|Brennen looking at one of the Genocide memorials|
I feel incredibly ignorant saying I didn’t know very many details about the 1915 Armenian Genocide before coming to Yerevan but unfortunately, this is the truth.
In all my years of schooling I don’t ever remember the genocide being brought up. Through all my time researching the Holocaust, I never remember reflecting upon the Armenian genocide. Even while protests over the genocide in Darfur frequented my college campus, I can’t recall ever hearing about the Armenian genocide.
Sure, I suppose it’s possible I read something and simply didn’t process it but it shocked me to my core that this utterly horrible, callous event occurred in history- an event that resulted in the death of 1.7 million Armenians- and practically everything I knew about this genocide was written in a one paragraph blurb in the ‘Lonely Planet Guide to Armenia’.
I cried a lot that day at the museum. I cried because 1.7 million people were killed for having a religion that others weren’t comfortable with. I cried because 1.7 million people were killed for being themselves. I cried for my own ignorance. I cried for the world’s ignorance. I cried because genocides are happening right now, in several countries, and I feel like there is nothing I can do to help.
I cried and I cried. From 11am to about 7pm I was pretty much just crying.
The Holocaust inflicted upon the Jews and all the others who did not fit the mold of Hitler’s “Perfect Race” is a well-known event in world history. There is significant proof it occurred, from photographs and videos to a plethora of still-standing concentration camps that can be visited to this day.
The same cannot be said about the Armenian genocide. “Proof” that it occurred is not as accessible. There are no concentration camps to look at, few photos that lay any blame. There is evidence in the photos of dead starved children rotting on the streets, and in the written accounts of the brutal, sadistic acts inflicted upon the Armenians but somehow this is not enough.
Even now, the genocide is denied by thousands. Forty matching written accounts that say that cattle cars full of women and children were driven into a lake to drown Armenians is apparently not “enough proof”.
Many non-believers attribute the genocide to a simple casualty of war. A war occurred, people died.
Reading about views like this really messed with my head. My entire family was killed as a result of the Holocaust. My grandparents on both sides of my family were basically the sole survivors of their families. The combination of me barely knowing a single fact about the Armenian genocide prior to walking into the museum and the similarities between the Armenian Genocide and that of the Holocaust put something like a real hole into my soul.
The best thing I can think to do is to inform others who similarly feel like they know barely information about the Armenian genocide. There are four people I read about at the museum that I don’t think enough people in the world know anything about. I encourage you to read about these four amazing souls if even for a moment to just say their names out loud and acknowledge them.
- Maria Jacobsen, a Danish Missionary, who kept a detailed accord of the events of the genocide and saved hundreds of Armenian children from extermination
- Armin Theopil Wegner, a human rights activist who took photos (proof) of the horror occurring during the genocide
- Ruben Heryan, responsible for saving hundreds of Armenian orphans while risking his own life