On April 24, 1915, the Turkish government launched the genocide of the Armenians. The state-sponsored mass murder campaign destroyed the millennia-old Armenian people in their historic homeland. Their churches and schools were razed to the ground. Their homes and lands were seized. Their culture and memories erased. Talaat Pasha, one of the architects of the genocide, said of the Armenians, “Their existence must be terminated and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to any scruples of conscience.” Robert Fisk asks, “Was this not exactly what Himmler told his SS murderers in 1941?” The parallels with the Holocaust are many. For example, the Turks formed a special organization called Teshkilat-e-Makhsusiye to carry out the extermination. This was a forerunner of Hitler’s notorious Einsatzgruppen. Today, Armenians and human rights advocates everywhere demand justice and acknowledgement but Turkey continues to deny the genocide.
Peter Balakian, historian, poet, and professor at Colgate University, is the author of Black Dog of Fate and The Burning Tigris, and translator of Armenian Golgotha. In 2016 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his collection Ozone Journal.