Today, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) marks the 107th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. This memorial observance, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, commemorates the date 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.” 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.
Beginning on April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities began detaining and interning leaders and intellectuals from Constantinople's Armenian community, initiating a series of arrests that resulted in the imprisonment, relocation, and/or murder of notable Armenians across the Ottoman Empire over the course of months. Soon thereafter, Ottoman authorities commenced internment, displacement, and deportation actions against the general Armenian population, primarily targeting Armenian for forced labor camps and arbitrary execution. Women, children, and elderly members of the Armenian community were made to participate in “death marches” through what is now the Syrian desert, with many subjected to torture and rape in addition to death through attrition. On April 24, 2021, President Biden became the first US President to formally recognized the Armenian Genocide, saying in a statement, “We honor the victims of the Meds Yeghern so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history. And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.” This proclamation set a global example, honoring the victims of this appalling atrocity and providing a measure of justice to their families, and represents a crucial step towards ending the spread of denialist and revisionist agendas that can enable and inspire future mass atrocities. Dr. James Waller, the Auschwitz Institute’s Director of Academic Programs, explains:
While we are encouraged that more nations are recognizing the truth of the Armenian Genocide, we continue to urge its universal recognition. To deny the genocide is to deny the past, and to deny the past is to condemn the future. Confronting the past is to signal a commitment to truth, memory, and human rights. More than simply political statements, such designations remind the world that atrocities cannot be buried in the shallow ground of denial.
Today, the Auschwitz Institute stands with the Armenian community and others worldwide in remembering these atrocities that took place. Universal recognition inhibits the spread of dangerous revisionist and denialist agendas while reinforcing the essential processes for truth, justice, and memory that contribute to resilient societies. AIPG stands with those fighting for full and universal recognition of the Armenian Genocide as part of our shared historical record, not only for historical accuracy but also as a vital component of post-conflict atrocity prevention.