The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation recognizes the one hundred and third anniversary of the Armenian Genocide today, April 24, 2018. Carried out by the Ottoman Empire with the objective of exterminating its Armenian population, the tragic set of events has come to represent one of the first “modern genocides” to many scholars in the field. The Armenian Genocide, which comprises a range of atrocities perpetrated by the Ottoman state, reached a point of critical mass by 1915 and continued, with little abatement, through the end of the the First World War and into the 1920s.
On April 24 of 1915, a program of mass imprisonment was put into motion. Prominent figures within the Armenian community of Constantinople were detained and interned. This began a series of waves, during which thousands of Armenian leaders were arrested, imprisoned, relocated and/or murdered over the subsequent months. Soon thereafter, a series of internment, displacement, and deportation actions against the larger Armenian population by Ottoman authorities. For their part, Armenian men were most often put into servitude at a variety of forced labor camps before facing arbitrary executions. Women, children, and elderly members of the Armenian community, however, were made to participate in “death marches.” These forced marches led victims on protracted journeys through the Syrian desert, with many subjected to torture and rape in addition to death through attrition.
While estimates on the total number of those who perished can vary, between 1,000,000 and 1,800,000 Armenians lost their life as a result of the genocide by the year 1918. This number amounts to approximately 70% of the region’s Armenian community. The scale and cruelty of the atrocities served as one of the principal inspirations for the creation of the word “genocide” by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin and, by extension, the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
On this day, the Auschwitz Institute remembers the atrocities suffered by the Armenian community. AIPR stands with those fighting for universal and full recognition of the genocide as part of our historical record and as a vital component of measures for truth, justice, and memory for the victims and their families. Fighting against denial and historical revisionism in all forms is essential to ending impunity and preventing future atrocities.