By Adam Strom
In September 1939, just before the invasion of Poland and the beginning of the Nazi Holocaust, Adolf Hitler asked his generals, “Who today still speaks of the massacre of the Armenians?”
Hitler’s reference was to the systematic murder of the Armenians by leaders of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Within a generation, the heinous crime had faded from public memory. Hitler learned a lesson: he could act with impunity.
During the Armenian Genocide, Henry Sturmer, a journalist for the German newspaper Kolnische Zeitung, was outraged. He wanted Germany to use its influence as an ally of the Ottoman Empire to stop the extermination of the Armenians. When the German government failed to do so, Sturmer wrote: “The mixture of cowardice, lack of conscience, and lack of foresight of which our government has been guilty in Armenian affairs is quite enough to undermine completely the political loyalty of any thinking man who has any regard for humanity and civilization.”
In July 1915, the United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, begged the U.S. State Department to take action against what he called the “race murder” of the Armenians. Instead, the nation chose to remain neutral. While his government stayed silent, Morgenthau pleaded to find a way to save the lives of Armenian children, women, and men.