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Glendale: A Somber History Lesson

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  • Glendale: A Somber History Lesson

    By Fred Ortega, News-Press and Leader
    TAMMY ABBOTT News-Press and Leader

    Glendale News Press, CA
    April 24 2006

    The Armenian Genocide commemoration sought to educate the public
    about the events leading up to the atrocities.

    Documentarian J. Michael Hagopian showed "Germany and the Secret
    Genocide" as part of the City of Glendale's Commemorative of the 1915
    Armenian Genocide at the Alex Theatre, Sunday.

    Armenian Genocide commemorations tend to revolve around the cultural
    and political repercussions of the genocide.

    But city officials decided to use this year's 91st anniversary of
    the atrocities to focus more on educating the public about the events
    that led to the systematic slaughter of more than a million Armenians.

    And one of those educational moments came at Sunday's event at the
    Alex Theatre when the keynote speaker said a nation that has become
    synonymous with genocide was complicit in the Turks' extermination
    of the Armenians.

    J. Michael Hogopian, director of the documentary, "Germany and the
    Secret Genocide," used documents, archival footage and interviews with
    survivors and German scholars in his film to suggest that Germany knew
    about Turkey's plans to eliminate its Armenian population during World
    War I. And he goes further, saying that German authorities helped cover
    up the massacres, and possibly even participated in them on occasion.

    Hogopian shows correspondence between the head of the German-built
    Berlin-Turkey-Baghdad Railway in his documentary that suggests the
    German government knew the Turks were using the railway to transport
    hundreds of thousands of Armenians to concentration camps and forced
    labor sites in the Syrian desert.

    The Turks' use of German rail box cars -- and even poison gas,
    according to Hogopian -- to eventually send 1.5 million Armenians
    to their deaths foreshadowed the tactics that would be used by Nazi
    Germany against Europe's Jews during World War II.

    Hogopian told the crowd of more than 500 at the Alex before the film's
    screening that his documentary is not meant to condemn Germany as a
    nation or as a people.

    "Instead, it is meant to show documentation, both visually and on
    paper, of the Armenian Genocide by the Turks from the Turks' own
    mouthpiece, the Germans," he said, noting that World War II Germany,
    then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was allied with Ottoman

    While most past genocide remembrances have taken on a cultural tone,
    reinforcing the perseverance of the Armenian people, Councilman Rafi
    Manoukian said this year the city decided to take a different tack.

    "We are making it more educational, describing the geopolitical
    situation in the years leading up to the genocide and the influence
    the alliance between Germany and the Turks had on the events that
    unfolded," he said.

    It is important to continue pushing for recognition of the Armenian
    genocide, especially in light of the fact that the United States has
    yet to officially accept the events of 1915 as a genocide, Councilman
    Ara Najarian said.

    "We are fortunate the city of Glendale is committed to recognizing
    the genocide and educating the public," Najarian said.

    "We need to get the word out that Armenians will not forget the
    genocide, that international recognition is a must, if nothing more
    than to remember the slaughter of the innocents lost in 1915."

    Also present at Sunday's event was Rep. Adam Schiff, who has introduced
    legislation that would have the United States join other countries
    such as Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Russia, Sweden and
    Switzerland in recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

    "Even as we move forward with legislation to recognize the genocide,
    at the same time our government is trying to discipline our ambassador
    to Armenia for having the guts to call the genocide a genocide,"
    Schiff said.

    "In a country as great as ours, this cannot stand."