This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. From 1915-1918, over two decades before Adolf Hitler implemented "the Final Solution to the Jewish question", a group of political activists from Turkey, known as the Young Turks, embarked on a campaign of mass slaughter of 1.5 million Armenian citizens. The Young Turks had a vision of a new Turkish Empire, and believed the minority Armenian population stood in the way of achieving their ambition. Despite recognition by the Pope, to this day no Turkish government has accepted responsibility for the deliberate and systematic butchery of the Armenian people. 

This week also marked Yom HaShoah, a day to commemorate the most meticulously planned and executed genocide in all of human history. A letter written by Adolf Hitler and acquired by the Simon Wiesenthal Center describes in detail his efforts to find a legal path to exterminating the Jewish people. Though decades apart, the tragedies are intimately tied by the most banal of human vices: apathy.

In 1939, while still in the planning stages of his campaign of horrors and in the midst of deliberations on how the world could be carved up between himself and Stalin, Hitler infamously noted, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" 

Emboldened by the global deafness to the slaughter of the Armenian people, and cognizant of the smaller genocide perpetrated by Germany against more than 100,000 members of the Herero and Nama tribes (1904 - 1908) in its colony in Southwest Africa (now Namibia), Hitler felt confident the world would also ignore his genocidal actions against the Jewish people. He was, by and large, correct; the international community had given Hitler the permission he needed to launch the Shoah.

In a recent speech to students at Niagara College, Ontario, I explained the Holocaust is a product of antisemitism that took centuries of hate against the Jewish people to manifest. It had its roots in the Spanish Inquisition, the black plague and the burning of Jews held responsible, Eastern European programs and defamatory libels.


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I discussed the rise of antisemitism today, and provided examples of terrorist attacks in Europe. I also referenced the hate spreading across the globe, including 147 Christian students murdered at a university in Kenya earlier this month by Al-Shabaab, the 300 young Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, and the ongoing tragedy in Syria.

Finally, and most importantly, I told them they have the power to make a positive difference right here and now; as Simon Wiesenthal emphasized, our freedom cannot be taken for granted. We must work to preserve the values and liberties we cherish.

Today it is important to confront both official Turkish blindness to the genocide as well as growing Holocaust distortion and denial. After 100 years Armenians around the world still wait for justice while, just 70 years later, Jewish communities confront a renewal of the vicious antisemitism that led to the Holocaust and the death camps.

The international community can no longer afford the luxury of benign neglect. It is all too clear where turning a blind eye leads.


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