February 18, 2004

The Armenian National Institute (ANI) this week praised renowned historian and Yale University professor Dr. Jay Winter for his pivotal role in the publication by the prestigious Cambridge University Press of a vital new book on all facets of the initial American response to the news about the Armenian Genocide.

America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is the product of a ground-breaking conference in September 2000 which was co-sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Armenian National Institute in cooperation with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Commenting on the recent publication, ANI Board Chairman Aram Kaloosdian thanked Prof. Winter “for his leadership in pulling together all these critical works of scholarship.”

“The official, public, philanthropic and media response to the Armenian Genocide is now thoroughly documented. There can be no denial of the extent of U.S. public knowledge about the atrocities against the Armenians. The American government was fully aware of the nature and the extent of the crime,” Kaloosdian said.

In his introduction to the book, which brings together the key scholarly papers presented at the two-day conference, Prof. Winter underlines the fact that the 317-page volume sheds much new light on how Americans historically have related to the phenomenon of genocide, adding that the volume’s “particular reference is to American responses to the first genocide of the twentieth century, [and] the Turkish genocidal campaign against its Armenian population, which resulted in approximately one million deaths in 1915-16.”

Just as the Washington conference was the first of its kind to be convened at the Library of Congress, so is the publication of its main presentations by the Cambridge University Press.

The three-part book brings together the scholarly works of 12 experts including renowned Churchill biographer and Holocaust expert Sir Martin Gilbert, co-producer of the acclaimed PBS series on ‘The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century’ Dr. Jay Winter, the pre-eminent Armenian Genocide specialist and Zoryan Institute Director of Genocide Research Dr. Vahakn N. Dadrian, University of Wisconsin Professor of History and Wilson Administration expert Dr. John Milton Cooper, University of Nebraska professor and an authority on U.S. foreign policy in the early 20th century Dr. Lloyd E. Ambrosius, ANI Director and historian Dr. Rouben Adalian, historian and specialist on American missionaries Dr. Suzanne Moranian, Executive Director of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion and historian Dr. Susan Billington Harper, Colgate University Professor of the Humanities Dr. Peter Balakian, UCLA Professor of Armenian and Near Eastern History Dr. Richard Hovannisian, U.S. Senate Associate Historian Dr. Donald A. Ritchie, and UC Berkeley Professor of Journalism Dr. Thomas C. Leonard.

In his introduction, titled ‘Witness to Genocide,’ Dr. Winter explains: “The structure of this book reflects the multiple facets of the Armenian genocide, and the complex dimensions it revealed. In the first part, Sir Martin Gilbert locates the story of the genocide in the history of the twentieth century; Jay Winter places specific emphasis on the context of total war as a critical element in the unfolding of the crime. Vahakn Dadrian then provides an interpretation of the genocide as a cluster of crimes of different kinds and different origins, many of which foreshadow the Nazi Holocaust of the Second World War.”

“The second part of the book…elucidates the way American politicians, intellectuals, and social activists responded to the stories of atrocities which reached the United States. John Milton Cooper and Lloyd Ambrosius both discuss President Wilson and the evolution of his policy, coming to different interpretations of the reasons why he was unable or unwilling to act effectively at this time. As Rouben Adalian shows, the information available to Wilson and other political figures was voluminous, detailed, and damning. The National Archives have materials which simply place out of the court of human opinion any effort at holocaust denial. The intellectual, cultural, and social response to the holocaust is the subject of the following three chapters. Peter Balakian shows how widely discussed these crimes were among American writers and literary figures, and both Susan Billington Harper and Suzanne Moranian point out how many Americans were deeply engaged in direct assistance to those who were in danger or who managed to survive it. Many Americans bore witness, and some shared the sufferings of the victims. Their voices emerge powerfully and movingly from these chapters.”

“Post-war commissions and congressional inquiries, as Richard Hovannisian and Donald Ritchie show, reinforce our sense of an open and vivid discussion of these issues in the United States both during and after the war. Together with Thomas Leonard’s chapter on the press, they underscore the view that the Armenian genocide was a subject scrutinized, analyzed publicized virtually everywhere at the time. Yet the outcome of all this attention was relatively meager. Those who have argued recently that the human rights project is aided and abetted by modern communications should take pause when confronting the story these scholars have told. The paralysis of the policy was not a function of ignorance, but of a willful turning away from a fully documented catastrophe.”

The publication may be obtained directly through Cambridge University Press at or Readers can also link through the ANI Web site at

The Armenian National Institute is a Washington-based organization dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.