Japanese Helped Save Armenians and Greeks During 1922 Genocide

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By Philip Chrysopoulos

YEREVAN (Public Radio of Armenia) — Researcher Vicken Babkenian wrote how a Japanese ship saved the lives of hundreds Armenians and Greeks from genocide in Smyrna in 1922, and the overall humanitarian aid provided by the Japanese.

Babkenian, along with Professor Peter Stanley, are the authors of the book Armenia, Australia and the Great War.

In the book, they wrote about the widely unknown humanitarian aid that the Japanese showed towards Greeks and Armenians, during that turbulent time.

The most remarkable story of Japanese humanitarianism during the 1922 Smyrna catastrophe is about the captain and crew of a Japanese ship, who saved many lives.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenian and Greek refugees had fled to the quay of Smyrna as Turkish troops entered and occupied the city on September 9, 1922. The Turkish occupation was followed by the massacre and deportation of Armenian and Greek civilians.

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About 20 allied ships were at the harbor watching the events, as a fire broke out in the Armenian quarter four days later, which eventually destroyed most of the city.  One ship was from Japan, and it was the one that mobilized the rescue of desperate refugees.

Anna Harlowe Birge; the wife of the American Professor Birge of the International College at Smyrna, witnessed the helpless refugees crowding each other off the wharves as Smyrna began to burn. Men and women could be seen swimming around in the hope of rescue, until they drowned. She wrote:

“In the harbour, at that time, was a Japanese freighter, which had just arrived loaded to the decks with a very valuable cargo of silks, laces and china representing many thousands of dollars. The Japanese captain, when he realized the situation did not hesitate. The whole cargo went overboard into the dirty waters of the harbour, and the freighter was loaded with several hundred refugees, who were taken to Piraeus and landed in safety on Greek shores,” wrote Stavros T. Stavridis in an article published in the American Hellenic International Foundation’s Policy Journal(http://ahifworld.org/).

 

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