FRANKFURT — Every year on April 24, the French Cathedral in Berlin welcomes Armenians and Germans to commemorate the anniversary of the 1915 genocide. I usually travel to the capital for the solemn ceremony. In Frankfurt, the historic Paulskirche is the venue for a parallel ceremony that my husband regularly attends.
Every year, but not this year.
Due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic, tradition had to bow to necessity. But a commemoration did take place. Thanks to the AGBU Germany and the Deutsch-Armenisches Forum, prominent members of the Armenian community, as well as representatives of other victimized communities, were able to join with personalities from German political life and talented Armenian musicians, to pay homage to the memory of those who perished. Under the rubric, “Stay Home and Remember,” the relatively new German chapter of the AGBU and the forum founded in 2015 by CDU/CSU parliamentarian Albert Weiler, provided an online encounter for participants from many countries — all appearing from their home offices, often with banners visible: “I stay home, I remember.”
It is important, AGBU Germany President Nadia Gortzounian said, to remember the genocide not only of the Armenians, but — as genocide is a crime against humanity — of all those who have been or are being threatened. In commemorating the death of the victims, we at the same time honoring the resilience of the survivors.
Thus, Dariyel Damir, representing the Aramaic community in Germany, noted that it is usually on June 15 that they join with Armenians and Greeks, to commemorate massacres of their people in Mardin, Urfa and so many other Ottoman locations. Just two days earlier, they had gathered to remember the more recent persecutions of Christians in war-torn Syria and Iraq; it was seven years ago on that day that two Archbishops had been kidnapped and not seen since. Damir recalled the words of Interior Minister Talaat Pasha a century ago, who explained that the Young Turks aimed to utilize the conditions created by the world war to rid the Ottoman empire of its Christian populations without being disturbed.
Messages came also from representatives of communities persecuted by Nazism. Emran Elmazi, read a message by Romani Rose, chairman of the Central Council of the Sinti and Roma, communities subjected to the worst crimes of Hitler. Traumatized, like the Armenians, they too demand recognition; it is not only a question of justice but also a means of defeating racism in today’s world.