Armenian orphans were `Turkified', Nazi-style


By Robert Fisk

I am back in Beirut. A Sunday, and Missak Keleshian, an Armenian researcher – actually, he's in love with film and photographs and is a technician by trade – is showing an original archive movie on the Armenian genocide.

It was made by German cameramen in 1918 and 1920. Never before shown. I sit at the back of the big Armenian hall in the Beirut suburb of Dbayeh and the camera tracks across a terrible wasteland of dry hills. Southern Turkey – or western Armenia, depending on your point of view – just after the 1915 genocide of one and a half million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. And a woman comes into focus.

She is sitting in the muck and holding her child – alive or dead, I cannot tell. She is weeping and wailing and there before our eyes is the 20th-century's First Holocaust – which our precious US President Barack Obama dare not even call a genocide lest he offends Turkey.

Literally moving proof. Later footage shows 20,000 Armenian orphans in Beirut, 30,000 in Aleppo. Where are their parents? Ask not Obama.

In one extraordinary scene, the orphans of the First Holocaust are sitting at a breakfast table two miles in length. I am both mesmerized and appalled. They smile and they laugh at the camera.

Dr Lepsius, a German working for Near East Relief – how swiftly the good Germans who cared for the Armenians turned into more dangerous creatures – holds the children in his arms.

Outside an orphanage, other children plead for help. Then there is a picture of an orphanage run by the Turks in Beirut in 1915, in which the children, Nazi-style, were `Turkified', given Muslim names to eradicate their identity.

Enough. This will be a big report in The Independent. But there is a long, panning shot across Beirut.

It is Lebanon, 1920; there are tents for the Armenians but the sweep of film shows the port. There are steam ships and sailing ships and the long coast which I see each morning from my balcony.

Source: “The Independent”, 27 February 2010
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