If you’re watching television tonight …
Check out “The Armenian Genocide,” a PBS documentary that tells the sad story of the slaughter of over a million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I. Read the New York Times’ review of the documentary here.
Genocide is much in the news of late: Justice Kennedy devoted his entire keynote speech at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law to the issue (see my previous post here), and genocide charges are pending against Saddam Hussein for the mass slaughter of Kurds during the 1980s. The PBS documentary reminds us that the crime of genocide has a long and painful history, one that pre-dates the 1943 coining of the term “genocide”. (For those who are interested in the issue, there’s no better reference than Samantha Power’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.)
Amazingly, the Armenian genocide is still the subject of tremendous controversy a hundred years after it took place — the government of Turkey resolutely refuses to admit that it occurred, even at the risk of jeopardizing its entry into the European Union. Apparently PBS’s treatment of the issue is also not immune from the controversy: According to the New York Times, many PBS stations (bowing to lobbying efforts by Armenian groups and some U.S. Congressmen) have pulled a panel discussion that was to air after the documentary, in which two “experts” were to defend Turkey’s position that the genocide never occurred.
Why should you care about a “forgotten” genocide that occurred almost a hundred years ago? Here’s one reason: Many argue that the Armenian genocide – and the world’s failure to stop (or even to condemn) it – served as a source of inspiration for the policies of Adolf Hitler. He famously said:
I have placed my death-head formations in readiness, with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?
Kudos to PBS for proving Hitler wrong. The show airs tonight on PBS, at 9 p.m. EST.