While Australian diggers were fighting in Gallipoli in 1915, and of course we honour them every year on Anzac Day (25 April) there was another war being waged in the Turkish heartland where hundreds of 1000’s of ethnic Armenians were driven out of their homes.
Many were slaughtered, others starved, historians say as many as 1,000,000 people were killed and that it amounted to genocide. While Turkey and Australia have long since made peace, the Armenian massacres continue to cause recriminations, bitterness and even death.
The mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War I remains one of the bloodiest and most contentious events of the 20th century. In all, 25 concentration camps were set up in a systematic slaughter aimed at eradicating the Armenian people – classed as “vermin” by the Turks.
Winston Churchill described the massacres as an “administrative holocaust” and noted: “This crime was planned and executed for political reasons. The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race.”
Chillingly, Adolf Hitler used the episode to justify the Nazi murder of six million Jews, saying in 1939: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Yet, carried out under the cover of war, the Armenian genocide remains shrouded in mystery – not least because the modern-day Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the existence of its Armenian killing fields.
And yet there is hope of reconciliation in the future as some prominent Turkish academics, journalists, writers and artists have issued an apology on the Internet for the World War I-era massacres of Armenians in Turkey.
ABC TV Foreign Correspondent Eric Campbell visited Turkey & Armenia to talk to people from both sides:
Reporter: Eric Campbell
Network: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
Watch the story for yourself (26min in length) below by clicking on the play button:
If you can’t see the video player than you should read this: Turkey/Armenia: Ghosts of the Past
ABC TV’s team of Foreign Correspondents take you on a unique journey to places few others venture, for a colourful look at the culture and lifestyle of people who don’t usually make international headlines. Their mixture of serious and light-hearted stories will inform and entertain you.