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Provost Helps Honor Ambassador Who Warned of Armenian Genocide

April 30, 2010

From left: Lehman College Provost Dr. Mary Papazian, Haig Deranian, grand commander of the Knights of Vartan, and former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.

Lehman Provost Dr. Mary Papazian presided at a celebration this month honoring the late U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr., who tirelessly tried to alert the American government—and the world—to the mass murder of Armenian civilians during World War I. Together with Haig Deranian, grand commander of the Knights of Vartan, which sponsored the event, she presented a plaque to the Ambassador's grandson, recently retired Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.

She also introduced four survivors of the Armenian Genocide, who described how they escaped the slaughter and eventually made their way to the United States. Dr. Papazian noted that Ambassador Morgenthau, who was then the U.S. representative to the Ottoman Empire, became the "voice to these victims," working on behalf of all the survivors by supporting the efforts of Near East Relief, authorized by the U.S. Government.

The event, sponsored by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, was held on April 21 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where a current exhibit documents this tragic chapter in twentieth-century history.

"I'm very proud to receive this recognition for my grandfather's role in struggling against the murder of a nation," said Morgenthau, 90, who is chairman of the museum. "It was a case where criminals took over government and proceeded to exterminate all Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Obviously, they did not succeed."

Ambassador Morgenthau returned to the United States in 1916 and published his memoir, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, describing the atrocities committed by the Young Turk dictatorship in the Ottoman Empire. Among the official documents on display is the noted 1915 telegram in which he warned the U.S. State Department that a "campaign of race extermination" was being carried out under the pretext of putting down a revolt.

"The exhibition behind us celebrates the contributions of this remarkable man, a man of principal, who believed in humanity above politics," said Dr. Papazian. "We're here to honor his contributions and express our deepest gratitude and thanks from Armenians worldwide."