves of their proper place in present civilization, because in accepting that genocide, and in doing whatever is necessary as a consequence, they would say to the world that they have not only participated in this evil, but that they are ready to do something for its good in the future. I call upon all my listeners to study history, not listen to the revisionists, but to go to the archives, not only in Washington, but in England, France, Germany and Austria, even the Turkish archives if by this time they have not been corrupted, which will clearly reveal that the Armenian genocide was deliberately planned and executed by the Young Turks, as they were called, and that it was very, very successful. It was so successful that it inspired Hitler when he decided to exterminate the Jews, to say to his troops who were ready to go into battle to kill, "Go kill men, women and children without mercy...who now remembers the Armenians? When we are successful, the world will worship us." I hope this story impresses itself upon your minds and hearts, and that you yourselves will be instruments of truth and justice as far as history is concerned and be careful about the future, because as it has been said many times, the seeds of genocide are in the very depths of the dark side of humanity.

 

HateWatch commemorates this tragic event by presenting our RealVideo, "Remembering the Armenians: The Forgotten Genocide." This video is available for both 28.8 Kps modems and 56 Kps modems. As part of this presentation, Reverend Vartan Hartunian, a survivor of this genocide, recounts his family's experience during this time. Reverend Hartunian reminds us all that,"... the seeds of genocide are in the very depths of the dark side of humanity."

 

 

The full text of Hate Watch's talk with Reverend Hartunian is also available