By Gordon Rupert
Taner Akcam, professor of history and chair of Armenian Genocide, studies at Clark University, gave a presentation of his findings on the Armenian Genocide, presented in his new book, “Killing Orders,” on Nov. 1, in the Heinemann Ecumenical Center.
The New York Times called Akcam “the Sherlock Holmes of the Armenian Genocide.”
According to armeniangenocide.org, the genocide was “The forcible deportation and massacre of over 1.5 million Armenians during the government of Young Turks from 1915 to 1917 in the Ottoman Empire.”
According to Akcam, he originally became interested in the subject of genocide while studying the Holocaust in Hamburg, Germany.
In his book, “Killing Orders,” Akcam covers the history of Turkish denialism, showing much of the evidence denied for years by the Turkish government, before presenting recently discovered documents that bring to light many details of the genocide.
Akcam began his presentation by explaining the three main operations of Turkish denialism – the creation and assembly of the government’s own documents, destruction or hiding of original documentation, and an official trial after WWI condemning a very small group of individuals as being complicit in war crimes.
He brought up one of the primary sources often invalidated by Turkish authorities – the writings and documents of Aram Andonian, a writer who helped bring the genocide to light. He worked with Naim Efendi, a Turkish bureaucrat who smuggled several documents about the genocide to Andonian.
These writings have been discredited by the Turkish government because there is no copy of the original documents, and they argued there was never a bureaucrat named Naim Efendi. This claim was considered valid by many academics for years.
Akcam said Andonian moved to Paris after WWI to be part of the Armenian Tribunal in 1921, where he became the curator of a museum, in which his documents were placed and have since been lost.
There is still, however, one record of these documents that is known.
In the 1960s, an Armenian Orthodox priest by the name of Krikor Guerguerian was allowed access to the restricted section of the museum, where the documents were stored. He brought a camera hidden under his robes and recorded Andonian’s collection of documents, Akcam said.
This recording ended up in the hands of Guerguerian’s nephew, who moved to New York, and was kept from the public for years.
In 2015, Akcam gave him a call.
After more than 50 years, the video of these documents was released to someone who could make sense of them.
In the documents, Akcam found encoded messages sent within the Turkish army, talking openly about the murder and displacement of Armenians. When these were denied by the Turkish government as false codes, Akcam found the original codebooks from the years the genocide happened, several of which were released by the Turkish government, Akcam said.
Junior Natalie Chaprazian, an FSU student of Armenian heritage, said, “I’ve never been to something like this before where they have documentation proving it. We don’t talk about documentation in the Armenian community because we know it happened. You don’t need documentation like that. You have family that went through that. They have stories that were passed down. It’s hard to see things like, ‘Go hunt. Go kill,’ because that’s your history.”
Akcam said he plans to release all of the documentation he found onto the internet later this year.
When asked about future plans, he said, “There won’t be any other big documents or discoveries. We have more direct evidence in the Armenian Genocide case than the Holocaust. We don’t have so many direct killing orders in the Holocaust. In the Armenian case, we have several direct telegrams that include direct killing orders.”