We speak today of the annihilation of the Armenians

Map of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.

When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence. A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder.

Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Speech at the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963


Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter – with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me. I have issued the command… 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 (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians? (Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier?

Adolf Hitler, speech to Wehrmacht commanders at his Obersalzberg home on 22 August 1939, a week before the German invasion of Poland.

In 1915, approximately 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a campaign of ethnic cleansing, mass murder by forced death marches, executions and massacres perpetrated by Ottoman authorities and soldiers.

Each year on April 24, in Armenia and throughout the world, we take time on Armenian Remembrance Day to remember the men, women and children who perished in the genocide.

Two days ago, on April 24, 2021, President Joe Biden issued a statement officially recognizing the genocide and mourning its victims (White House). Biden’s words have exceptional power because they are the first such statement by a U.S. President on behalf of the United States. Previous Presidents, Republican and Democrat, have avoided the issue, or spoke only vaguely, or remained silent, according to the brutal calculations of realpolitik in which then-current relations with Turkey suggested the diplomatic benefits of silence and the political and economic cost of truth.

Because of its political and moral importance, its affirmation of the primary of human rights, and its poignancy in our own time, we share President Biden’s historic statement in its entirety:

Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring. Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination. We honor the victims of the Meds Yeghern so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history. And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.


Of those who survived, most were forced to find new homes and new lives around the world, including in the United States. With strength and resilience, the Armenian people survived and rebuilt their community. Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.


Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future—toward the world that we wish to build for our children. A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security. Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world.


The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today.

President Biden did the right thing, correcting an unjust silence, and honoring the Armenian men, women and children who perished by gunfire, starvation and torture. May their memory be a blessing to their surviving families, and to all humanity.

The Eternal Flame at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia.

The Eternal Flame at the Armenian Genocide Memorial, Yerevan, Armenia, Wikimedia Commons

Gladys Perez