October 2, 2000

Washington, DC – Sir Martin Gilbert, a widely published authority on the Holocaust and the official biographer of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, knighted for his services to British history and international relations, told some 300 guests attending the Armenian National Institute’s (ANI) ground-breaking conference Wednesday evening that the Armenian Genocide was a “horrific wound from the past.” Sir Martin said that today’s government in Turkey has “a wonderful opportunity now to try to heal it.”

Sir Martin delivered the keynote address at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Conference, co-sponsored by ANI and the Library of Congress, in cooperation with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, was entitled, “The American Response to the Armenian Genocide” and took place September 27 and 28 in Washington, DC. World-renowned scholars traveled to Washington to discuss the significant American response to the Armenian Genocide of 1915 during the two-day event. The landmark conference was the first of its kind to be convened on this topic and the first conference on Armenia held at the Library of Congress.

US Holocaust Memorial Museum Director Sara Bloomfield and US Holocaust Memorial Council Chairman Rabbi Irving Greenberg, together with ANI President Robert A. Kaloosdian, welcomed guests to the Wednesday evening session. Rabbi Greenberg introduced Sir Martin Gilbert to assembled guests.

Librarian of Congress Dr. James H. Billington and Kaloosdian greeted some 250 historians, genocide specialists, think tank experts, government officials and other invited guests at the Thursday all-day session, held at the Library of Congress. In his remarks, Kaloosdian thanked the leadership of both the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Library of Congress. Kaloosdian said that the American response to the Armenian Genocide was a spontaneous reaction among US leaders and the general public and was “the genesis of our role as a leading advocate for human rights.” Kaloosdian added that the conference, which brought together acclaimed specialists on World War I and the American record relative to the Armenian Genocide, “contributes greatly to the understanding of the problem of genocide.”

Cambridge University’s Dr. Jay Winter, himself a well-known World War I historian and author, opened the Thursday session with an address “Under Cover of War: The Armenian Genocide.” Winter said that “only by confronting the horror of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 can we begin to understand the nature and origins of the Holocaust of the Second World War.”

He noted that World War I was the first “total war” which “created the military, political and cultural space in which genocide could occur.” Winter said that both the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the Holocaust “occurred under the cover of war; both disclosed the logic and power of a new kind of war, what I have called, ‘total war’.”

Four panel discussions followed Winter’s remarks and focused on the US government response, eyewitness accounts, the active role of non-governmental organizations and cultural leaders, a first-person missionary account, investigative commission reports and post-war trials.

Panelists included:

Dr. Leo Ribuffo, George Washington University
Dr. John Milton Cooper, University of Wisconsin
Dr. Donald Ritchie, Associate Senate Historian
Dr. Lloyd Ambrosius, University of Nebraska
Dr. Rouben P. Adalian, Director, Armenian National Institute
Dr. Thomas Keenan, Director, Human Rights Project, Bard College
Dr. Thomas C. Leonard, University of California, Berkeley
Professor Christopher Simpson, American University
Jerry S. Fowler, Director, Committee on Conscience, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Dr. Brien R. Williams, Historian, The American Red Cross
Dr. Suzanne Moranian, Historian
Dr. Peter Balakian, Colgate University
Dr. Susan Billington-Harper, Executive Director, Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion
Dr. Gary J. Bass, Princeton University
Dr. Richard Hovannisian, UCLA and ANI Academic Council Chairman
Dr. Vahakn Dadrian, Director of Genocide Research, Zoryan Institute

Dr. John Roth, Claremont McKenna College, closed the conference with an insightful presentation on “Lessons Learned” from the Armenian Genocide. Roth underscored three important lessons: that the Armenian Genocide set in motion trends that have not been stopped, that it underscores the critical importance of memory because the Armenian Genocide was a forgotten genocide, and that denial does not go away easily and therefore must be vigilantly resisted.

Four exhibits shedding light on aspects of the Armenian Genocide were mounted to coincide with the conference. They remain on display at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Library of Congress, the American Red Cross and the Woodrow Wilson House, in Washington, DC.

The Armenian National Institute is dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.