An Armenian woman lights a candle during a mass marking the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces, in Jerusalem's Old City April 24, 2015.  Photo courtesy REUTERS/Amir Cohen.  *Eds: This photo can only be used with RNS-TRAUBE-COLUMN, transmitted April 24, 2015.

An Armenian woman lights a candle during a Mass marking the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces, in Jerusalem’s Old City April 24, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Amir Cohen.
*Eds: This photo can only be used with RNS-TRAUBE-COLUMN, transmitted April 24, 2015.


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) One hundred years ago, in April 1915 as World War I raged across Europe, the government of the Ottoman Empire attacked its Armenian citizens. Over the next several years, it is estimated that as many as 1.5 million Armenians died. Able-bodied men were murdered or enslaved as forced labor in the army, and hundreds of thousands of women, children, the infirm and the elderly were marched into the Syrian desert to face death.

Supported by the Young Turks, an ultranationalist party that approved systematic deportation, abduction, torture, massacre and the expropriation of Armenian wealth, the German-allied Ottoman government used the excuse of war to initiate the forcible removal of Armenians from Armenia and Anatolia where they had lived for centuries.

The targeting and mass murder of Armenians has been termed a genocide.

Although racial, ethnic and religious wars have killed millions over the centuries, genocide is a unique byproduct of the 20th century. It requires both a rabid nationalism and the capacity of a central authority to organize and implement a sustained and systematic program of targeted mass destruction. Not until the 20th century had governments the necessary technologies, resources and means to ally their historical ethnic, religious or racist hatreds with radical nationalism to end the collective existence of a people.

The Armenian genocide was recognized and deplored around the world, even as modern Turkey resists the “genocide” label. American diplomats, Russians, Arabs and German officers stationed in Ottoman lands witnessed the slaughter and alerted the wider world. In May 1915, Great Britain, France and Russia vowed to hold the Turks personally responsible for their crimes. Relief efforts to save the “starving Armenians” were widespread.

Despite moral outrage, however, there were neither sanctions against the Ottoman Empire nor internationally orchestrated efforts to rescue hounded Armenians. Nor did the Armenians receive any reparations after the war, even though between 1920 and 1923, the Turks expelled or annihilated most of the remaining Armenian people.

It took another even more deadly genocide before the world’s moral outrage became international law. In 1948, after World War II, when the full horror of the Holocaust was laid bare and documented, the newly constituted United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It was part of a nascent body of international law resting on the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two covenants — on civil and political rights and on social, economic and cultural rights.

The 1948 Convention defined genocide as a crime against humanity and established international sanctions against any nation that in peacetime or war engaged in genocidal violence. It was a victory for all humanity and worthy of celebration.

However, the Convention was a victory that came too late for the millions who died terrible deaths in death camps and random murder via inconceivably brutal and inhumane methods. It came too late for the millions who were starved, beaten and murdered by the Nazis during Hitler’s bloody regime.

RNS-TAUBE-COLUMNThe refrain of “never again” arising after World War II has, regrettably, not been employed everywhere. Murderous organized groups such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram engage in brutal mass killings, torture, beheadings and often unspeakable atrocities. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, regularly calls for Israel’s annihilation, and Iran continues to arm terror groups committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.

It strains the conscience of our modern societies to realize that on April 24 — 100 years after the Ottoman government murdered 250 leading Armenian intellectuals — the threat of further genocide hangs heavy over our so-called “civilized world.”

As a Polish Jew who escaped Europe on the eve of World War II, most of my family to perish at the hands of the Nazis, I bear personal witness to the horrors of religious and ethnic hatred. I vow that each and every victim of genocide and terrorism who died will never be forgotten.

(Tad Taube is chairman of Taube Philanthropies, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Honorary Consul General of Poland in San Francisco.)

KRE/AMB END TAUBE

11 Comments

  1. Human beings have comes with titles that decorates certain individuals of repute with titles such as ‘Sir’. Similarly, humanity has to collectively come together to posthumously award titles to dead or to living human beings that have disgraced mankind by their inhumane acts.

    Hitler shall henceforth be known as Disgraced Hitler or Hitler the disgrace to humanity, he deserves the title ‘Disgraced’ or some such equivalent.

      • Human beings have to collectively agree that any living or dead thing that continues to be an impediment to peace has no place in the century we live in. Violence must end.
        You do realize that Prophet Koresh had nothing to do with the genocide or holocaust mentioned in this article? But, you are right, Prophet Koresh ends up in that list of violent egomaniacal individuals that did not promote peace and deserves to be dethroned from prophethood
        Whether you dethrone or not is only secondary to the main problem that needs to be addressed here. The problem to be addressed is ending violent ideologies to make this world a better place for this generation and the generations to come.

  2. While generally a supporter of Israel, I accept that like any nation she needs to be held accountable when she violates the protocols of universal human rights, however, for some unknown reason, perhaps racism, she seems to be held to a higher standard than many other regimes who act punitively towards portions of their populace. As far as eliminating genocide, or any other scourge of human behavior which exists on a global scale, human history demonstrates an inability, despite so called ‘enlightenment’ principles
    to rise above a certain baseness in human nature; it is naïve to think otherwise. Man is born to trouble as sparks fly upwards

    • Diogenes,

      Ditto regarding human history and human nature! They both appear to only worsen with each passing day. But not for much longer, at least! The best is yet to come, but it won’t come from man, evidently.

  3. Let’s face it:

    The only organization that is ready, willing, and able to honor in real life the words, “never again” is the United States military.

    Too bad the current president refuses to unleash it and the preceding president didn’t know what the heck he was doing once he did the unleashing.

  4. Hey Steve. Now you admit that Ashkenazim are “real Jews,” something you vociferously denied several weeks ago? It’s hard to keep your thoughts (and screen names) coherent when you smoke that much bud I guess.
    You’re correct, modern Zionism did develop in Europe, after people like Herzl saw what it was like even for modern, assimilated Jews there. Recent events have proven the Zionists Nostradamian in their prescience.

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