BERLIN — During World War I it was not only the Armenians who fell victim to genocide under the Young Turk regime; other Christians, Greeks and Syrian Orthodox, Aramaeans, were targeted as well, deported, and massacred. At times, this fact is forgotten, obfuscated, or denied, perhaps in the attempt to highlight the suffering of one group. The historical record shows that, if the perpetrator was one party, the victims were from several communities.
On the weekend of May 19-21, in Berlin and Munich, members of these communities joined to pay tribute to the Pontic Greek victims of the Ottoman genocide. The ecumenical gathering on May 19 in the Bavarian capital, organized by the Association of Pontic Greeks in Munich, in cooperation with groups from other cities, opened with Krunk, (The Crane), sung by Anna Ghazaryan. Prayers followed, offered by Zaven Asa of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Nina Sargon of the Assyrian Church of the East. Archimandrite Georgios Siomos, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Germany celebrated the service, and German political figures as well as the Greek General Consul Dr. Vassilios Gouloussis spoke.
In the state capital, on May 20-21, the “I Ipsilantides” Association of Pontic Greeks in Berlin joined with the Promotional Society for the Ecumenical Monuments for Genocide Victims of the Ottoman Empire (FÖGG) in a commemoration, which opened at the Hellenic Society and, on Sunday, continued at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Ascension, and the Ecumenical Monuments in the Luisenfriedhof cemetery. Nikolaos Xenidas, chairman of the “I Ipsilantides,” and Parthena Iordanidou, board member of the FÖGG, greeted guests, after which historian Konstantinos Samourkasidis spoke on “The Transformation of Excluded Remembrance of Refugees into Official Commemoration by the Greek State.”
Following prayers for the genocide victims, Sunday’s ceremony began with greetings by FÖGG and “I Ipsilantidis” chairmen, Amill Gorgis and Nikolaos Xenidis, respectively, as well as Greek Orthodox priest Theofilos Sofitsis, and Greek General Consul in Berlin, Ilias A. Klouvatos.
Honoring all Victims
Genocide researcher and sociologist Dr. Tessa Hofmann, in her “Brief Outline of the Genocide against the Pontic Greeks,” made clear both the specific aspects of the Greek experience and the features shared with other victim groups. The persecution of the Greek Orthodox Christians lasted a full decade, from 1912 to 1922, and even earlier, in 1909, repressive economic measures had been imposed, in an attempt to “Islamicize” the Ottoman economy, she said. The approach adopted against the Greeks was similar to that wielded against the Armenians: lists were drawn up of those to be deported, the elites were among the first victims, civilians were sent off, barefoot and ill-equipped, on what were death marches. Harsh weather conditions – freezing temperatures for the Pontic Greeks or blistering summer heat for the Armenians – were instrumental in killing off deportees.