Today, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) observes the one hundred and fifth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. This memorial date commemorates the day on which the implementation of a large-scale program of imprisonment marked a major escalation in the Ottoman Empire’s violent persecution of its Armenian population that would later be recognized as the Armenian Genocide. Due to the scale, duration, and character of the atrocities committed, the event is widely known as one of the first “modern genocides.”
On April 24 of 1915, leaders and intellectuals within the Armenian community of Constantinople were detained and interned. This event initiated a longer series of arrests that resulted in the imprisonment, relocation, and/or murder of countless notable Armenians across the Ottoman Empire over the course of the subsequent months. Soon thereafter, Ottoman authorities commenced internment, displacement, and deportation actions against the general Armenian population. 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, by contrast, were made to participate in “death marches.” These forced marches led victims on protracted journeys through what is now 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 are known to have lost their lives as a result of the genocide. 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.
This April 24, the Auschwitz Institute stands with the Armenian community and others around the world in remembering the appalling atrocities that took place. AIPG stands with those fighting for full and universal recognition of the Armenian Genocide as part of our shared historical record, not only for the sake of historical accuracy, but also as a vital component of post-conflict atrocity prevention. Doing so inhibits the spread of dangerous revisionist and denialist agendas while reinforcing essential processes for truth, justice, and memory that contribute to resilient societies.