Hidden History: The 1915 Armenian Genocide

1915 Aghet: The Armenian Genocide

NDT (2010)

Film Review

Aghet is a documentary based on eyewitness accounts from German, Danish, French and Swedish diplomatic and military archives about the Armenian genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire between 1915-1923.

Turkey and US Refuse to Acknowledge Armenian Genocide

Although most of Europe acknowledges that Turkish authorities killed 1.5 million Armenians during this period, the current Turkish government denies the genocide ever occurred – in fact it’s currently illegal under Turkish law to mention the Armenian genocide in public.

The US government also refuses to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. Presumably this relates to Turkey’s threats to suspend diplomatic relations and close US bases there.

Most of the archival evidence examined in the film comes from Germany, Turkey’s World War I ally. As Germany provided Turkey’s weaponry and military training Turkey during World War I, they were in the best position to know that Armenians were being arbitrarily detained for extermination. Yet they did nothing to stop it. Most of the photos and film footage features in this documentary was smuggled out of Turkey by German soldiers.

At the start of World War I, the global Armenian population was approximately 5 million, divided between Persia (Iran), Russia and Turkey. Turkey’s two million Armenians had a history of discrimination in education housing and employment. As Christians in a Muslim nation, they were required to pay a special tax. In 1895, 250,000 were killed in a pogrom.

Ethnic Purity and Turkey for Turks

Turkey’s 1908 revolution brought a new government to power that heavily emphasized ethnic purity and “Turkey for Turks.” However the immediate justification for rounding up and expelling Armenian Turks was their alleged collaboration with Russian invaders.

While a small number of Armenians were either imprisoned and tortured or beaten to death, the majority were condemned to a bizarre forced march into the Syrian desert (at the time Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire). As the Turkish soldiers who accompanied them gave them nothing to eat or drink, most died of hunger, thirst or disease long before they reached Syria. Amazingly, with the help of Christian missionaries, around 500,000 out of 2 million survived.

Turkish Government Tries to Collect on Armenian Life Insurance Policies

Over time both Turkey’s and Germany’s attitude towards the Armenian genocide have been extremely schizophrenic. The German ambassador flatly refused to contact New York Life insurance company to assist the Turkish government to collect on the life insurance policies of Armenian victims. However the German government had no problem smuggling the three Turkish leaders responsible for the genocide into Europe. At the end of the war, Turkish courts tried and convicted them for crimes against humanity.

In 1919, an Armenian refugee Salomon Teilirian assassinated one of them in Berlin. His acquittal – based on evidence he presented documenting the Armenian genocide – is credited for bringing this atrocity to world attention.