On April 24, 1915 hundreds of Armenian community leaders and intellectuals were rounded up in Constantinople, arrested, and killed by the Ottoman government then ruling Turkey. That event marked the beginning of the government-sponsored massacres of 1.5 million Armenians. It is why April 24 has officially marked the day of remembrance of the Armenian genocide for nearly a hundred years.
Holocaust Remembrance Day, known in Hebrew as Yom HaShoah, memorializes the 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazi government during World War II. It is a remembrance based on the twenty-seventh day of Nisan in the Jewish ecclesiastical calendar. It doesn’t always fall on the same day by a standard calendar, but variously falls sometime in April or May.
This year Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day coincide on the same day: April 24, 2017. The coincidence is especially noteworthy this year.
Ignorance of History Leads to Its Repetition
There has always been a strong object lesson in the connection between the Armenian genocide during World War I and the genocide of the Jews during World War II. It is a lesson inscribed on one of the walls of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in the form of a statement by Adolph Hitler. He rationalized mass slaughter and expected people simply to avert their eyes and forget: “Who, after all, today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
I think Hitler’s point was that merciless slaughter is never a public relations disaster as long as you’re in it for the ruthless consolidation of power. That’s because people forget. All the time. The powerful also often use propaganda tools to promote such lethal forgetfulness.
Humans are very susceptible to groupthink, ignorance, propaganda, agitation, and psychological manipulation that weakens their resolve. People are also often all too eager to blame their own problems on convenient scapegoats. These human flaws clarify why “Never forget” is the cry associated with the Holocaust and all crimes against humanity.
This is why everybody must respect the study of history. After all, studying history is about remembering. It’s about learning from experience, which is why we must emphatically reject any attempt to water down the accurate teaching and study of history.
There is a startling déjà vu in the air. Those who study history can feel history repeating itself in the wholesale persecution and slaughter of Christians in the Middle East. We can feel it in the intensified challenges to Israel’s right to exist and in the jihadist terrorist attacks in the name of Islam that are becoming almost mundane headlines. Elements common to both genocides also seem to be re-emerging in today’s restless world: new technologies that potentially deliver greater lethality; realignments of world powers; great displacements of peoples; and, more than ever before, the pivotal role of propaganda and information warfare in inciting aggression.
‘Why’ Is the Reoccurring Question
As the granddaughter of Armenian genocide survivors, I am keenly tuned in to the history of genocide. My grandfather left written memoirs describing the horrors he and his family endured. In observance of the 2015 centennial of the Armenian genocide, I wrote articles about it in The Federalist and Weekly Standard. For in-depth documentation of the genocide online, I recommend this website with its map of genocide activity and chronology.
In the wake of massive tragedies, we hear a wail of “Why?” It happened after the attacks of September 11, 2001, although it didn’t take long for the shock to wear off once a semblance of normalcy seemed to return. “Why?” is a good question as long as we’re truly interested in real answers. Too often attention spans are fleeting, and tragedy isn’t fun to think about. So when the answers seem too difficult to process, people tend to fall into a default position of forgetting, then repeating mistakes. The only real cure is a disciplined interest in understanding the answers.
So let’s try to consider a few possibilities as we assess why genocide happens, and how it happens. These possibilities would include groupthink, propaganda, vilification campaigns, ignorance, and a disregard for the necessity of virtue in any functioning society.
How Genocide Begins with Groupthink
Perhaps most important to a genocidal plan is neutralizing any possible support for the victims. The Ottoman government maintained a well-coordinated propaganda campaign that vilified the Armenians in the eyes of their Turkish neighbors. In like manner, the Jews were demonized among their neighbors in Nazi Germany.
This sort of thing happens in all mass killings, including those done for reasons other than ethnicity. For example, in Stalinist Russia, several million peasant farmers in the Ukraine were deliberately starved to death in the winter of 1932-33 in what is known as the Holodomor. Soviet propaganda demonized these people, known as “kulaks,” as enemies of the people because they resisted the forced collectivization of agriculture, i.e., the confiscation of their farms. In Rwanda, Hutu propaganda vilified and scapegoated the Tutsis, often through radio, priming the popular mindset for the mass slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis during a 100-day period in 1994. The list of “final solutions” goes on and on.
Information warfare through a centrally controlled media is key to turning neighbor against neighbor. It plays a huge role in caricaturing perceived enemies and growing an us-versus-them mindset. In short, propaganda that psychologically manipulates a population is key to laying the groundwork for extreme social polarization, and ultimately for genocide.
We will not forget, we will defend ourselves. Tearing down the civil war statues wanting to tear down founding father statues, banning flags. Silencing dissenting voices, dont they know not all snakes rattle?
All those liberalidiots who call Islam the Religion of Peace are living in stupidland and if they want to live under Sharia Law let them all move to iran,iraq,or some other middle eat nation where they stone wizards and toss gays off the tops of tall buildings to go Splat on the ground far below