Remembering Armenia: Museum expands exhibit on genocide

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Documentary filmmaker Reinhard Lorenz holds a photo of children orphaned by the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian/Christian genocide. Lorenz used archival still photos and film clips in his documentary tracing the history of the area. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)
By Rick Nathanson / Journal Staff Writer
In August 1939, Adolf Hitler ordered his generals to annihilate the people of Poland, dismissing the brutal action by saying, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Today, people around the world commemorate the centennial of what has become known as the Armenian genocide, also called the Christian genocide, which included Greek and Assyrian Christians as well.

The genocide began on April 24, 1915 and continued into 1923 – during and after World War I – as massacres occurred throughout the Ottoman Empire, which included much of the Middle East and covered the territory of what is now Turkey.
Exhibit opening events
“Genocide of the Christian Minorities in the Ottoman Empire” opens today at the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, 616 Central SW. A short documentary will be screened throughout the day.

On Sunday, programs will be held at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque, 5520 Wyoming NE, starting with a noon luncheon that will be followed at 1:15 p.m. with speakers and films.

All events are free, with the exception of the luncheon, for which reservation inquiries can be made by calling 255-7972.

Among those killed at the hands of Muslim Ottoman Turks were an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, 900,000 Greeks, 300,000 Assyrians and unknown numbers of Arab Christians.

In Albuquerque, that genocide will be marked by today’s opening of an expanded exhibit at the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, “Genocide of the Christian Minorities in the Ottoman Empire.” It includes a locally produced documentary that offers a historical overview from ancient times through the genocide, said filmmaker Reinhard Lorenz of First Eye Films.

The documentary was assembled from archival still photographs, some archival film and interviews with local members of the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian communities who spoke about how the massacres affected generations of their families and themselves, Lorenz said.

He also traveled to Phoenix, which has one of the largest and fastest-growing Assyrian communities in the United States.

The documentary was created by Lorenz at the request of the local Armenian community, “which wanted to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide,” he said. The other important message of the memorial “is to speak about the ongoing denial of that holocaust by the Turkish government.”

Harold Folley, a docent at the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, said that the museum already had an abbreviated exhibit on the Armenian genocide, and that the additional material, which will become part of the museum’s permanent collection, will enlarge the exhibit significantly.

About 20 percent of the museum’s visitors are from outside New Mexico, Folley said. Many visitors know little or nothing about the Christian genocide.

“Millions of people have been killed in genocides,” Folley said. “We must remember what has happened, recognize that it is still happening today, and we must resolve to do something about it.”

On Sunday, memorial events are planned at the Jewish Community Center, featuring speakers from the local Armenian, Greek and Assyrian communities. A keynote address will be delivered by Suzan Younan, a California resident of Assyrian ancestry who filmed a short documentary in the Middle East showing the atrocities that are being perpetrated against Christians today at the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group.

The documentary cre