Arthur Nersesian, Auschwitz & Righteous Gentiles

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A wonderful novelist and a worldly humanist, Arthur Nersesian spoke at last night’s protest in front of ADL headquarters in Manhattan and shared some thoughts about the human rights organization’s politically-motivated refusal to say that the Armenian Genocide was genocide and not “tantamount” to it.

Arthur visited Poland this summer and writes about a surprising plaque of the Righteous Gentiles in a synagogue that remembered the 10 Armenians who risked it all to help Jews during the Holocaust.

Two months ago my girlfriend and I visited the Auschwitz Concentration camp in Poland, the epicenter of another genocide. We walked through the barracks and saw the remains of shattered lives, clothes, suitcases and so on.

Later that same sad day, we ventured into the local town of Oswiecim, formerly a Jewish Shtetl, the residents of which had been eradicated by the Nazis.

While visiting the local synagogue, I saw something that filled me with pride. There was a plaque listing Righteous Gentiles from different countries. Righteous Gentiles is a term used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. It stated various countries and the Righteous from those countries: Among them were Japan, Portugal and Chile. Each had one citizen who was a Righteous Gentile. Brazil and China each had two. As did Turkey — I won’t deny any historical truths. Spain and the United States of America both had three Citizens. Armenia, the smallest when compared to any of those countries, had ten citizens who were Righteous Gentiles.

Imagine, not just risking your life, but putting those you love on the line — to help a stranger. Those ten Armenians did not doubt there was a Holocaust. when they risked their lives to save Jews. What I believe must have crossed their minds was the fact that they might have wished someone had taken a risk to save those they loved just twenty years earlier.

Some of them might have thought, this isn’t just our turn to help another, it’s an opportunity to show Human beings at their finest. We’re not here to make enemies and unlike those ten Armenians we’re not asking anyone to risk their lives.

Let us remember that this Resolution, currently tabled, did not punish or condemn any country. It merely stated that the Armenian genocide occurred, something that even courageous Turkish scholars like last year’s Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk, publicly stated.

The Anti-Defamation League has in the past fought for truth and justice, all we’re asking is that it does not abandon that commitment now. Thank you.