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'Why Armenians Can't Forget'

May 07, 1985

Miller's interviews with 100 Armenian survivors remind me of the reactions of the German people who were interviewed just after the Allied forces exposed the Nazi concentration camps to the world. "We didn't know anything was happening" was the time-worn response. The cattle cars full of Jews and others rumbling through the German countryside, the smoke from the ovens, the smells, the logistics of this immense operation--yet the German people claimed ignorance.

While the Jews and others were peaceful citizens of their respective countries, what were the Armenians up to in the years that led to their deaths and deportation?

This period of history was marked by bloody uprisings by Armenians, Kurds and others who viewed the crumbling Ottoman empire, engaged in battle on all fronts during World War I, as an opportunity to seize lands for themselves. With the help and encouragement of Russia and others, these Armenians slaughtered many thousands of Ottomans in their bid to conquer. The Ottomans reacted--defeated the Armenians on the Eastern front and instituted a policy of deportation.

It is true that hundreds of thousands died on both sides. Armenians who did not participate and wished to remain were allowed to--as witness the 60,000 Armenians living in Istanbul, the headquarters of their church, in freedom and peace. But to decry this armed conflict within a country as genocide--never admitting their active role as instigators and terrorists--is the real reason the world yawns and cares not to remember.

BERTRAM HAYMES

Los Angeles

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