Dr. Hilmar Kaiser

Historian Hilmar Kaiser to Present Lecture Sponsored by AMAA on Humanitarian Resistance to Genocide


By Florence Avakian

PARAMUS, N.J. — German historian Dr. Hilmar Kaiser will present a lecture on his extensive research into humanitarian resistance to the Armenian Genocide.

The event, sponsored by the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA), will take place at the Armenian Presbyterian Church, 140 Forest Ave., Paramus, on September 6, starting at 7:30 p.m. A reception will follow the lecture.

Kaiser was one of the first German historians to delve intimately into the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide. He also was one of the few who did critical research in the Ottoman archives between 1991 and 1995.

In 1996, for political reasons, he was banned from the archives by the Turkish government for 10 years. His important research into this material had uncovered crucial details on key points of the Genocide.

This most likely led to him to receive a lifetime ban by the Turkish authorities. It also resulted in international scholars. politicians and Armenians around the globe demanding his readmission to the archives.

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The ban against Dr. Kaiser was eventually lifted, and the archives have officially been reopened. However, some collections of the Turkish Prime Minister’s Ottoman archives still remain closed.

Hilmar Kaiser has referred to himself as an “archive digger.”

A noted scholar at Yerevan State University for Armenian Studies, he completed his PhD at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, with his focus on Ottoman Social and Economic History, and Ottoman-German relations.

Regarded as a scholar of the Armenian Genocide, he has conducted research in more than 60 archives, including  the Turkish-Ottoman Archives in Istanbul.

Kaiser was born in Germany to a Protestant family who owned a bakery. One of the employees “was an elderly woman who had worked in hospitals in the Middle East, “was a part of the wider household. In other words, [Johannes] Lepsius and Armenians were known to me way before my 10th birthday,” he said in a short interview.

Living across from a multi-apartment house where most of the apartments were occupied by migrants from Greece and Turkey, he grew up with Middle Eastern food, and often wandered “into the kitchens of the friendly neighbors. It also meant that my familiarity with Muslims and to some extent Turks, became a given,” he recalled.

“Since 1982, I have visited Turkey and my neighbors there in their hometowns. I saw Van and other formerly Armenian places, including villages with pillaged graveyards, destroyed or converted churches, Armenian irrigation systems, and the like. By that time, I had studied history, and slowly changed to Turkish history,” he added.

During his lecture on September 6, Kaiser will highlight aspects of the relief work and its importance that go beyond the work in Aleppo, Syria. “Once again, I will emphasize its Armenian character which has been lost in discussions of missionary work and the Near East Relief.” In addition, his talk will deal with the Ottoman context.

He has written several books including At the Crossroads of Der Zor: Death, Survival, and Humanitarian Resistance in Aleppo, 1915-1917  and The Extermination of Armenians in the Diarbekir Region.

“In a certain sense, it is setting the record straight, and re-appropriating a piece of Armenian history during the Genocide that has been lost,” he revealed.

Kaiser pointed out that the AMAA “is the most suitable host for the September 6 talk, as it stands in the tradition of the 1915-1918 humanitarian resistance, and carries on the work in our days which is most needed.”

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