APWH & APEH: Genocide During the Great War

Posted on April 13, 2020

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The 20th Century marks the birth of one of humanity’s darkest recurring tendencies – genocide. The first mass killing that meets these criteria is the German genocide of Herero and Nama people in Namibia during 1907-1908. You can see some early indications of where the idea of genocide is headed by the late 1930s, like the use of concentration camps.

Another genocide that Germany more indirectly participated in was the Armenian Genocide. Perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire as a way to distract from their consistent loss of territory (APWH, you probably remember that from the not-a-Harkness from before break), the Ottomans claimed that the Armenians were at fault for the Empire’s problems because they collaborated with fellow Christians in Russia to re-establish their own traditional territory. The Armenians were a wealthy minority group who were responsible for a large portion of the Ottoman Empire’s economy, especially trade.

The Ottomans killed 1.5 million Armenians using techniques that would become more familiar to the world as Adolf Hitler and his generals, many of whom served in the Ottoman Empire in World War I, implemented the Final Solution. We will be moving to the dictators who controlled Europe post-WWI here soon and it’s important to understand the progression from point A to point B that they took in reaching mass murder.

The family in the header image is my own – the baby is my great-grandmother, Zabel Aidjian. The older man is my great-great grandfather Hagop. The young man standing behind my great-great grandmother Naznig is my great grandmother’s brother, Reuben. Reuben and Hagop, along with Reuben’s two year old son and a servant, were murdered by the Ottomans.

Many other members of my family also died during the genocide (if you’d like to read a history, please see here – it is upsetting in some parts so if you don’t want to read it you don’t have to), which is why I’m so invested in incorporating lessons about things like this and the Holocaust into my history classes. People say “never again,” but genocide keeps happening because people don’t understand it, don’t recognize the early signs, and stand by once it begins. The only way to break this cycle is through education.

You don’t have any written work for today. What I would like for you to do is view the embedded episode of The Great War series on the genocide, then please read the first two sections on this website (we will come back to it later). Pay special attention to the eight stages of genocide presentation halfway through.

If you have questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section of this post – AP Euro and AP World alike.